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The New York Times Magazine recently featured In Pursuit of Balance. Not about a hot new region or a what vintage you should be looking for in your local shop, but about, a group of wine producers that has established itself outside the mainstream of the business. The article was, essentially, about branding.

Profiled in the article was a group called “In Pursuit of Balance,” which is a collection of winemakers and others who believe in a certain style of wine. That style a wine is very much not what most of the winemakers in California, Oregon and Washington State are making and it’s very much not the wine that most of the wine-buying public wants.

Nothing too surprising there. Companies and trade organizations stake out positions all the time. What’s interesting, particularly from a content marketing perspective, is how IPOB’s position is carved out in opposition to the dominant market sentiment.

Looking past the argument of which wine style is better or “right,” what’s worth thinking about is how strongly the “IPOB” crowd stands against something. Sure, they have a position that can be defined in very positive terms, but their origins – and the part of their story that has really resonated with a certain segment of the wine world – is how they stand against what they view as crimes against the grape. (That’s my phrase …)

The fact that, in attacking a particular type of wine, they managed to threaten both a single, very powerful individual (the wine critic Robert Parker) and the economic lifeblood of a very large industry only added to their notoriety. Responses have been rather heated in many instances.

(The wines they dislike are frequently referred to as “fruit bombs” by detractors, and are viewed as being too high in alcohol content, overly extracted, and putting too much emphasis on winemaking at the expense of the grapes themselves. A lot of people love them, and sometimes refer to them as “new world” wines in contrast to more traditional styles from France, Italy, and Spain.)

This is worth keeping in mind as you make the case for what makes you different in the market place. (Let’s not even get into what makes you better. Everyone is “better” in some way, and your target audience has grown deaf to claims of superiority.) A strong position in opposition to a perceived standard can be an easier concept for your target audience to grasp than a more traditional “here’s what we stand for” approach.

The difference can be subtle on many levels. After all, you’re still saying, “this is what we believe in; this is why many others are wrong; give us a try if you agree.”

But the subtlety offers a great way to laser-focus your target. An approach like this won’t be attractive to everyone, but it will be strongly attractive to some. And isn’t that exactly what effective marketing is all about?

Is there anything about the way your industry works, or the way your target audience perceives what you and your competitors do, that bothers you? There might be an opportunity to stake out some interesting and fruitful marketing territory. Because sometimes the best way to show our audience what’s there is to make it clear what is not there.