Gini Dietrich

Book Review: The Power of Unpopular

By: Gini Dietrich | March 22, 2012 | 

I was not popular in high school. I was not popular in college.

It took me well into my career before I had enough confidence to speak without mumbling because I was so painfully shy.

We also moved around so much that I didn’t have a set group of friends. So I’d move into a new school (particularly in high school) and I was cute and I was smart and I was new.

On my second day in a new high school, a girl threatened to beat me up after school. Just because I showed up for the second day.

Those years were extremely painful. So painful, in fact, I refuse to attend any kind of reunion or Facebook groups.

That’s why I was so interested to read Erika Napoletano’s new book, “The Power of Unpopular.” Well that and because I love her style of writing (minus the curse words).

It turns out she was unpopular too. For a few of the same reasons (cute and smart), but also because she didn’t run with the prom queen crowds, which I so desperately wanted to do.

She was OK with not being part of the “cool” crowd and she learned some very valuable lessons about running a business because of it.

She says:

I came to understand that if something was going to work, it was up to me to make it happen.

She details some of the most unpopular, yet successful, people in history.

Thomas Edison was afraid of the dark…and had 1,093 patents in his name.

Albert Einstein was unemployed after getting his degree…and won the Nobel Prize in physics later in life.

She talks about a very unpopular business concept: Failure.

While failure is inevitable and unpopular, it’s extremely powerful. After all, it’s how we learn.

She uses this concept, and a few others (such as humility, purpose, and criticism) to show you how to use your unpopularity to build a better business.

In her estimation, those of us accustomed to being unpopular are successful in business because we grew up not caring about what others think, not wanting to be around shortsighted thinkers, and being comfortable in the unknown.

It’s not to say those of you who were popular growing up can’t be successful. Erika gives you a recipe for cheating your way through being unpopular. But it’s likely you’ll have to change your mindset and how you do things, if you want to follow her approach.

Each chapter in the book ends with a case study, and not the typical ones, that show you how unpopular brands (cough, Harry Potter, cough) eventually made it because their founders were comfortable with being told no and just kept at it. They’ll help you think through how you approach things in your own business or career.

Minus the inordinate amount of curse words throughout (poor Erika; we make her remove them all when she guest blogs for us), I highly recommend this book.

In her words, “Being unpopular means we get to wake up every day and live what we love.”

Get yourself a copy at Amazon or Barnes & Noble. It’s available both electronically and in hard cover.

Disclosure: I received a free electronic copy of this book from Erika’s publicist. Just like all of the other books I receive, I promised to do a review only if I liked the book and thought it would bring value to you (be grateful I don’t review the crappy ones). To say thank you for considering it, Erika sent me an electronic monkey latte (two of my favorite things in one). Also, the links to the book are affiliates for Erika…in order to help her earn a mere $0.70 per book sale. I don’t think she should spend it all in one spot.

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • Hey Gini, thanks for reviewing this book. I just discovered Erika’s blog–it’s one of the few that can make me laugh out loud every time I read it. The concept of the power of unpopularity is a really interesting one. I’ve had my fair share of being unpopular and it’s definitely made me a more determined person. Coincidentally, I’m about half way through Isaacson’s bio of Einstein. I’m at the point where he’s writing amazing physics theories (basically changing the world), yet still can’t find a job. It just goes to show that being an outsider can lead to great things.

    • ginidietrich

       @Shelley Pringle Oh! How is it?? Did you read his bio of Steve Jobs?

    •  @Shelley Pringle I’m delighted to have you over on the blog, Shelly, and I think you put 2 very important things together: unpopular + determination. Striving for popularity is futile when the people we seek to please are sitting right in front of us, ready to tell us what they want. And you’ve inspired me to pick up the Einstein bio — I’ve been meaning to for ages!

  • ginidietrich

    @FrenchiedeLuxe Cool, huh?

    • FrenchiedeLuxe

      @ginidietrich I’ve been thinking about it all day… Very appealing indeed…!

  • This definitely sounds like a good read. Gonna order it now. Also, I wish we had a wayback machine. I think it would be instructive for a lot of us if we could not only go back and view ourselves in HS, College, etc, but also view one another. I was definitely not popular back in the day, and a bit awkward, and I didn’t really come in to myself and have confidence until some time in the late 80s or early 90s, when I was in my late 20s.

    • ginidietrich

       @KenMueller Ah…the old if I knew then what I know now. It sure would have made life easier, wouldn’t it? And we could provide ourselves the winning lottery numbers!

