- Next trainer development cohort 10th - 14th June 2024

Reverse-niching – the secret to getting unstuck

15th August, 2022

Reverse-niching – the secret to getting unstuck

Picture this: It’s London, 1964.  


Mary Quant miniskirts on every fashionable woman and the Rolling Stones climbing up the charts.  A time of endless opportunity.


Enter Joan Ball.  A savvy entrepreneur, she sees a gap in the market for a different kind of ‘marriage bureau’ to match young singletons with a potential life partner.


So she starts the very first computer dating service.


But a computer costs more than an apartment, so she has to time-share computer resources.  She uses punch cards to run the participant’s answers through the computer to find a set of answers that match.


And ding ding ding!  She makes match after match! 


So what was Joan’s secret?  Well, she used an unusual methodology.


Instead of matching people on shared interests and values, she matched them on what they didn’t want in a partner.


This turned out to be far more insightful than just the usual ‘Tall, dark and handsome.’


These days, marketers call this ‘reverse niching.’


It’s a useful tool to help you think differently – focussing on antitheses, not the theses.


The don’ts, instead of the dos.


So if you’ve been going round and round for days trying to find the right words…getting more and more frustrated, try Joan Ball’s approach.  Try flipping things on their head.


For example, if you want to….


…hone your personal brand, ask yourself:

  • What don’t I believe in?
  • Who don’t I want to work with?
  • How do I not want to be seen?
  • What am I rubbish at?


…describe a service or business, think about:

  • This isn’t a good fit for…[demographic]
  • It doesn’t do [x]…
  • It’s not like [other brands]


…explain a new concept or idea, ask:

  • What’s it the opposite of?
  • Who shouldn’t care about it?
  • What doesn’t it solve?


And, like Joan, you can even use it on the dating scene to find your dream partner*:

  • What do I not want in a partner?
  • What gives me the ‘ick’ (the TikTok trend that’s been around for a while)?
  • Who would be my nightmare match and why?


Reverse niching is a great way to unlock ideas and conjure up words whenever you’re stuck. 


Give it a go and let me know how you get on!

University of Cambridge


- Next trainer development cohort 10th - 14th June 2024

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