Getting Noticed: The Ultimate Contrarian Guide to Standing Out and Getting Noticed in Crowded Markets

13 proven hype strategies that will change your game forever
Getting Noticed: The Ultimate Contrarian Guide to Standing Out and Getting Noticed in Crowded Markets
Jake McNeill
August 5, 2021
5 min read
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Frustrated? Struggling to get attention online?

Want to learn the psychology, cognitive biases, and proven creative hype strategies that will give you a competitive advantage? 

Then read on mon amie…

Studies show that humans make predictable decisions when faced with triggers. The brain takes shortcuts.

It does this with cognitive biases. 

You can use these biases and combine them with timeless strategies to stand out in crowded markets. 

Nostalgia Effect 🧠

What is it? Nostalgia encourages us to increase our social connectedness i.e share content. 

It leverages the deep emotional connection humans have to nostalgia, especially from our childhood.

Case Study: Salem Ilese released a track called ‘Mad at Disney.’ It is the perfect example of tapping into nostalgia to create viral content. Everybody grew up watching Disney movies so it struck a strong emotional chord. 

The track blew up on TikTok with millions using the sound and video across the platform.

Salem got over 1 million followers in a month. The Mad at Disney track? Just shy of 200 million streams on Spotify alone. 

And Salem’s Spotify has over 4.2 million monthly listeners. Not too shabby!

How to take action? Create content around nostalgia. My most viral article had an anecdote of the creative process Dr. Seuss used to write “Cat in the Hat”

This connects deeply with people who share it with their friends. 

Bonus tip: Tie the nostalgic content around cosplay for an extra TikTok viral boost. Both Mad at Disney and Old Town Road benefitted massively from the associated visual aspect the tracks lent. 

Herd Behaviour 🧠

What is it? Creators copy other successful creators. This saturates the style, genre, or niche and everyone ends up looking and sounding the same. 

The public gets bored and move on to the next trend.

Rinse and repeat. 

How to stand out? Do the opposite of the mainstream. 

In 1963, Andrew Loog Oldham signed The Rolling Stones.

The Beatles were the biggest band in the UK. Brian Epstein, the Beatles manager, had taken the working class musicians and put them in matching suits, ties, and haircuts. 

They were a clean-cut pop band. There were countless other acts already copying them. Oldham knew he would have to position The Stones differently if he wanted them to stand out. 

Where Epstein had scrubbed up The Beatles, Oldham did the opposite. He took the middle class Rolling Stones and scrubbed them down.

He got them wearing dirty street clothes to match their long hair and produced their blues-soaked music to sound even dirtier.

Oldham instinctively knew in order to get the kids to love the band he would have to get their parents to hate them.

He positioned the Rolling Stones as bad boys, encouraging them to court controversy which he leaked to the press. 

The Rolling Stones shocked middle England with their manager’s carefully placed articles detailing the band’s alcohol and drug fuelled antics.

The kids loved them for it. 

The Rolling Stones became one of the biggest bands in the world not by copying the Beatles as everybody else was doing, but by doing the exact opposite. 

How to take action? What can you do differently from the market leaders in your niche? What can you do to stand out? 

While The Beatles’ manager carefully curated a wholesome image, the Stones’ manager used the controversy to create word of mouth. 

What can you do to create controversy and get people talking? 

Position yourself against the mainstream and you will always get noticed.

Bizarreness effect 🧠

“Art is anything you can get away with” — Andy Warhol

What is it? One of the things that jump out at us and remains the most memorable is bizarreness.

Case Study Andy Warhol was one of the biggest style icons of the ’60s and ’70s. 

In the early ’60s, Warhol started painting Campbell’s soup cans and Coca Cola bottles using pop art techniques, which created a lot of chatter. 

Initially people laughed at his art but the bizarreness of it stood out and got noticed. He created word of mouth and more people visited his exhibitions. 

He quickly turned pop art into high art and leveraged his fame into fashion and movies.

Tip: dividing opinion is the best word of mouth. The more the haters hate, the more your fans will defend you — and the more everyone is talking about you. 

The bizarreness of Warhol’s art got attention but word of mouth made him famous.

Andy Warhol also knew how to stand out personally. 

He was bald. And incredibly insecure about it. Wearing wigs was considered to be a huge fashion faux pas. 

His solution? He got silver wigs made for him. Wigs are used by men who are trying to secretly hide their baldness, whereas Warhol used obvious garish wigs to seemingly celebrate his baldness with style. 

