Attacking The Status Quo

how to build thought leadership by challenging the status quo

Wisdom is probably the only thing that outlives time. In fact, the more certain pearls of wisdom age, the more relevant they become.

Oscar Wilde shared one such pearl in the late 1800s when he said:

“The only worse thing than being talked about is not being talked about.”

In the social-media-dominated era, most people are busy talking about themselves. Unfortunately, this creates noise since they’re the only ones that talk about them.

The proof is in the numbers. In 2016 alone, branded content marketing was up 300%. But 95% of that content received single-digit views and likes while 5% of the content cornered 90% of the engagement.

The brands that generate large engagement have one thing in common— they create content people talk about. This content challenges the status quo, educates people on aspects they care about, and invokes action.

In August, plenty of individuals and companies took off their gloves and challenged the status quo. Here are three instances that struck a chord with us.


“Let’s talk Periods.”

On 15th August 2020, two separate events addressed a common taboo.

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi talked about sanitary napkins in his address to the nation. “In 6,000 Jan Aushadhi Kendras, more than 5 crore (50 million) sanitary napkins have been provided to women in a short period of time,” he said.
  • Neither announcement was a hollow “someone-must-do-something” rhetoric. Both were declarations of work done and encouragements to others to follow suit.

Bottomline: The menstrual-cycle taboo won’t come down in a day like the Berlin Wall. But Niine’s partnership with a men’s cricket team is a masterstroke and a welcome move in the right direction. Plus, it generated plenty of conversations.

Walking the talk builds authenticity, which is integral to the success or failure of a brand. If your actions speak louder than your words, it won’t be long before people start talking about you.


Apple getting a taste of its own fruit medicine.

Apple is in a legal battle with Epic, the creators of the game Fortnite that brought $1.8 billion of revenue in 2019. (If you want to get a 14-year-old talking, ask him about Fortnite. Bright chances are he won’t stop talking.)

In August 2020, Apple kicked Fortnite off the App Store. The reason was Epic offered users a discount to pay within the game rather than on the App Store. (This meant Apple wouldn’t get its 30% cut on all payments made to Epic Games and Fortnite.)

Then all hell broke loose:

  • Instead of smarting but lying down, Epic dragged Apple to court in an attempt to dismantle Apple’s commission structure and offer users the choice of how they want to install software.
  • Epic made Apple’s bullying public, much like how Oatly took on the Swedish dairy mafia. But Epic did more than issue statements. They made their version of 1984, a commercial Apple aired to attack IBM. Epic’s version includes popular characters from its video games. Watch it below.

  • The video generated 10 million views and counting. The #FreeFortnite hashtag continues to do the rounds. (Although we don’t know how much the game’s target audience understands what the hashtag is about.)

Bottomline: A judge ruled in Apple’s favor this week, but that’s not the point. The point is: By taking on a giant like Apple, Epic positioned themselves as David in the David versus Goliath story. And everyone supports an underdog.

Don’t be afraid to take on the giants if you believe in something deeply. It’ll make you stand out, get people to rally around you, and make customers proud to be associated with you.


She called out Zomato’s period leave.

Zomato announced 10 days of menstrual leave for its women and transgender employees. This step got hailed as an attempt to dismantle outdated work policies

But Harpreet Ghumman presented a different perspective on LinkedIn. She raised questions about the company’s preparedness to implement the policy, the announcement’s timing, and more.

Here’s what stood out in her status update:

  • Harpreet chose to attack the issue, not an individual or company. She systematically pointed out the drawbacks in executing the policy by putting herself in the benefactors’ shoes (and heels).
  • Her responses to the comments remained balanced and saved the original issue from getting diluted. The status update also helped women open up about their own thoughts and got picked by Economic Times.
  • Her perspective made us rethink the scenario and reminded us to dig deeper instead of merely scraping the surface.

Bottomline: Thought leadership involves building and defending a clear viewpoint. It involves reshaping how people think about important topics which, in turn, shapes how they think about you.

(Bonus: Download the free definitive guide on building thought leadership.)

Invest more time in sharing useful perspectives on aspects your audience cares about than in talking about your products. Else the only outcome is the depressing prediction Oscar Wilde made almost two centuries ago.


Have a nice weekend ☕️

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