The Philosophy of OPT
I’ve contemplated what the point of OPT Magazine is more than once. It’s struck me that this is mostly a magazine about nothing, but I don’t know that we have enough Seinfeld for that to be completely true.
Many of the things that we discuss are topics that can range from “that’s common sense” to “what the hell did I just read?”, and not everything is terribly useful. It seems like when it blends together, however, that we end up with a somewhat successful recipe. Much like a happy accident in the kitchen when you’re trying to find something to eat, but don’t have enough of the right things to make a ‘real’ recipe. So you throw together what parts you do have, while hoping that expiration dates are more ‘suggestions’ than ‘rules’, and hope for the best. When it’s all together, you try it and are pleasantly surprised that not only did it not make you sick, that actually it’s pretty damn good, even if you don’t quite know how it came together. That’s OPT.
There’s things that we need to do in order to prevent the homogenization of this industry, which is what we (the royal OPT ‘we’) are trying to promote. That’s why we are trying to make sure that we keep what shows up in the magazine interesting. We need to make sure that you actually want to read it, and that every piece isn’t aimed at getting you to buy something so we can make advertisers happy. Our success comes from the propagation of new ideas across the industry – the better that independents as a whole are able to do, the better we do. If this industry gets to the point where there are few or no independents left, then there’s no point in us still doing what we do. That’s why we’re trying to give perspective on different issues, while advocating that there are always other sources to get the ‘big brand’ specific products.
Part of our unique positioning is that we don’t really have to worry about upsetting big sponsors about what we do. For example, we often take aim at other publications that seem to consist of mostly advertisements for frames – usually so many that you can often forget that it’s a magazine and not a frame catalog. There’s a reason we only have one “frame ad” in the magazine – because we thought it was funny, and we aren’t worried about keeping advertisers happy. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with people advertising their products, but there’s a time and a place for things, and at some point they can become too much.
When you take up this mantle of being ‘different’, you cause waves. You are no longer going slowly with the current, but rowing against it. This causes a few things to happen that you need to be able to deal with in terms of how people will perceive both you and your business. This is because I am, naturally, assuming that you are someone that wants to be ‘different’. Unless, of course, you just happened to pick this up to read because your phone battery died and you’re desperate. Regardless, you need to know that you will never make everyone happy. I’m not just talking about your competition or anything like that.
Rather, I’m referring to the market in general. Once you start to go one way or another, you stray from that comfortable ‘neutral’ in the center, which means that people start to have opinions about what it is you are doing. Sometimes those opinions aren’t exactly kind ones. For example, we’ve had some responses about a few things we’ve done that people don’t care for – which is fine. They didn’t like it, or thought what we were doing wasn’t “appropriate” for a professional environment. That’s okay, they are allowed to not like what we do.
This can be a hard concept to be okay with – when you’re doing things differently, you need to be prepared to let people go that aren’t suited for what you’re doing. You want every single person to come in to your business and buy from you – that’s normal. You’re the best [insert your profession here] in the area, so why would they go anywhere else? That’s never going to happen, of course, but we like to think that. Inevitably, you’re only going to get a segment of people that will do business with you, and it’s up to you to control what that segment will be. This could be based on price, style, or some other combination of demographics. Regardless of where you are located, there are going to be plenty of other ‘middle of the road’ options. I am not referring to quality here when I say that, rather to their marketing appeal – a bland, non-offensive marketing approach that doesn’t really inspire anyone, but also doesn’t really upset anyone, either. This could be in the form of chain stores, online sources, or whatever else. That means your potential market already has plenty of ‘blah’ options to choose from. The question then becomes what options do they have that appeal to a specific niche that they care about? This is where your business has growth potential – reaching out into the community and filling specific niches that aren’t being met.
This is what we’ve done, and we’re certainly enjoying what we get to do. It becomes especially rewarding when we hear from readers that agree with points that we make, and that they are trying to do what they can to differentiate their business from everyone else. Having that kind of feedback from your audience is great – it lets you know that what you’re doing has an effect on people, and that it’s doing some good. One of the areas we hear about is how ‘professional’ the magazine looks – which was exactly what we were going for. We wanted to demonstrate exactly how you can be different but still retain that air of quality that is a vital part of the perception of your business. You can do whatever you want, but if it looks cheap, then people are going to instantly make that association with your product – regardless of how good it (or you) really are. Like assuming something is poor quality because it isn’t overpriced, we make instant judgements that will color how we assign value to something, regardless of how justified that association is. That’s why it’s important for small business to keep in mind that a professional look is worth the investment. Whether it’s a logo, brochures, website, or whatever else, it needs to have the look that you want to convey. You have plenty of options – if you can’t find a local designer that can make you a logo, you can always reach out to us at OPT and we can help you through that process. Your logo is the first thing that people are going to see, and needs to be something that you’re proud of.
– Curious George