Andy Warhol’s wigs became part of his trademark look. He made wigs cool and stood out. 

How to stand out? Art has always used the bizarre to get attention and create word of mouth.

What bizarre things can you introduce to your content to get people talking? How can you divide opinion and create word of mouth. 

Turn your insecurities into your trademark 🧠

What is it? Turn insecurities into strengths.

Case Study - With nearly 2 million followers, Sweet Anita has built a huge loyal audience. She has done this despite her Tourette's. 

Before streaming no one would employ her. She had a crippling insecurity about her Tourettes as it was the catalyst to years of bullying at school and social phobia. 

She, however, faced her fears and started streaming. Anita blew up almost instantly. Tourettes is her trademark. 

She is highly respected by her fans as someone who had the courage to face and overcome her fears. She has inspired thousands with her bravery. 

Sweet Anita is a highly successful streamer earning a multiple six figure income. 

She is quite possibly one of the sweetest and bravest people on the planet.

How to stand out? Everybody has insecurities. Use them to get noticed. Often it is our perceived weaknesses that become our greatest strengths. 

If you try and hide your insecurities they become stronger, if you wear them front and centre not only will the insecurity disappear but people will respect you for your courage. 

Fight the Status Quo 🧠

What is it? Similar to herd mentality, people follow the status quo. This is more of a stand against conventional thinking. 

How to stand out? Every niche has bullshit. Call out the bullshit and position yourself differently. 

Case Study # 1: James Smith has a 7 figure Online Personal Training business. He has Sunday Times best selling books, a huge online membership and even tours sold out theatres promoting his books and business philosophy.

James fights against diets, especially Keto and Paleo. He calls them out as overcomplicated bullshit designed to extract money from consumers.

James believes all you need to do to lose weight is eat less and exercise more. 

He creates a lot of controversy and is impossible to ignore. He has millions of followers on social media as a result. 

Case Study # 2: Rachel Sandy has gone from 0- 800k subscribers on TikTok in a matter of months. She is parodying famous artists and poking fun at their fans. 

She’s not being aggressive, more playful. She has divided opinion and created word of mouth

Rachel has only posted 12 videos at the time of writing.

How to take action? To stand out you have to stand against something. Couple of caveats:

  1. You need to be genuine, you can’t fake your opinion
  2. Don’t be a troll. Be sincere and use your contrarian point of view with integrity

Celebrity beef 🧠

What is it? People fucking love gossip and drama

Case Study: Kanye West is the master of celebrity beefs. He has had high profile fallouts with Jay Z and Taylor Swift all of which keeps people talking.

Machine-gun Kelly and Eminem. Vin Diesel and the Rock.  The list goes on and on. Are some beefs real? Sure.

Are some orchestrated for the mutual promotional benefit of both parties? Of course. It happens all the time. 

This is an old school strategy but very effective. 

How to take action? Who are the celebrities in your niche? Do they use a lot of BS? Call out their methods. Start some beef with them. 

Strongly disagree with the productivity porn movement? Then call out Gary V. 

Think Simon Sinek is full of shit? Then write an article like this and go viral

👉 Again the caveat is don’t be a troll. Don’t make it personal. Just stand against the bullshit you genuinely disagree with. 

Exposure effect 🧠

What is it? We tend to develop a preference for things merely because we become familiar with them. 

Case Study: Louis Grenier hosts the Everyone hates marketers podcast with over 1 million downloads and counting. 

He has built a six figure business on one solitary message “How to stand the fuck out with radical differentiation” 

That’s his only message. He repeats it constantly.

He delivers it on his podcast, on his website, on LinkedIn and in his newsletter. 

How to take action? Define your core message. What is the one key pain point you solve? Don’t confuse your audience by trying to solve multiple problems. 

Repurpose your content with your core message across all your platforms. 

Don’t be scared to keep repeating your message as this will create the exposure effect.

Read more on the single core messages in the excellent The Brain Audit book by Sean D’Souza. 

Sean has had an online business for over 15 years and on a different level. 

Confirmation bias 🧠


What is it? Our tendency to search for, interpret and recall information in a way that confirms our pre-existing beliefs and hypotheses. 

Humans are either conventional or unconventional thinkers. We think traditionally or we take a contrarian stance. 

Whatever niche you are in you can stand out by being contrarian. 

Humans are tribal. Contrarians will naturally follow contrarian thinkers. Contrarians have a bias towards contrarian thinking. 

If you take a contrarian POV you will always find an audience. 

How to take action? What do you feel passionate about? What conventional thinking pisses you off? 

