The power of niche

At Gwyneth Paltrow’s site, GOOP, you can buy a candle labelled: "SMELLS LIKE MY VAGINA" for just $75.

Naturally, the online media went wild with outrage and jokes.

It was only on sale for a few days and it sold out straight away.

Never mind, if you’re too late to get one, you can still buy one of her Vaginal Eggs.

They’re made from jade and cost just $60 apiece.

Again, when they first went on sale, she was completely ridiculed in the press and on TV.

But if vaginal jade eggs aren’t your thing, there’s always her Vaginal Steaming.

You sit over mugwort-infused steam and feel the benefit.

Again, the media was beside itself with disdain and disbelief.

Gwyneth was interviewed about it, in magazines and TV chat shows all over the world.

The interesting thing is that GOOP hardly advertises, and yet it’s one of the most famous, most talked-about brands in the world.

There are 2.4 million visitors to the site every month, and up to 600,000 listeners a week to the podcasts, and it’s about to launch a series on Netflix.

Every time she needs some publicity, she simply releases another story about a vaginal product and the media goes crazy.

She gets free coverage that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

The New York Times said: "The weirder GOOP went, the more its readers rejoiced. Every time there was a negative story about her or her company all it did was bring more people to the site."

Paltrow told a class of Harvard students: "What I do is create a cultural firestorm, and I can monetise those eyeballs."

GOOP, the focus of so much ridicule, is now valued at a quarter of a billion dollars.

The lesson is, she is targeting the opposite of mass media, she wants women who see themselves as confident, individual and discerning: women with money.

When the mass media is outraged, she has simply provoked another advertising campaign.

Obviously, GOOP doesn’t make money from its vaginal products.

But what it does get is an enormous amount of publicity.

GOOP vaginal products are the advertising equivalent of loss-leaders in retail: products which get people into the store in order to buy other things.

Like: earrings for $3,900, or trousers for $790, or a jump suit for $1,395, or boots for $860, or T-shirts for $145, or bracelets for $4,775, or shoes for $650.

Those items make money, but none of those things would attract any publicity.

She tried selling Psychic Vampire Repellent for $27, a Medicine Bag of Gemstones for $85, even a 24-carat gold-plated vibrator for $15,000, but none of these things attracted as much free publicity as the vagina products.

Because none of them caused the outrage that GOOP needed as fuel for contoversy.

And that really is the lesson here.

There’s an enormous amount of money to be made in what we perceive as niche.

I remember when Saatchi was one of the biggest agencies in the UK, apparently it had just 2% of the market, in other words, for every person that wanted it, 49 didn’t.

Which leads us to the power of polarisation.

Once you know the niche your market’s in, you can spend a lot of time publicly turning off everyone else.

Like Saatchi, you don’t need 100% of people to find you bland and OK.

You need 2% of people to love you, even if that means 98% of people hate you.

By focusing on her niche, Paltrow built a $250m business, almost without advertising.

By shocking the people her market didn’t want to be like.

Dave Trott is the author of Creative Blindness and How to Cure It, Creative Mischief, Predatory Thinking and One Plus One Equals Three

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