Seth Godin‘s manifesto We Are All Weird: The Myth of Mass and The End of Compliance reminded me of a hot dog. I knew the unsavory process in which it was made — a series of blog posts — yet I didn’t care all that much as the content itself was delicious.
In this slim volume, Godin contends that the idea of mass marketing is over. It’s no longer possible to make one commercial that will move everyone to buy orange juice; in fact when you try to please everyone you will please no one. Technology has enabled thousands of markets to fragment. The normal bell curve still exists, but now only within the curve of a thousand disparate markets. This sounds like stuff we’ve all heard before, but I think Godin differentiates himself with the following takeaways:
Good weird. No one likes someone who is weird for the sake of gaining attention. Good weird to Godin is a deliberate choice. It’s a self-aware decision to strive for acceptance among a group of people on admires. This group will be smaller and more focused than any previous marketing niche.
Mandate for weirdness. This strategy may not seem like a path leading to Ferraris, but Godin maintains that’s how the economy is changing:
“If you cater to the normal, you will disappoint the weird. And as the world gets weirder, that’s a dumb strategy.”
Godin writes the opportunity to grab a large, middle slice of the normal population pie no longer exists. Mad Men is by all accounts a critical and commercially successful show, but 15 as many people watched The Beverly Hillbillies in the 60s. The access to a mass audience like that no longer exists.
Rich begets weird. As technologies enable billions to be rich, which in Godin’s conceptualization is access to choices, more and more people will find ways to do precisely what they want. “Whatever your passion, it’s easier to do it, it’s faster to do it, and it’s more likely that (part of) the world will notice what you do….rich allows us to do what we want and we want to be weird.”
Weird demands realness. Marketers can fall for their own rhetoric and not practice what they preach. Godin says stop that dear, stop it now. “As choice and self-determination continue to triumph, you can’t profit from it by pretending you’re not a mass marketer. You actually have to stop being a mass marketer.” That means have a specific and laser-focused sense of who you wish to engage with. Godin:
“Average is for marketers who don’t have enough information to be accurate.”
Positive weird. Godin sees the declining importance of mass and compliance as a win for humanity. People can find like-minded individuals, and if there’s no channel that speaks directly to them they can make one up.“Humanity and connection are trumping the desire for corporate scale,” he, perhaps too optimistically, writes. Godin does convincingly dive into the internet’s ability to harness creativity. He notes that the Web encourages weirdness because self-expression can occur before the usual censoring of culture. It’s a great opportunity for people to be sincere with themselves and for marketers to genuinely help their goals. But, as Godin notes in other books, it’s a bit more complicated than that.