The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Oi Fuckheads, What’s Wrong With Being Arrogant?
November 20, 2008, 7:02 am
Filed under: Comment

Smug, but deserves to be

NP wrote an absolutely super post about Boris Becker this week.

In it, he say’s that rather than focus on his opponents weaknesses, he would play them at their own game – letting his confidence and ability intimidate/undermine the competition by overcoming the best that they could throw at him.

He continues to say that too much strategy is focused on weakness rather than taking on the competition at their own game and he’s absolutely right.

Of course there are some exceptions – but in the main, a lot of strategy is more influenced by what the competition are doing than the brand’s own goals and abilities – and when you take into account how much strat is influenced by the planners and clients own personal perspectives/agendas on data/life/business, you come to realize that much of business is about personal indulgence and/or fear, than embracing the true potential of an organisation.

I cannot tell you the amount of times I’ve had clients say to me, “That sounds abit arrogant” and yet I don’t know what’s wrong with that.

Surely it’s better to be arrogant than passive and pointless?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting arrogance is valid if there’s no substance behind it.

I remember being in a Virgin meeting where Mr Branson himself said to me, “You have to earn the right to be arrogant” and you know what, he’s right.

You see too many companies read ‘arrogance’ as rude … but if you are committed to doing what you say [and what people want] I don’t think they’d mind arrogance, infact they’d probably like to be associated with a winner.

Eric Cantona was hardly passive was he?

Steve Jobs isn’t exactly a wallflower?

Fuck, even Bono is known for being a rather ‘full-of-himself’ individual and I don’t see people walking away from them in their millions?

The thing is, arrogance is all about tone.

Che Branson by Pestkop

I believe there are degrees of it – and if you handle it correctly, I think it’s a bloody great attribute, and what would be better than taking on the establishment and winning?

Hell, what do you think Virgin do?

And the thing is, the people who think they are arrogant are the ones who are being beaten by them, not the ones benefiting from their actions.

OK, so I know you’ll come back to me and say arrogance and confidence might come from the same ‘family’, but they’re not the same – and you’re probably right – but then my response is one man’s arrogance is another man’s hero so I guess we’ll go round and round in circles on that, ha.

So here’s the thing, if a client of yours openly says they don’t want to be arrogant – explain to them what it could actually mean interms of brand value and their customer loyalty – and if they’re still scared, get rid of them because they have no intention of making a real difference in their category or their customers lives, and if they don’t want to do that, then what the hell are they dealing with you for?

40 Comments so far
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“the people who think they are being arrogant are the ones who are being beaten by them, not the ones benefiting from their actions.”

Exactly right, because if you’re right you’re not arrogant you’re just extremely self-confident.

Comment by John

In other words, you believe in what you’re doing.

Comment by John

You are absolutely right that it’s a matter of other peoples perspective whether you are displaying arrogance or supreme self confidence and that opinion is often based on whether you are benefiting or being undermined by the actions of that person/brand.

I think your last paragraph is brilliant, positioning arrogance as a trait of an “active brand” committed to a particular cause (ie Virgin, Google) is certainly a fresh way for companies to look at the “arrogance factor” and turns a negative trait into one with real merit.

Really enjoyed this post, good one Rob.

Comment by Pete

oi pete arent you just giving “challenger brands” a new fucking name? or maybe its a case of a challenger brand that ended up beating the establishment at their own fucking game?

i cant be fucked getting into language symantics because frankly i dont give a shit but its a better post than campbell usually comes up with but that because northern wrote it, lol.

Comment by andy@cynic

You’re letting your brand brain show Andy because you raise a valid point, am I simply describing the traits of a challenger brand?

I possibly am but then you offer an alternative definition based on symantics and I think you might have hit the nail on the head because arrogance (from a brand perspective rather than a human one) tends to be associated with companies who have succeeded rather than companies who are simply trying to succeed.

Another potential difference between “challenger” and “arrogance” brands is that one of the traits synonomous with a challenger is they target a weakness of the market leader whereas what Northern and Robert are talking about are brands who take on the leader at their own game, focusing on their strengths not their shortcomings. (Which could mean that Apple are potentially more of an “arrogant” brand than “Virgin”)

Still, I like the idea that a challenger brand can be deemed successful when a market leader desctibes them as arrogant because to quote Robert, “one man’s arrogance is another man’s hero.”

