Ignore Trends

Early 90s, Blur were touring the US, riding the Nirvana-led grunge wave.

Early 90s grunge

The band were on a 10-week tour of the US, promoting their first album, Leisure.

They were also trying to earn enough money to pay a £60k VAT bill they'd received back in the UK.

But the tour didn't help in that regard -  they ended up losing money rather than making it.

And beyond the money troubles, the guys weren't in a great place.

They fought with the Label and amongst each other (literally).

They were homesick, failing to make any meaningful connection with US audiences.

Yet in some respects, they'd made it

A UK band touring the US. That's the dream.

But the album got mixed reviews, and the Record Label were losing money on them.

Retrospectively, David Albarn, the frontman and lyricist, said that ​Leisure was their worst album​:

"[Making Leisure] wasn't a particularly happy experience. I was so keen to have a record deal, it seemed like such a big deal, that with hindsight we were a little too eager to please our masters... unless you were very lucky, you got signed because they saw your potential to continue a trend that was ongoing... they were very eager for us to fit into the sound of the moment." - Damon Albarn

On the cusp of being dropped, the band returned to the UK studio and started ignoring the Label's advice to make Grunge music.

They turned to what truly inspired them: The Beatles, The Kinks, The Sex Pistols, and The Specials, producing a second album that was quintessentially English.

They even changed their look to be more English, more themselves.

That didn't help them win more fans in the US.

But they blew up in the UK, creating their own wave.

Britpop.

Blur, you not them.

The same thing happens with B2B content

People like Jack Butcher, Growth.Design, Harry Dry, Seth Godin.

They're not necessarily better than what came before.

They're different.

They take existing ideas and place them in new frames.

James Clear, for example, took the concepts of atomic + habits.

But more than that, years before inventing Atomic Habits, he created his own unique style by digging deep into the subjects that were interesting to him, blogging twice a week, and along the way creating his own voice.

Jack Butcher did the same with Visualize Value.

Philosophy + Simple visuals.

Visualize Value combine philosophy + simple visuals.

He didn't invent topics, he invented a frame unique to him, his work, and his interests. An unusual combination that created an interesting and differentiated perspective.

Copycats follow, and whilst they may earn modest success, the ceiling is always significantly lower than the person that came before.

Do you see what happens?

From a positioning perspective, if you want to gain traction and attention, you need to be different, not better.

How much traction does a slightly better whitepaper than the competition get?

Very little. Your audience's appetite for them has been exhausted.

Sure, if you've got deep pockets, you can follow trends. After all, plenty of bands successfully chased Blur into the Britpop wave.

But without a large advertising and PR budget to stimulate awareness, riding waves doesn't attract or keep attention.

That only comes by ignoring trends and overlapping your unique interests with the topics that your audience care about.

Blur is one of my favourite examples of that.

Do you have one? Email back and let me know (liam@liamcurley.co.uk)

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