Weird is the New Normal: The problem with being weird


I’m still sort of amazed at how deeply ingrained our antipathy to this word is. It makes audiences a little nervous when I talk about the death of normal and the rise of weird, when I say that it is important to stand out from the crowd (not to fit in). And it makes many people uncomfortable to describe their habits as a bit weird.

The thing is, though, that the only prospects you care about, the only people you have a shot of reaching, the only people who are going to use your service or join your tribe are weird. And everyone is weird, at least sometimes.

Mr. Standard over there, precisely average height, average build, average job, average family… he’s normal, except when it comes to fantasy football. And then he’s off the charts. He subscribes to soccer magazines, follows his teams to games around the country, posts pictures at stadiums, tweets and facebook about his team all the time.

He shouldn’t be ashamed of this passion, it’s a passion, it makes his life interesting. And the marketers that seek him out shouldn’t waste one minute on people who don’t like soccer when there are so many people just like him.

And Ms. Normal over there, precisely fitting in on every measure, well, she’s weird about Gift of the Givers. She is entranced by their model and loves the feeling she gets when she donates or volunteers at various disaster areas. She shares with her friends various challenges and how they overcame them and chats about them online…

Is it weird to find so much energy and connection over a disaster relief organisation? Weird in the sense of not in the mainstream, sure. But there’s no shame in finding your passion, in fact, it’s those that seek to be normal at all times that have an issue as far as I can tell.

The thesis of my theme this week is simple:

In a world of mass production, mass advertising, mass fitting in and mass conformance, the only smart strategy was to make average stuff for average people. But in a world of the long tail, of the elites of passion, of micro-tribes, of passions amplified, there are now more weird people than ever before.

Amazingly, despite the obvious proof that the weird are your potential market, we still spend most of our time talking about reaching and keeping the masses happy.

All that pressure from public schools (don’t stand out!) combined with all that pressure from the JSE (be like Shoprite!) means that our instinct is to serve the disinterested masses by making something that’s pretty average.

The problem is that the disinterested masses are ever better at ignoring your ads, and they won’t look out for you because, of course, normal people have no trouble satisfying their average needs.

The future increasingly belongs to those that care enough to make products and services for those that care.

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