What You Are. Not What You're Not.

by Matt Mattson

Absolutely nobody ever joined nothing, so you’ll never convince anyone what you’re not.

(That first sentence might take a couple read-throughs before it makes sense. But like some sort of Zen proverb, the more you read it, the more it will matter to you.)

Here’s the point. Great marketing doesn’t normally feature what you’re NOT. Nike didn’t get great by saying they were NOT REEBOK. They became something else. They created shoes, clothing, and a lifestyle for people. They were positive, not negative. People don’t buy Coke because it’s not Pepsi — it’s because they’re Coke people.

So what are you? What is your organization about? What are you trying to accomplish? What are you FOR?

I’ve been noticing a lot of stuff on social media from fraternities and sororities about what they’re NOT. “We’re not [a stereotype, hazers, drunks, dumb, sexual assaulters, bitches, douches, buying our friends, racist, sexist, homophobic, hegemonic, etc.]!” we shout.

So, what are you?

I was at a campus a couple weeks ago — it was a branch campus, not the “flagship” school in the state, and they took pride in not being like those obnoxious Greeks at the big school down the road. But when I asked, “So if you’re not those ‘big school Greeks,’ what are you?” they were a little stumped.

It makes us feel better to do marketing that reinforces what we believe we’re not. But it doesn’t inspire or enchant anyone new to want to be a part of what we’re doing.

An undergraduate sorority leader said to me the other day, “It’s almost like saying we’re not a stereotype has become our new stereotype.” Yaaassss! Preach!

You have to be about something. You have to be for something. You have to be doing something.