One of the most detrimental things a company can hold on to is that being liked equates to being popular. In reality, wherever there is an adored brand, there is an equally detested name. For every Harry Potter, there is a Dolores Umbridge. These anti-heroes are not popular because they are nice to people, they are popular because they can cause such intense feelings of detestation. But instead of shirking away from this limelight built on negativity, they revel in it. They understand that they aren’t liked, and it doesn’t matter to them. What does matter is that they get the attention and power they so desperately crave.
Dolores Umbridge has one thing going for her—she is detestable. Period. There are no redeeming qualities, no back story to evoke pity. She is a villain through and through. Even so, you would think such a gross representation of humanity could be easily ignored, however time and time again she is cited as one of the worst characters in the entire Harry Potter series, trumping even the sniveling Peter Pettigrew. Like it or not, she has earned her place as a brand exactly because she is not likable.
Keep in mind, though, that this path is not one that can be tread lightly. Once you become unlikable in the eye of the public, that will forever be your calling card, no matter how wearing it can be. If you’re strong enough to continue on with that brand persona, you can use it to your advantage. Umbridge, though highly unlikable, nevertheless used her hatred and malice to climb her way up the ranks, eventually becoming one of the main secretaries for the Minister of Magic. It’s the same story as Donald Trump. His aggression allowed him to pursue connections timid people shy away from. In the working world, this aggression for attention makes up half of the success equation.
Consistency is Key
Going back to the previously mentioned warning, if you do latch on the unlikable way of branding, you need to be absolutely consistent. Umbridge wears pink all the time. She wears a bow all the time. She always has the same hateful look on her face. Every moment she appears in the book, there is nothing significantly different about her character. It is this adherence to unblinking consistency in both reputation and style that really drives home her character. It was so surely written that all readers of the series have the same mental image of her. Even after she is dragged off by centaurs, she returns unphased almost as if nothing had happened.
Something to help with this branding comes from unwavering devotion to your position and your belief in it. Any doubts, concerns or problems will shine through, destroying the time and effort and the trust people have in your brand. Because of this, however, people will argue against what you represent. Every yin has a yang, after all. Even still, it’s not your job to consider their arguments when you use a negative stance to sell your brand. It’s your job to maintain your stance in the face of those that would tear it down. Umbridge is a master of this. Though a half-blood herself, she grew up hating muggles and squibs, going so far as to move away from her mother and brother when she was only eleven. From there, she climbed her way to power by passing discriminatory laws for those that didn’t fit her definition of what a witch or wizard should be. Even at the end, she never apologized for her actions and never once questioned herself.
Often, I say that people need to know, like and trust you do to business with you. And, there is also trust build in consistency of a brand whether it is likeable or not.
Like her or not, Dolores Umbridge is a model brand. Her unwavering adherence to her beliefs, as unpopular as they may be, paints a picture of an ideal. Because of this, she is able to gather underneath her followers of that same ideal, militantly obeying her every word because they know that she will not go soft because others don’t agree. It is this mindset that allows for unity. Underneath a brand that is always the same no matter what unpopular opinions arise, people feel safe trusting it, knowing their trust will be repaid with the brand’s success.
“I must not tell lies.”
For those that have read the Harry Potter series, no sentence conjures up more rage. They are the words Dolores Umbridge has Harry write again and again and again using a quill that derives ink from his own blood. She was a character with absolutely no redeeming qualities and simply seemed to hate just because she could.
Though she is merely a fictional character in a fictional universe punishing Harry in a fictional way, she nevertheless continues to negatively affect everyone that comes in contact with her. In short, no one has come away liking her in the least. There is something real in her unapologetic malice that rings true in all of us because, to be honest, we’ve all come across one person that, no matter how hard we tried to please, refuses to like us. For no fault of our own, they decide that they do not like us, and that is that. This same hatred follows us from our individual experiences all the way up to corporate levels. Indeed, every single brand, no matter how beloved, has its own group of haters. They exist because, for whatever reason, they do not like the brand. However, instead of simply letting the brand be, they feel it is their duty to post negative comments, attack workers or otherwise try to force the company’s hand into doing something that will “prove” to the non-haters that the company isn’t as glorious as it appears.
Just like Umbridge, they refuse to quit until they break you.
So what does this have to do with your brand? Can anyone as abhorrent as Umbridge teach anyone anything?
The truth of the matter is you can learn a lot from anything so long as you’re willing to give it a critical eye. Of the most important lessons Umbridge teaches us, it is that you cannot, nor will ever be, all things to all people. Period. Some will like you, some will hate you. That’s just the way of the world. Once you accept this, you can begin to build a personal brand that’s as unapologetic as it is awesome. Niche brands require that you have a firm stance on who you are and what you represent. If you try to please everyone, you’ll never truly get your own voice across, coming off as wishy-washy to those that would have otherwise followed you.
In addition, hold on to what makes you unique. It doesn’t have to be anything extreme. For a personal brand, this could be as simple as a specific hairstyle. These individualistic qualities are your strengths because no one else has them and no one else will ever have them in the way that you do. This is the glory of the individual. It is also necessary to note these because while taking critiques is the only way you grow, you need to be able to differentiate between the critiques advance your brand and the critiques that would try to change you. If they manage to do that, you’ve lost.
Losing consistency is a final nail in the coffin for brands. It communicates a sense of weakness and frailty that the masses do not want to know exists. Harry did not break during his time under Umbridge and that made him a stronger character in our eyes because of it. In the same vein, under no circumstances should you ever try to change for someone that doesn’t even like you to begin with. Maintaining your consistent course through whatever internet rage storm is the key to coming out on top. It is the only power you have over an anonymous 13-year-old insulting you with what limited cursing vocabulary they have.
As a final note, being different doesn’t always equate to making people happy. If your cause, for instance, goes against what the general populace believes, there will be backlash. Look at global warming. Scientists have been decrying our treatment of the world for decades while the public called them quacks and crazies. Only now, when the world seems on a tipping point, are we finally ready to listen. It’s not a pleasant truth, but it is one you need to accept if you’re going to hold strong to your niche and not break. Even then, never expect an apology from anyone. Harry Potter never did but still sacrificed himself to save the world because sometimes the greater good is more important than selfish justification.