The Boolean Life
Things are either True or False. Or not.
Little known Nigerian app goes against giant Google
By Olibe.nu

Unbelievable isn't it? One part plausible, three parts publicity and two parts (wishfully) aggressive. But that is banter for you.

Not every one is lucky to be the first to make lemonade out of lemons. Or smart enough to figure out that pepper-soup out of pepper works on the same principle. So what? You are not the first to be the late comer to the playing field. You can always use the tried and tested methods to best the competition. Except you are pitched against a cute cat or an armoured dragon and those methods begin to fail. One by one.

What is a cute cat? Competition which, for no fathomable reason, has special value with your target audience. They can not catch rats. Their mewing is too feeble to even chase them away. Yet they rack up user views and are as viral as a first lady's grammar. How do you compete with such an adorable pet? You can't just corner it, bash it on the head and fill the void it leaves without losing points for cruelty. And no matter how many things you point out to the prospective customer your new dog does that his useless ball of fur can't, they just show you another cute video. It is frustrating.

What is an armoured dragon? The total amount invested in your startup so far would not even equal their CEO's salary. They will match your payroll with the perk they give one of their admin people. They can change legislation around your foundling product, or sue you to penury just because they have lawyers on retainer, waiting for something to do.

Why banter? Remember those days when any toothpaste in the market was called Maclean? Or every seasoning cube was Maggi? Or every insecticide was Shelltox? What do you buy when you don't find these default brands? Banter lets people know that there is an alternative, the other white meat. The more controversial, the better. The aim is to let the target audience know that the market isn't just a Goliath waving his sword around. Whenever users next go to the market, it is no longer just the big guy in the picture, there's now a footnote which says he is being taunted by a David. Now curiosity is piqued and every one begins to wonder, who is this other? What makes them so bold to try? Are they any better?

Or a similar case: being taunted by a David you can't go all out to smash because they support the environment, cure sick puppies or are poor enough to be good TV.

I'll give examples, from cases where banter was used to make a chink in the armour of dragons and where it was used to correctly bash a cute cat on the head.

Against an Armoured Dragon: Netflix vs HBO

So, a JP Morgan analyst asks the CEO of Netflix what he thinks about his subscribers sharing passwords. Being a video on demand (VOD) subscription based company, this has got to hurt. The HBO CEO had just a week before said he doesn't mind that subscribers of HBO's Go service share their password. Now, HBO being an American cable and satellite TV network is the dragon in this instance, compared to the upcoming Netflix. So, how does the Netflix CEO reply?

...I guess Plepler [HBO CEO] ... doesn't mind me then sharing his [Netflix] account information. So it's plepler@hbo.com and his password is 'netflix bitch'

What does that mean? That HBO is Netflix's bitch? What do you think the news becomes after that statement? Netflix's earnings? No. People who had only heard of HBO before this now hear there's this unknown alternative thumping their nose at big bad HBO. At the end of the month, they might just try this Netflix of a thing out. Do you think they will think of Hulu? Hell no!

Against a Cute Cat: Facebook vs Princeton

Facebook is big. They could just buy you outright if you show any threatening capabilities. How would such a dragon respond to a university's study that they will lose 80% of their users in 2015-2017? When you are that big, you have to step carefully or else you'll just be another dragon being taunted by the little man: making news for another party. Conspiracy theories might begin and those are hard to quell. A good tactic is putting a funny spin to your response as Facebook did: release a report showing that using the same criteria, Princeton will also show a reduction in student enrolment and then go ahead to show the absurdity of the study by predicting the earth will run out of air in the year 2060. The news becomes about how witty your response was, putting your name out there, head to head with competition.

Against a Cute Cat: Jovago vs Hotels.ng

When a Polish gunslinger rides into town on a powerful German machine, who do you think the citizens will root for? The outsider or their own local sheriff? The bromance between the heads of Nigeria's hotel booking platforms has been on for a while. The Mark Essien run Hotels.ng got started on the market first. About a year later, Jovago comes in, powered by the German Rocket Internet and run by Pole Marek Zmyslowski. Now, if the Oyinbo had come like the typical (think Jason Njoku), mixing rudeness with frankness, we would have showed him that Nigerians reply with five for everyone who gives them a finger. But he started a #oyinbolesson tag, telling, in a witty way, what he had learned from being in the country.

#OyinboLesson How to spot a fresh Oyinbo? Search for panic in his eyes when power goes off.

-Marek Zmyslowski

You see, the biggest 'cute cat' you will ever meet is a man's country. No one is ever logical as regards that. You may not be able to convince your audience to completely dump their cute cat, no matter its flaws, you just keep reminding them of the alternative. Case in point, Mark drops a tweet about hitting a milestone. People go "Oh, that's nice. I'll have to try these guys when next I book a hotel". You can't come out swinging at this point, people will just gang up against the outsider. You subtly remind them of the 'other':

Love to have more hotels on my website. I just can't just duplicate them or upload them without their consent and real contract :)

-Marek Zmyslowski

And there goes Inception. You've just planted a suggestion that when next their experience isn't satisfactory, there's an alternative. You think they'll think of some unknown who has never been mentioned? Hell no.

There are several examples. For going against an armoured dragon, we have the Rap Genius guy calling out Zuckerberg. Obama doing an episode on Between Two Ferns is one of the big guy going against the cute cat. There's even the Pepsi and CocaCola ads which have both approaches.