Now, LinkedIn isn’t typically the venue that comes to mind when one thinks of bikinis and bikini models. However, Candice Galek, founder of Bikini Luxe, an online swimwear retailer recognized the opportunity to connect with potential investors, partners, and customers and decided to utilise the platform.
Genius move or just slightly narcissistic? Many may argue the former. But arguably, Candice has simply acted on that light bulb moment when she realised she could captivate an audience pretty used to seeing formulaic written content flash across their news feeds, by replacing it with content more appropriate for Pinterest or Instagram. The impact? She managed successfully to cut across the noise on this professional platform. Intentionally or unintentionally, this created enough of a stir to command a real moment of attention from an audience that she might not otherwise have reached (or so easily have reached).
But is this a good tactic when cultivating customer and investor engagement? Or should startups tread this same path with caution?
Well, as my good friend Merlie Calvert often says, ‘shy bears get no honey’, meaning, what have you got to lose? What’s the worst that can happen? Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Candice ventured and on this occasion, she hit a sweet spot and she managed to stand out from the crowd. Stepping through well-trodden paths of other businesses and applying the same sales and marketing techniques of your peers will simply blend your brand in with so many others within your industry, where there may be little to no distinction, especially where you all advertise yourselves as offering the same solutions. Where is the point of differentiation for your customers?
However ... now comes the point where I diverge a bit from celebrating Candice’s actions as a ‘slam-dunk’ success. Because the way you choose to stand out from the crowd has to be one that is sustainable and consistently achieves a similar spotlight effect. Candice’s tactics were extremely successful in drawing attention to her business on this occasion. But if she continued to use this approach, would that remain the case or would the audience start to tune out or resent it on what is typically recognised as a predominantly professional networking platform? And whilst courting attention – and sometimes even the odd spot of positive controversy – can give your brand a great awareness boost amongst your target audience, it still needs to convert to sales. We don’t know how successful the tactic was in revenue terms.
Daring to be different and challenging the norm is a great attitude for challenger brands and there are lessons that we can all learn from Candice’s cheeky approach to capturing audience attention, including how to:
a) cultivate controversy with a nuance;
b) engage that controversy with intelligence and grace;
c) make the most of the opportunities that come your way and ultimately,
d) don't be shy.
Be bold and go against the grain of your industry to get noticed. If it translates to real sales growth and those levels can be sustained, so much the better.
Every startup wants to “go viral” at some point. After all, who wouldn’t want free widespread publicity? The problem, however, is that viral marketing is easier said than done. Viral marketing is a finicky beast and one that hinges on the perfect combination of timing, authenticity, and luck. The great “LinkedIn Bikini Controversy of 2016” is a valuable lesson for entrepreneurs of all kinds. Controversy, if handled with nuance and grace, can be a great way to jumpstart a conversation in the most unlikely of venues. The great “LinkedIn Bikini Controversy of 2016” is a valuable lesson for entrepreneurs of all kinds. Controversy, if handled with nuance and grace, can be a great way to jumpstart a conversation in the most unlikely of venues.