It’s Time To Get An Enemy

know-your-enemyTHE BIG IDEA: Strong businesses not only stand for something (core values), they also stand against something (the enemy).


We’ve written extensively about the importance of understanding what your company stands for in both building a strong organization and in creating a fervent movement behind your brand.

But, strong organizations and brands not only stand for something, they also stand against something.

The need to have an enemy is deeply rooted in our biology and is a prerequisite for group cohesion. The Jungian psychologist Anthony Stevens writes:

As social animals, we are programmed from a very early age to shrink from people whom we do not know and stick to people whom we do. This fundamental distinction between attachment and xenophobia is crucial not only for the preservation of the individual, but also for the survival of the group. Societies are closely integrated systems, each glued together by adherence to the familiar, all separated by hostility to the strange. The sinister truth is that for communities to thrive, enemies are as necessary as friends. External danger binds the group together, reduces personal animosity, enhances trust, promotes altruism and self-sacrifice. A society surrounded by enemies is unified and strong, a society without enemies is divided and lax. Men in groups are the same the whole world over: when there are no outsiders to fight, they turn on their compatriots.

The enemy doesn’t have to be another company. It can be anything that stands in direct opposition to the core values of the business.

In working with clients, we build actionable expressions of the core values and the enemy (or enemies) into the Brand Promise. Brand Promises are tenets of the business that can never be broken under any circumstances. Breaking them can be detrimental to group cohesion both within your organization and within your customer base.

In the context of the Brand Promise, core values and enemies expresses themselves in phrases:

  • Core Values: “We promise to always __________.”
  • Enemies: “We promise to never __________.”

What enemies can your brand rally around?

How can you translate them into actionable Brand Promises?

Previous Post Next Post