↕️ The opposite of a good idea can also be a good idea

💡 The Idea

  • In physics, the opposite of a good idea is a bad idea. In psychology and business, the opposite of a good idea can, in fact, be a great idea.
  • There is often more than one path to success in a given market.
  • If you do the exact opposite of what other players in the market do, you might still succeed since you're speaking to a different segment.
  • This is often true even if doing the opposite seems to make zero sense at first.
  • I learned this framework from Rory Sutherland's brilliant book Alchemy.

👀 Examples

  • Red Bull is a product that tastes worse than Coke (by all objective measures), is more expensive, and comes in a smaller can.
  • And nevertheless, it’s selling like crazy. Red Bull sells over 7.5 billion cans per year!
  • The smaller can, high price and terrible taste all help to establish the brand image that red bull is something akin to a premium medicine that will boost your performance.
  • Slow. It started as a joke. Ash and Whitnoticed that Fast.co was generating a lot of hype around their fast, one-click checkout experience. So they thought, let’s create the opposite of that: the slowest possible checkout experience.
  • This seems like a really silly idea until people started pointing out that it could actually be useful. A slow checkout experience helps to prevent impulse buys.
  • I’ve been using this trick for a while now myself. For example, I don’t save any passwords or credit card information because friction like this helps me to prevent impulse buys I’ll regret later.
  • Most rock bands play predetermined arrangements of their music, and they practice obsessively to achieve their desired result: the ability to play note-perfect versions of their songs.
  • The Grateful Dead, however, weren’t interested in achieving perfection and then repeating themselves. They prided themselves on never playing the same song the same way twice.
  • As a result, fans felt as if anything could happen at any time and their concerts were always sold out.
  • Turbo Ad Finder. Everyone loves ad blockers. But this extension does the exact opposite. It blocks everything except for ads on Facebook. 30,000+ people are using it.
  • Why would anyone use an extension like this? Well, for example, to spy on competitors and find inspiration for ad campaigns.

🧠 Brainstorm

Here's how you can use the framework to start brainstorming.

  1. Create a list of all products, apps and services you're commonly using.
  2. For each of them, write down where you'd locate them on the typical value prop axis. (See the list below.)
  3. Then ask yourself: What would it look like if I'd move it on one, two, or maybe all axis to the opposite end of the spectrum?

Scarcity vs. Abundance

  • Not many people have this, so it must be good.
  • Everyone has this, so it must be good.

Cheap vs. Expensive

  • Charge a high price, so it’s reassuringly expensive.
  • Make it cheap, so it’s an amazing deal.

Best Practices vs. Unfair Advantages

  • Implement practices that everyone’s doing.
  • Implement practices that no-one’s doing.

High vs. Low Friction

  • Reduce friction as much as possible. For example, make sign-ups quick and easy.
  • Introduce friction on purpose. For example, require prospects to apply or enter a waiting list.

Perfect vs. Unique

  • Customers get exactly the same perfect result/product/experience every time.
  • Each result/product/experience is unique.

🔮 Opportunities

  • What if instead of making your newsletter free and digital, you'd make it extremely expensive and deliver it offline only? (If you think that's a dumb idea, check out what Ben Settle is doing with his Email Players newsletter.)
  • Now that everyone is excited about the metaverse, there's also an increased demand for fully offline experiences. I talked about this idea in detail in a recent Business Brainstorms episode with Andrew Lynch.
  • What about a browser that loads sites very slowly instead of as fast as possible? This could really help to browse the web more intentionally and help to avoid compulsive behavior like checking Reddit or Twitter every five minutes.
  • A travel platform that only shows the worst cities, regions, and activities. Okay that sounds like a very stupid idea but this strategy works for the Hans Brinker Hostel Amsterdam. The hostel is infamous for its terrible service and poor amenities. But at the same time, since it's embracing its status as the world's worst hostel, the business is running well.
  • Writing services typically charge a fixed fee per word. But this hardly leads to good results since the best writing is short and concise and with a model like this writers often include lots of fluff. The incentives are not really aligned.

    A solution could be a service that becomes cheaper the longer the article in question is. The way it could work is that you specify a topic plus ideas that should be covered and then pay, say $500-$0.3/per word. So if the writer manages to deliver a well-written article that covers all ideas in just 500 words, you pay $350 (= 500-500*0.3). If the writer needs more words to cover all the ideas, say 1000 words, you pay just $200 (= 500-1000*0.3).

    This sounds very counterintuitive but it's actually more work to write a short article than a long one. You basically have to write the long article first and then cut out everything.

    To quote Mark Twain: "If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter."

If you enjoyed this report, you could do me a big favor by liking or retweeting the thread on Twitter.



Please do share with your friends. I spent 5+ hours on this so it would be nice if a few people read it.

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