CounterThink is about sticking your head above the crowd—about getting recognized above all others. Most products and businesses are about nothing. They blend in. Great businesses and products are about something. They stand for something, promote something, strive for something—other than simply making another sale.
In the cluttered, white bread world of sandwich shops Subway became about weight loss—using a testimonial storyline about Jared Fogle.
As a student at Indiana University, Jared Fogel weighed in at 425 pounds. In March of 1998 he began a novel weight loss plan of his own design. The plan consisted of skipping breakfast, eating a 6-inch Subway turkey sub—sans the mayo and cheese—along with baked chips and a diet Coke for lunch and a 12-inch veggie sub (again, no cheese or mayo) with a diet coke for dinner.
Fogel lost 94 pounds in the first three months and after adding exercise, he dropped another 245 in the next year.
In April of 1999 the university’s newspaper, the Indiana Daily Student, did a story on his remarkable weight loss The story, which was later picked up by the Associated Press and Men’s Health magazine, caught the attention of some sharp marketers at Subway, who approached Fogel to screen test as a pitchman for the brand. The initial television commercial featuring Fogel rolled out in the Midwest and indeed struck a cord with consumers. Voila. Subway pokes its head out from the crowd and captures the attention of a new market segment.
More recently Post, makers of Shredded Wheat cereal launched a truly innovative campaign, against of all things, innovation. The TV, print and electronic media campaign, targeting technophobes and the growing segment of progress-resistant geezers and boomers, features fictional character, Frank Druffel, as spokesman. Duffel’s pitch: “We put the NO in innovation.”
The Shredded Wheat campaign is CounterThink in action. The strategy they use—leading with the homely truth, and turning a negative into a positive— is a tactic made famous by my friend Joe Sugarman, and used brilliantly by the marketers at Post. And while the bulk of breakfast cereal marketers trip over one another to dominate to the kids, teens, tweens and twenty-something markets, Post is heading in the opposite direction—targeting the somewhat slower-moving, fiber-challenged, AARP-ers (which by the way, happens to be the fastest-growing market segment with the greatest amount of disposable cash).
CounterThinking marketers turn their products, services and companies into something of significance—they are about something. But they are not about just any ol’ damn thing.
Subway turned sub sandwiches (which have been historically thought of as a favorite nosh of the chronically obese) into weight loss. And Post joined in on the conversation that’s going on inside every technophobe’s head by taking potshots at innovation. These strategies are not the same as when Cheerios tried to position itself as the self-proclaimed poster child of the “heart smart” movement, or when Quiznos tried to claim that true sandwich innovation could be found under a toaster.
In the case of Cheerios, General Mills drastically misunderstood the principles of CounterThink when they tried to turn cereal (which those of us who grew up in the post-60’s, toy-in-the-bottom-of-the-box era used to think of as something fun) into life insurance (which ain’t much fun at all). Quiznos didn’t do much better. A toasted sandwich is, well… a toasted sandwich. Not different enough to poke its head above the crowd.
CounterThink is not just different—it’s radically different, like transplanting mismatching, incompatible hearts into babies—a groundbreaking, lifesaving practice pioneered by CounterThinker, Dr. Lori West, that is totally revolutionizing the thinking in transplant medicine, or treating patients with drugs that initially make them sicker in order to eventually make them well—a strategy termed Paradoxical Pharmacology by CounterThinker, Dr. Richard Bond, of the University of Houston, or like the counterintuitive, controversial work of British traffic safety engineer Ben Hamilton Baillie who is making traffic intersections much, much safer by making them very, very dangerous.
All of these amazing CounterThinkers are inner-circle members of the CounterThink Tank and living examples of why getting on the CounterThink Tank membership waiting list should be the top item on your priority list.
We anticipate our general membership will re-open soon after the first of the year.
If you’re serious about learning the principles of CounterThink and networking with other great CounterThinkers like yourself from all over the world… get on the list!
Send me an email, with “membership wait-list” in the subject line, and we’ll let you know when spots become available.