    •  @KenMueller You know, there’s this great country song (an oxymoron to some, I know!) called “Letter to Me” by Brad Paisley that covers JUST this idea. Maybe you’ll dig it.

  • Definitely on my “must read” list! Thanks for the additional perspectives on it. It sounds like your experiences in high school were tough, but definitely part of what has shaped the awesome woman you are today! mmmuah!

    • ginidietrich

       @EricaAllison I wouldn’t change it for anything now. But it was pretty miserable back then. So glad it’s over! Mmmmuah to you!

      •  @ginidietrich  @EricaAllison And Gini has the lesson of the hour. Popularity in the juvenile sense? It doesn’t matter. What matters for brands and businesses is embracing the ability to tell an audience, “Hey! I’m building this for YOU.” And that statement alone will always be unpopular with some. But dang skippy to the right folks.

  • JeffRice63

    @ginidietrich @redheadwriting When she followed me, she disdainfully tweeted (when she tweeted) me back. @shellykramer 2. thks but no thks

  • Sounds interesting. However, I’m having trouble with the fact not that you were unpopular, but that you painfully shy. Never thought you’d be at a loss for words. I just threw big parties with big bonfires and kegs, so if any kids are listening, that’s how you become popular (if interested). The point that resonates most with me is that she was at peace with being unpopular. That’s probably the toughest level to reach as a teenager/ young adult. It’s probably a powerful way to find yourself. Thanks Gini.

    • ginidietrich

       @SociallyGenius Oh yes…painfully shy. So shy and nervous that I bit my fingernails completely off until a mentor (who was the partner of the FH office I worked for) pulled me aside and said, “You’re so smart and have such great instincts. But with this fingernail biting habit you have, you’re going to lose credibility.” I stopped. Immediately. I still pick at my cuticles, but no one can tell. 🙂
      My brother and you would have been good friends. That’s how he got through too.

      • rustyspeidel

         @ginidietrich @SociallyGenius My daughter.

  • M_Koehler

    You know me, I usually do not read biz books. I would read this however. Most of my advise/directions/answers are “unpopular” at work. I’m way WAY too much of a realist (and blunt) and that does jive well with the majority of the people who are my audience as they are in the clouds so to speak. And sadly, when what I predict actually happens, I’m still the bad guy and my constructive criticism goes ignored. So this would probably be a very enlightening read for me.

    As to your former life as an unpopular, well…. We’ve known each other how long now? I won’t say the number of years as that fact still blows my mind that it has been that long. Yes that place was atrocious and way too painful. You notice I do not talk to or do anything with any other Bunny also. And I can probably guess who that bully was within 2 guesses couldn’t I. You and I were the newbies there which is probably why we became such good friends in the first place. Besides the fact you were already pretty awesome back then.

    • ginidietrich

       @M_Koehler After all these years, I still don’t know how you ended up in the corporate world. Some day I’ll talk you into doing something else. 

      • M_Koehler

        @ginidietrich You would think I would be the last person that should be doing this kind of work. It’s better than my very brief time as a teacher however.

        • ginidietrich

           @M_Koehler  LOL! Yes, I’m aware…

  • please review the crappy ones… or start something where we can talk about books to avoid… = time saver

    • ginidietrich

       @faybiz If you don’t see it reviewed here, don’t buy it. How’s that? Or, if you’re thinking about buying a book, send me a note and I’ll tell you privately what I thought.

      •  @ginidietrich ok im going with option 2- you dont read THAT much… PS get Beat the Reaper and Wild Thing by Josh Bazell (no i dont work for him) – just love the character and style! woot

        • ginidietrich

           @faybiz OK – I’ll download it for my international fight next week!

  • trontastic

    I saw a review of this on Good Morning America a while back and the same nervous feelings of recalling my high school days came back to life. We too moved around a lot ( 17 schools in 12 years) and I never got grounded in any real friendships. Believe it or not, I never spoke up, never talked to other kids and omg never initiated a conversation that would require someone paying attention to me. I learned to fly under the radar. That said, it took someone with the exact opposite personality to pull me out of my shell. I might pick up this book, but I kinda feel like I have other things to read that make more sense. Why read what I’m living?

    • ginidietrich

       @trontastic This is why I like you…we moved just a little bit more than that. And yet, how did we meet? You walked right up to me and introduced yourself. 

      • trontastic

         @ginidietrich I learned it from watching you.

        • ginidietrich

           @trontastic Ha!

    •  @trontastic Well, I don’t know if it was MY book you saw reviewed on Good Morning America (it just officially released on Tuesday this week), but here’s what I love — your comment about flying under the radar. It’s an awesome skill to develop, and useful in oh-so-many ways!

