How many movies have you seen where a pivotal scene is played out on the playground. The protagonist and the antagonist square off, ready to duke it out. They are surrounded by other kids, shouting “fight, fight!” with great enthusiasm.
I’m not so sure we outgrow that instinct as we become adults. There is something very primal and very intoxicating about a good fight. But as adults, rather than gather on the playground, we gather in courtrooms, legislative bodies, corporate America and the media.
And in marketing.
Whether you are old enough to remember the battles between Burger King and McDonald's played out in their TV spots or enjoy the current bickering between Apple and Microsoft (or as it plays out…Macs versus PCs)… there are lessons to be learned from these skirmishes. It’s good to know the rules before you roll up your sleeves.
- Picking (or getting called out) a public fight is a little like spinning top. Once you release it, it goes where it wants to go.
- Just because you’re ready to be done, doesn’t mean the media or your opponent will be.
- You will be fighting for the opinions of the neutral group. Those who loved you before the fight will keep on loving you and those who didn’t aren’t likely to change their take either.
- If the spectators have a stake in the fight, they’ll care about the details. Otherwise, you’re just a sideshow. It’s pretty tough not to make a spectacle of yourself if you’re being viewed as free entertainment.
- The bigger and more public the fight, the harder it is to make up and resolve it. That sort of public lashing leaves scars and animosity that’s tough to heal.
Sometimes the fight is worth it. Sometimes the fight is unavoidable. But don’t lose sight of the risks as you decide whether or not to wage battle.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.