Great post.

Comment by Pete

planners: making big deals out of little things since that fucker at jwt decided to label “conversations” as “planning”

nice to see you get all corporate toady towards me pete especially as you havent even fucking started yet but its not my brand brain showing its called having a chat, something youd find normal people do if you and your planning types pulled your collective heads out your fucking arses 🙂

Comment by andy@cynic

I have so much to learn. 🙂

Comment by Pete

Oh my god, a debate from a post of mine [well, errrrm, NP!] that is actually delving abit deeper into the issue with SHOCK HORROR PROBE that inspiration kinda coming from Andy!

Andy stop underplaying how good a thinker you are . I know you want to be seen as the man who shouts insults from the rafters [images of the 2 grumpy men from The Muppets comes to mind] but many of us know the truth and wonder where this blog could go if you put the safety catch on your gob and offered your clever view rather than your potty mouth.

And no, before you say it, I have not been bullied by George to say this – which is all the more shocking to me really, ha!

Pete – I like where you’re going with this and I can see why by your/our/NP’s definition you’d say Apple is more an arrogant brand than Virgin – wonder what Lee’s point to that will be. Especially as he’ll be your client again soon, 🙂

Comment by Rob

If Pete’s definition of an arrogant brand is one that upsets a competitors market share dominance due to their ability to continually rally mass population endorsement, purchase and vocal support then that is a label I can live with.

Comment by Lee Hill

Didn’t you read my previous post Lee, we don’t like 26,056 word answers when one will do 🙂

[Pete, reading between the lines I think Lee is saying that you’re not going to be working on his business unless you agree with his extremely concise definition, ha!]

Comment by Rob

I agree with Pete that this great post presents a very valid alternative to the “exploit weakness” type of planning that is so dominant in advertising.

I love the idea a company should embrace arrogance (based on Lee’s carefully worded definition) but knowing how large corporations fear pragmatic statements, I think “confidence to win” is something they’d find easier to accept even though it loses something in translation.

Fantastic post so a big thanks to Northern. 🙂

Comment by Bazza

i’m going to be wildly unpopular and say how much i hate it when brands get anthropomorphic definitions… richard branson is “arrogant” because he has the balls to fly in the face of a fearful and safe market/public opinion. virgin is a brand that reflects that. virgin is not a person – even though i know it’s all cool and stuff to talk about brands as people.

sorry – i’ll understand if i’m not invited back.

Comment by lauren

Last para is super.

I’m gonna look at arrogant people with new perspective now 😛 Ha!

Comment by bhaskar

Hello lovely Lauren …

Well we all know that you have one person who’ll agree with what you are saying …

but I actually think we’re all on the same wavelength because I absolutely agree that arrogance in a human is different to the potential arrogance of a brand. I just like NP’s sentiment that Becker didn’t focus on a competitors weakness but embraced their strength because ultimately that was the ultimate demonstration of their talent rather than simply refocusing the game.

Fuck me, even I don’t know what that last sentence means so maybe it’s me who won’t be invited back!

Comment by Rob

i concur

Comment by Niko

Agreed. Just takes a good brain to spot where on the Intelligence ——- Arrogance radar they should be.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

absolutely spot on!

Comment by Niko

Oh, and it was a very very good post by NP. I thought for a moment this post was going to be dissing him… I thought you’d had a moment of madness!

Comment by Rob Mortimer


Comment by Niko

Have a go at me if you want, I’ll just turn your strength into weakness.
And Lauren, the thing about brand models is a bit like science models – like the ones of the atom.
No atom will look like a mini solar system with electron planets flying around (electrons behave more like clouds anyway), but the model is the most useful visual description of wha goes on.
The anthropomorphic thing is useful like that to me, brands are no people, but since people form relationships with them over time, it’s useful. At their best, a good ‘brand’ is shorthand for the collective consciosness of a company -a hive mind. On that level, a model of how the hive mind behaves is useful.
On that note, too many talk about what that hive mind is ‘like’ rather than what it ‘does’. Brand as verb is far more useful as far as I’m concerned

Comment by northern

I don’t know if I do agree – I think it’s actually quite easy to spot.