      • trontastic

         @RedheadWriting Did you do an interview on a morning show about your book? It may not have been GMA but something similar? If not, watch out, someone wrote a very similar book. 🙂
        Thanks for the response.
         @ginidietrich not that your comments don’t mean the world to me but…LOOK! @RedheadWriting actually talked to me! :: DOES A DANCE ::

        •  @trontastic  @ginidietrich Of course I talk to you! Heavens — you’re the reason I have a career 🙂 And there’s a brilliant book out called Uprising that has a similar premise by a wonderful author. I’m betting it was him 😉

  • So I guess that means you didn’t like my book then, huh? I told my publicist it might be an iffy proposition if they sent it to you. You should have known there would be more pictures than words…. next time I will throw in some free stuff too; I think we have some @lanierupshaw pencils and coffee mugs I can chip in. 
    I wasn’t unpopular or popular, I was just there; it was my shyness that probably kept me invisible. Fortunately I got past that.
    I haven’t read Erika’s book but I’m sure I could find some case studies that would work well for me. However, my business model is at the other end of the spectrum as I do care what other’s think about me and whereas I don’t have to be popular I’m ok with being liked. 
    I too get to ‘wake up everyday and live what we love’; I’ve got the best job ever and I don’t have to prove anything to anybody, it’s a model that has worked quite well for me. 
    Oh wait, this wasn’t supposed to be about me, huh? I keep forgetting…..Erika has it going on; she has found a model that works with her personality and used it to her advantage. I’m sure there are others out there with similar situations of growing up unpopular that could benefit as well. Whatever works for you, right?
    That’s my story; I’m sorry I can’t get any deeper than that…..

    • ginidietrich

       @bdorman264  Actually, if the book had had pop-ups and you’d bought me a glass of wine, I would have given it a good review. I can be bought.

      •  @ginidietrich My understanding is that food is a good way of doing that.

        • ginidietrich

           @TheJackB Your understanding is correct.

        •  @ginidietrich Customer service is all about listening to what your customer wants and then providing it. Feed Pete.
          In regard to the premise that lack of popularity drives success in business, well I see how it might. I’d have to read the book to see how she spells it out but there are other concerns.
          I am not saying that they aren’t addressed but even if you don’t take no as an answer you still have to have a decent idea to work with. I keep receiving sales calls from a guy who says his team of social media experts can dramatically help my business.
          And yes he told me he can put me on the front page of Google. 

        • ginidietrich

           @TheJackB I think hearing no over and over again because you’re a tool and stupid is different than pushing your idea forward because you believe you really have something. JK Rowling got eight “no thanks” letters before someone took a chance on her. Can you imagine?

        •  @TheJackB  @ginidietrich Trust me, I know it well. Gini thinks I drove an hour just to meet her but it was the free food and drink that was the kicker………..:)

        • ginidietrich

           @bdorman264  @TheJackB WHAT?!?! I’m going to go cry now.

        •  @ginidietrich I agree with that wholeheartedly. Either way it comes back to who is able to shrug off the criticism and who isn’t.
          I sometimes wonder if it is an advantage for some people to be fired because once you have experienced it you find it loses some of the fear/mystique associated with it.
          I am not saying that people should strive for it to happen but it is not always a bad thing nor is it always based upon ability and performance.

        •  @ginidietrich  @bdorman264 Good thing you don’t cry easily. 😉

        • ginidietrich

           @TheJackB I’m trying to think of the movie that ends with a group of guys, literally, starting over. They were willing to take big risk because they’d all been fired. After all, they’d already hit bottom. I think it was The Company.

        • trontastic

           @ginidietrich  @TheJackB OH OH I KNOW THIS ONE…is it that Micheal Keaton movie from the 80’s where he works in a car factory that a Japanese company takes over and wants to shut down the plant? No? dangit.

        • ginidietrich

           @trontastic  @TheJackB NOOOO! It was recent. It was about the Great Recession. 

    •  @bdorman264  I completely relate to this point of view and it’s how I viewed myself. The introvert in me shied away from things. And right now I could characterize my point of view in my job as being unpopular, or skeptical, even though it is the mainstream most places. It’s a tough place to be, but I know I’ll be better for having these views and sticking to my guns.

      •  @Anthony_Rodriguez  @bdorman264 And sticking to your guns, in my world, at least, is a pretty rockin’ way to build an audience you want to wake up and be surrounded by every day! And being unpopular isn’t at all the same thing as being unlikable. Unpopular decisions are built to serve an audience. Unlikable decisions (cough — Netflix, BofA — cough) forget that the only reason we’re allowed to be in business each day is by the grace of our audience’s permission. Unlikable decisions dishonor your audience.

