The gentle art of making enemies.

Written by Cole Schafer




 My face was the size of a water tower, projected on a massive screen thousands of miles away from my home office in Chicago.

I was teaching a class on copywriting and marketing at the Ivey School of Business in London, Ontario.

It was 8, maybe 9 a.m. in the morning and while the students were certainly sharp, they weren’t particularly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

(We all remember those early morning classes).

That is until I said the word “Fuck”.

I imagine as they sauntered into the classroom that morning, waiting for the caffeine in their coffees to begin racing through their veins, they thought the day’s speaker would be like the vast majority of guest speakers in the world of business –– cookie-cutter, agreeable and incredibly fond of business buzzwords like “move the needle” and “core competency”.

Instead, they got a tatted, twenty-six-year-old agency drop-out, that didn’t know a damn thing about landing (nor holding onto) a job.

I got two, maybe three sentences into my lesson when I fired off some form of the word in order to emphasize a point.

The moment their ears registered what my lips had uttered, their eyes widened, a few of them smirked at one another and suddenly they were paying attention.

Some might argue it was the vulgarity that hooked them in…

Though, I would argue it was the candor.

In the world of marketing, I’m something of a maverick (or a renegade rather). What separates me from the vast majority of marketers is that I’m unfiltered… at times to my own detriment.

While many folks in business tend to work behind facades, I try to be the same person in the boardroom as I am in… well… any room.

I talk the same way on my LinkedIn and Instagram as I do in my living room (and sometimes that means wielding French).

I write my newsletters (Sticky Notes and Stranger Than Fiction) as if I’m enjoying a beer with a long-time friend.

And, I’m not afraid to call out other marketers (particularly “thought-leaders” spewing out #broetry) who I feel are being ingenuine, scammy or just downright dishonest in their marketing.

Sometimes, this gets me in trouble…

My candor has made me a few enemies.

Take Debbie for example, who decided to unsubscribe to my Sticky Notes newsletter after my use of “4 letter words”.

(I think the irony in her email signature is just downright hilarious).




 Debbie isn’t alone.

Every time I send out a newsletter, I get a nice chunk of people that unsubscribe and I’m certain I’ve lost at least $10,000 in potential copywriting and marketing projects because I’ve been too “candid”.

But, the same candor that has landed me enemies is also the same reason I have over 10,000+ subscribers on my newsletters, hundreds of thousands of readers on my blog and nearly 800 customers that have bought my copywriting guide.  

Maybe it’s time to stop being a chicken shit.

There are a lot of chicken shit marketers out there.

(Whatever you do, don't be one).

Too many marketers are obsessed with being the most popular guest at the party –– the pretty-faced, pearly-teethed gal or guy that is always perfectly agreeable.

And, herein lies the problem... folks don't remember agreeable.

They remember bold.

They remember candid.

They remember witty.

They remember polarizing.

But, they sure as hell don't remember agreeable.

While I don't think any of us marketers should ever seek to be the ass-hat that's puking up all over himself because of one too many trips to the punch bowl, we need to have the courage to stand for something... even if it means making a few enemies and offending some people along the way.

And, the surprising truth is that this simply comes down to being ourselves rather than hiding behind some buttoned-up facade.  

I'm just twenty-six and I still have a lot to learn. But, I've been able to build a thriving business being the same person in the metaphorical "boardroom" as I am in any room.

Don’t call me fucking Picasso, but it’s the gentle art of making enemies.

By Cole Schafer.