Put across your contrarian view and watch other contrarians who feel the same get behind your message. 

The Von Restorff effect 🧠

A boring Bowie early in his career

What is it? also known as the "isolation effect", it predicts that when things are different from the rest they are more likely to be remembered.

Case Study # 1 David Bowie had 10 failed attempts to become famous with 9 singles and an album that flopped. 

Bowie was bland and didn’t stand out. He need to shake his image up and get noticed.

Bowie’s success coincided with his radical change of image.

He became obsessed with mime and avant garde cinema which he used as inspiration to create outlandish characters and songs about aliens and space.

Bowie learnt the art of creating word of mouth and getting noticed. 

Get Banned 🧠

What is it? Prohibition is great for business. People are intrigued with content that is banned

Case Study # 1 Frankie Goes to Hollywood were a struggling pop band in the 1980s. Their debut single “ Relax” barely scraped the top 40.

BBC Radio 1 DJ, Mike Read was so incensed by the songs sexual lyrics and raunchy artwork that he refused to play it on air.

The BBC banned the song and the band from playing their flagship music TV show, Top of the Pops. 

Relax shot to the No.1 spot in the UK charts where it stayed for 5 weeks. 

Frankie Goes to Hollywood went to to become one of the biggest bands of the decade. 

Case Study # 2: Lil Nas X and Old Town Road had a few key moments on its route to the best selling single of all time. 

Nas used comedy memes to get the track viral on Twitter and then did the same on TikTok.

However, the catalyst that propelled the song into the mainstream consciousness was Old Town Road getting banned from the Country Music charts by Billboard. 

This created notoriety and word of mouth. 

How to action it? Use the stuffiness and prejudices of organisations to push the boundaries. Get banned and go viral. 

Short form vs long form content 🧠

What is it? Everyone follows the same tactics.

On YouTube, the conventional wisdom is to release lots of content consistently to feed the algorithm.

This works but it’s not the only way. 

James Jani posts irregularly. He has posted 17 documentary videos some as long as 36 minutes over a 18 month period. 

His demographic are millennials and Gen Z both of whom have been criticised for having low attention spans.

People don’t have short attention spans, you just need to hook them in quickly.

Conventional wisdom is to publish short videos 2/3 times per week. 

James goes against conventional wisdom and has over 800k subscribers and 20 million channel views as result. 

James is an ex-actor. He leverages his storytelling and delivery with top level editing skills to create engaging documentaries around business and finance. 

How to action it? Don’t limit your content to fit conventional wisdom, use a strategy that allows your content to shine at its brightest.

Hook them in instantly or you will lose them. 

Loss aversion bias 🧠


What is it? People would rather avoid defeat than acquiring an equivalent gain.

Creators take risks to get to the top of their niches. That’s the way it has always been. Once creators get to the top they fear losing their hard earned status and stop taking risks as a result.

Loss aversion bias is responsible for most of the one hit wonders in the music business.

64% of all artists who have featured on the billboard top 100 in the last 6 decades are one hit wonders.

How to take action? The top creators in your niche will stop taking the creative risks that got them to the top. This is your opportunity.

Take more risks, not less. This is your competitive advantage. 

The Skyscraper Technique 🧠

What is it? Brian Dean of Backlinko is the leading voice on SEO. In 2015, he created a strategy that doubled his organic traffic to his blogs.

It’s called The skyscraper technique and can be used in any niche.

What are the most popular articles, video, posts in your niche?

This is content that already works. Getting content ideas that are guaranteed to resonate is half the battle.

You now have two options:

  • Use the same content idea but make it way bigger and better
  • Use the content idea but do a contrarian point of view to create the opposite.

“The only art I’ll ever study is stuff I can steal from”David Bowie

To summarise the key to getting noticed is learning the art of creating word of mouth.

The algorithm is essentially the AI word of mouth. The algorithm is recommending content to you based on the viewing habits of others. 

Thanks for reading. I hope you’ve got value from this. 

Feel free to share this with your friends. ✌️


A bit about me

I’m an ex- multi-platinum artist manager. I created strategies and built audiences for artists who sold millions.

You can read more in the archives here. Find out more information on my website or connect on my LinkedIn

Too Much to do? Don’t know where to start?

I help artists, creators and indie founders get unstuck and build no bullshit step by step creative strategies to achieve their long term goals

I do discovery calls to see if we’re a good fit.

Cost? $0.00 Commitment? Zero. Time? 30 minutes

More info? Go here

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