  • “Conventional Wisdom” is an oxymoron.
    Every important advance in civilization started out as an unpopular idea with a zillion reasons why it would not work. 
    To add to Kennedy – There are those who look at the world as it is and ask “Why?”, there are those who look at the world as it could be and ask “Why not?” and those who stand apart from it all and silently drink it all in. 

    • ginidietrich

       @wabbitoid So is common sense.

      •  @ginidietrich  @wabbitoid Precisely. Having sense? More common on some days than others 🙂

  • ginidietrich

    @larboz I’d say a good read.

    • larboz

      @ginidietrich Ill have to add it to my list. I love the name alone!

  • debdobson

    @ginidietrich And BTW, like you and @RedheadWriting, I was also one of the unpopular kids. #JustSaying

  • I listened to Erika speak on the MarketingProfs podcast a couple weeks ago and loved her take on being unpopular. I, myself, was not in the popular crowd (people used to tape paper to their noses and walk around saying they were me with my big nose) and I feel like I have truly embraced this as an adult. Being ‘unpopular’ really doesn’t mean squat if you think about. I love this thought; ‘those of us who grew up unpopular are successful because we don’t care what anyone else thinks.’ Going to pick up this book!

    • ginidietrich

       @C_Pappas WHAT?!?!?! You totally do NOT have a big nose. WTH is wrong with people? Clearly they had other issues. Jeez.

      •  @ginidietrich
         I grew into it I guess LMAO! Seriously though – these things got to me (and my poor mom had no idea until I told her nearly 20 years later) but today I am confident in my thoughts, opinions and yes, even how I look. It’s not worth it to wonder what people might think and in business, I speak loudly when I have a question or want to share an idea. I never ever sit back and watch it happen without me.

        • ginidietrich

           @C_Pappas OF COURSE it got to you. I would go home crying every day. 

    •  @C_Pappas Well, I’ve never met you so I can’t judge your nose. I have a big butt, and I’ll venture to guess that neither keep us from getting done what we need to get done. Well, except those skinny jeans that look better on other girls 😉 Glad you stopped by the MarketingProfs podcast and great to see you here, too! Excited to hear your thoughts on the new importance of “unpopular.”

      • ginidietrich

         @RedheadWriting  You have a big butt because you cycle. I also have one. That’s how I know.

  • RedheadWriting

    @johnfalchetto Hey, John 🙂 Thanks for sharing @ginidietrich’s review!

    • JohnFalchetto

      @RedheadWriting Anything for My fav red head, @ginidietrich

      • RedheadWriting

        @johnfalchetto awww…shucks 🙂

  • DogMomApril

    Gini, you could be describing my younger days too!  Ugh.  😀
    It’s no secret, I’m an Erika-fan. (I don’t mind the cursing and confess to indulge myself – sometimes, I find, there’s just no other word like the f-bomb.:)  I downloaded the Kindle App for my (newish:) smartphone so I could buy and read the Power of UnPopular.  Sadly, I’m a slow reader but so far am LOVING the book and even find it to be a quick read!  After reading your review, Gini, I look forward to finishing it all the more!  Thanks ladies for being terrific inspirations!

    • ginidietrich

       @DogMomApril I can imagine it’s slow going on your phone, but it’s worth it. And, when you’re finished, download The Paris Wife. I’m reading it now and it’s VERY good.

    •  @DogMomApril Thanks for buying the book — and let me know how it looks in Smartphone Size! So glad to have you as a part of my community 🙂

  • I’m a big fan of @RedheadWriting – and she knows it, too. 😉
    For me, it’s all about embracing your inner outlier, those parts of your personality and identity that are totally and unmistakably *yours*. I won’t go on and on about my geek streak but suffice it to say that it put me firmly in the unpopular end of the spectrum during my high school years. There were moments when I had the pangs of anxiety while trying to fit in – but college was the big awakening for me, the opportunity to embrace all those personality quirks and make something of them.  
    Fun times. 

    • ginidietrich

       @jasonkonopinski  How many returns did you do after the end of your comment?

      •  @ginidietrich That’s all you have to say? Sheesh. Tough crowd. 

    •  @jasonkonopinski And you know I’m a fan of yours, too 🙂

  • Good review G. Another one for the list. I don’t make it there every post, but I really enjoy @RedheadWriting ‘s blog — maybe if I read it more, I’ll loosen up online.  🙂 Looking forward to the book!
    Also… not sure about this whole high school thing, but whenever I’m feeling unpopular I just mention that I know @ginidietrich  — instant cyber cred.

