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« 'Category of one' is a choice | Main | Decoding "art" »

Q&A What's the problem with weird?

Our series continues with We Are All 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. 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.

Twenty five percent of the population is a landslide in most modern elections. You don't need everyone to vote for you, just the weird people who care.

Thanks to Joe Mehnart for inspiring this riff.

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 data services and scans magazines and even roots against the hometown team when his players are on some other team.

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 fantasy football 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 Kiva. She is entranced by their model and loves the feeling she gets when she donates or finds a loan repaid. She gives her friends Kiva gift certificates and chats about them online...

Is it weird to find so much energy and connection over an online charity? 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 book is simple: in a world of mass production and mass advertising and mass conformance, the only smart strategy was to make average stuff for average people. But in a world of the long tail, 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 middle school (don't stand out!) combined with all that pressure from Wall Street (be like Walmart!) 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 seek you out 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.

PS here's the original cover of the book, which can be found inside the dust jacket of the hardcover (which now costs less than $6). I ended up having to flip it around because, ironically enough, my partner refused to put this image on the cover. I met the man in the photo and spent some time with him a few years ago. Even though I celebrate the yogi as a hero inside the book, they were worried that people would think it was too weird. Sigh.

Yogi2

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