I just finished Seth Godin’s newest book, We Are All Weird, The Myth of Mass and the End of Compliance. This is an important read for anyone who is doing social media, online or inbound marketing. According to Godin we are in the midst of a revolution where the conventional thinking for the past 150 years that held there is a normal or mass market, no longer applies. Each of us has more choices. As we self-identify with a tribe we become weirder, less normal and less attracted to mass products and mass marketing. As Godin puts it, “Mass is dead. Here comes the weird.”
What is weird and what is normal?
Godin’s book is about four words or concepts that define the current revolution:
- Mass: This is the efficient way to produce, market, communicate and govern the undifferentiated, conformist majority.
- Normal: Statisticians identify the bulk of any group as normal. (See the bell charts below) It is easier to produce for and communicate to and govern over an identifiable normal. But what is normal in one place is not normal, or weird, in another place.
- Weird: Anyone who is not normal. A vegetarian is normal in Mumbai and weird in Kansas. Weird is by choice. The vegetarian in Topeka chooses to be weird. Everyday more of us choose to be weird, at least in some part of our lives.
- Rich: Anyone who has a choice is rich. Being rich is not about having lots of money but being in a position where one can choose their own tribe (a tribe is any group of people, large or small, who connected to one another, a leader, and an idea).
The Bell Curve is Getting Flat
As more and more of us choose to be weird, either in some part of our life or in all parts of our life, what it means to be normal is changing. Take a look at these three bell curve charts from the book. One from 1955, the year I was born, 1975 when I was in college and 2010. We no longer all listen to the same top 40 radio stations, watch the same network television shows, drink the same mass produced soft-drinks or eat at the same mass marketed franchises. Well a lot of us still do but the normal group is smaller than it has ever been and the number of people on the shoulder of the bell curve is larger than it has ever been.
The Challenge to Marketers
It is difficult not to pick sides. At the beginning of the book Godin challenges us to make two decisions:
- Do you want to create for and market to and embrace the fast-increasing population that isn’t normal? In other words, which side are you on – fighting for the status quo or rooting for weird?
- Are you confident enough to encourage people to do what’s right and useful and joyful, as opposed to what the system has always told them to have and do? Should we make our own choices and let others make theirs?
The challenge for social media marketers, inbound marketers and online marketers is to use the tools we have to reach the tribes and offer them the choices they want. This doesn’t mean pandering to a perceived niche. The book has a couple of great examples of failures by Hyatt and T.G.I Friday. It does mean authentically connecting to a tribe and providing the goods and services desired by the weird. To quote Godin in the final section of the book: “It’s merely a happy coincidence that we live in a time when smart marketers can also make money doing something we need done anyway.” He points out that there are, “No niches. No mass. Just tribes that care in search of those who would join them or amplify them or yes, sell to them.”
Did you read We Are All Weird? What did you think? How are you applying that to your marketing? Do you have examples of people who are successfully being weird?
Photo Credit and Charts: Seth Godin