A view from Dave Trott: Do the opposite
A view from Dave Trott

Do the opposite

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The California Coastal Records Project was founded in 2002. The purpose was to document the California coastline with photography.

So they flew the entire length of California in a helicopter, taking 10 photographs every mile – 12,000 pictures in all.

In 2004, the project won the Ansel Adams Award for Conservation Photography.

But not everyone was impressed.

Barbra Streisand heard one of the pictures was of her beachfront home in Malibu.

So she sued them for $50m, for invasion of privacy.

On the website, her home was simply "Image 3850" and had been viewed four times.

But immediately after news of the lawsuit became public, everyone wanted to see the picture.

Soon it had been viewed more than a million times.

Associated Press picked up the story and it ran in publications worldwide.

Before she tried to get the image removed, no-one even knew about it.

Once she issued such a massive lawsuit, the picture became a must-see.

Not only that, but the judge dismissed the case and Streisand had to pay the photographer’s legal fees of $155,567.

By trying to censor the picture, she created the exact opposite of what she wanted.

This is now known as the "Streisand effect".

People don’t want to do what they’re told to do, they want to do what they’re told NOT to do.

This is an amazing discovery that advertisers still haven’t caught on to.

Advertisers convince themselves that people must be told what to do.

This is because they believe people are robots.

It doesn’t occur to them that people will work out for themselves what to do, thanks.

Only the best advertising treats people as if they had brains.

But, of course, examples of this are few and far between.

The first example of treating people as if they had brains was Volkswagen.

VW advertised its cars as: smaller, cheaper, simpler, less impressive.

Consequently, VW was: economical, reliable, functional.

VW became the car for people who weren’t interested in impressing other people.

Unlike Detroit, the image was the car for people who thought for themselves.

Volkswagen is now the biggest car manufacturer in the world, and Detroit is practically non-existent.

Because, unlike Detroit, VW didn’t brag about its cars – it did the opposite.

Avis was another example of the opposite of bragging.

It didn’t advertise with pretty girls and smiling drivers in beautiful locations.

Avis said we aren’t the biggest, we are only number two.

So why go with us?

Well, we have to try harder than number one (not named, but obviously Hertz).

Number one can be complacent, we can’t – we have to make sure our service is better.

Avis did the opposite of bragging.

That’s why there are now two car-rental companies battling for first place: Hertz and Avis.

Apple didn’t brag about how big and successful it was – it did the opposite.

In more than 50 commercials, Apple didn’t claim to be better than other computers.

It just had two guys, Mac and PC, chatting.

Very low-key little sitcoms, never mentioning the competition (obviously Microsoft), just using the generic term PC.

And by doing the opposite of bragging, by allowing people to use their brains, Apple is now the biggest brand in the world.

Maybe we should stop telling people what to do.

Maybe we should trust people to use their brains.

Dave Trott is the author of Creative Mischief, Predatory Thinking and One Plus One Equals Three.