    • ginidietrich

       @adamtoporek  HAHAHAHAHAHA! If only that were true.

    •  @adamtoporek  Glad you dig the blog, Adam! And the only thing you need to be online is yourself 😉

  • JessicaNorthey

     @ginidietrich you always make me think. I was popular in high school/college but paid a price for it. There was this awful social stigma to have, say and do the right ‘things” looking back it kinda sucked and I wish I could get a do-over.  I was SO unpopular on the inside. My family was straight one-degree above KidRockTrailerTrash and just about a Redneck. I never wanted anyone to come to my house. I was scared what they would think.  I had book smarts but also didn’t want ANYONE to know cause I was a cheerleader, drama, student council. I remember being so embarrassed of my upbringing.”   >>>fast forward to adulthood have learned “you can’t compare your insides to other peoples outsides.”
    Needless to say popularity NOT so much fun.
    I love both you & @RedheadWriting cause ya’all show me how to play by the rules=YOUR OWN RULES and run your own race no matter what. 
    Honestly I work in Country Music and tech industry….I am not normal in most ways. I am unpopular with both sides and on a GOOD it’s an uphill battle.However I am making my dreams come dreams true by taking the road LESS traveled!
    I can’t wait to read this book!!!!! <3 u Gini.

    • ginidietrich

       @JessicaNorthey  Well, Miss Thang. I saw you’re going to be tweeting from the CMA red carpet. So I’d say you figured it out. You do what works for you…and the rest of us sit here and watch with awe (and a little envy). You’ll like this book…it talks about how to be OK with the unpopular view, if you know you’re right. xoxo

    •  @JessicaNorthey  I love what you said about your journey being a “good” uphill battle. Sometimes that path to popular looks easy — doing what everyone else is doing instead of making your own way. Funny what happens when you decide to carve your own path 🙂

  • Something happened in this cycle of ups and downs, market crashes and bursting bubbles – over the last few decades, we’ve forgotten how to fail, that failures teach us how to adapt, to improve. We’ve decided it’s unacceptable, that any non-success is a failure than can ruin careers, kill companies. So we live and work in fear of failure, never take chances for the sake of staying in favor, popular. It’s b.s. – and I’m as susceptible to it as anyone.
     @RedheadWriting often calls it like it is (and I kinda like the curse words). Being unpopular can have its upside; remember this from the ‘West Wing’ – if people already don’t like you and think you are a certain way, you might as well work it to your advantage, use it and knock down some bodies w/ it. And FWIW I’ve never been popular, way too dorky and shy and introverted. 🙂

    •  @3HatsComm I have nothing brilliant to add, as you were quite brilliant all on your own 🙂

    • ginidietrich

       @3HatsComm I think we’ve always been fearful of failure. And we all define it differently. But it’s definitely part of our society to not take risk in favor of doing what we think our neighbors/friends/family thinks is right. Steve Jobs is a great example of what Erika talks about. He didn’t care what anyone thought. He knew he was right and he was so focused on getting there. And he did…with more cash in the bank than most countries.

  • SociallyGenius

    @bdorman264 so you’re the guy that @ginidietrich says “you’re right” to all the time #jealous

    • ginidietrich

      @SociallyGenius Wait. I didn’t see your comment. Going back there now.

      • SociallyGenius

        @ginidietrich you saw original comment from yesterday but not my masterpiece of top 10 Jack Bauer pick up lines 🙂

  • SociallyGenius

    @ginidietrich And since my Android is commentally challenged, you MIGHT have missed my reply to @howiespm on your 10 ways post yest #epic

  • ginidietrich

    @makammerer I love you for that!

  • can you continue my education and let me know what an electronic monkey latte is please……
    I guess I should stop being surprised at people admitting to being shy at school – but you had me at “I was”  –  to be sure – does not compute…..
    As they say in The Monosyllabic School for Twins – “Me two” – but I viewed it as less ‘unpopular’ and more just ‘not popular’  = flying under the radar I guess….  and I also think I like to chase success rather than be spurred on by failure – not sure if there is any difference….

    • ginidietrich

       @Nic_Cartwright She sent me a photo of a latte with a monkey “drawn” into the foam. 🙂

  • ginidietrich

    @EstherFreedman I laughed at your tweet the other day about how you promised yourself you’d get dressed every morning

    • EstherFreedman

      @ginidietrich i had no idea what i was getting myself into. making enough coffee takes precedence over getting dressed.

      • ginidietrich

        @EstherFreedman For me, cycling takes precedence. And then I sit here all sweaty and gross until 5:00

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