Based on Lee/Pete/Andy’s definition, if the majority marketshare player starts referring to a competitor as arrogant, they are doing something right and if life carries on in all its monotonous glory, they’ve not. 🙂

Comment by Rob

I think the key Lauren is that there’s a massive difference from learning about the intricacies of ‘human relationships’ for a brand versus actually thinking a brand is human.

And NP, there’s no dissing, I told you I loved your post and if you still don’t believe it after reading this, then either you’re thick or I’m shit at writing.

Or both. 🙂

Comment by Rob

I think brand as a verb is the root of all the problems. It implies the imposition of brand values on subservient customers. When you brand cattle, you impose a superfical marker of ownership while having no impact on the DNA.

In fact, Becker is the antithesis of that – he became known as a great tennis player by winning Wimbledon (as a qualifier) before anyone had the opportuntiy to brand him as such. In contrast, innumerable british sports people are branded as great new hopes before they’ve done anything and subsequently flop because there’s little to back up the claim.

Comment by John

You know Dodds, I absolutely agree with you – the soul of a brand/person is the key and the problem with too many organisations is they fly with the wind rather than have some elements that form the heart of how they approach every situation.

To be honest, this is why I like NP’s “anti-weakness” strat approach so much – many brands change who they are simply to try and exploit another brands problems, and whilst that can be a very successful strat, it can work alot better if a company stays true to it’s essence rather than has multiple personality disorder.

This is why Virgin works – the “Robin Hood of Business” IS in their DNA because it’s in Bransons so exploiting weakness is part of who they are but it’s not just any weakness, they are weaknesses that stop existing customers from truly enjoying the experience they get – be it the level of service and comfort to the regimented rules of the contract.

Comment by Rob

I disagree. What the fuck you gonna do about it?

Comment by Marcus

marcus brown: 10 foot tall, bullet proof and wearing the english kit. do not mess with him.

Comment by lauren

bad luck marcus, youve just proved campbells point because while some of the wets on this blog may think youre an arrogant priok i think youre a champion prick and my opinion matters most.

id like to put it on record that auntie fucking george is wetting his knickers over this post. it seems its planners porn which shows what a bunch of sad fucks they really all are

Comment by andy@cynic

andy’s right you know…best not argue with him 🙂

Comment by Niko

stop sounding like a jwt bag carrying twat niko or you might find your teeth suddenly fall out and your nose starts to bleed like fuck

Comment by andy@cynic


Comment by Marcus

indeed mr brown..

Comment by Niko

Is it arrogant to believe you can make a difference through business? Is it arrogant to believe your company/brand can do better than an established leader? If so, perhaps I’ve misunderstood arrogance.

I think of arrogance as feeling/acting like you’re better than everybody else. It’s an individual thing.

Brand arrogance is a bit different. Because clearly some brands and companies are better than others.

Comment by Ryan Healy

is it arrogant to think i shit better ideas than campbell could come up with in a million years?

not if you ask the people who matter because they see it as fact not arrogance

what campbell is trying to say ryan is that companies should crave a competitor to describe them as arrogant because when that happens it means the fuckers have done something thats fucked up their marketshare.

he then bored us by saying when a brand beats the establishment based on the same idea its even better because when you take someone on at their own game and win its the ultimate demonstration youre better.

its all planning wank but being called arrogant by the once market leader means youre doing something right where in the human world it means youre a right fucking wanker

Comment by andy@cynic

and does anyone else think np looks like prince fucking charles in that photo?

or do i mean lester piggot? or a bald ken dodd?

whatever. hes not brad fucking pitt is he

Comment by andy@cynic

in the shed. still in the shed. and a bit tipsy. thought I’d just say hello to Boucher.

Comment by Marcus

hello marcus you arrogant darling. lets play soon

Comment by andy@cynic

Flying in the face of this is that old Avis ad about being 2nd best, or something like that. Humility worked quite well there

Comment by Tom

when that ad came out people still believed politicians talked truth rather than shit

Comment by andy@cynic

Dodds had hair when that ad came out.

Comment by Marcus

Only Andy and the government split his pay cheque when that came out

Comment by Rob Mortimer

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