Seth Godin’s latest book, We Are All Weird, describes the end of the era of “mass” and the ascendancy of the “weird.”
Navigating the Bell Curve
The distribution of any population will usually be shaped as a bell curve, Godin explains. Traditionally, the vast majority of people are grouped in the tall hump of the curve in the middle of the chart. Only a scattering of people would be found in front of the sharp rise of the curve or lagging behind the sharp drop of the curve. According to Godin, all of business, from production to distribution to marketing, was traditionally aimed at the middle hump of the bell curve because that’s where the vast majority of the people resided and that’s how money was made.
But today, writes Godin, the bell curve is flattening and widening. There are less people crammed into the center of the chart, all buying or thinking or doing the same thing. There are more people on the edge.
Take bread, for example, Godin writes. At one point, the vast majority of people in the United States bought Wonder Bread or its equivalent. Wonder Bread was average bread for average people, he explains. Then the bell curve flattened and spread out, and instead of a vast majority of people buying the mass-produced, mass-marketed and widely distributed bread, more and more people are buying a variety of different breads.
Facing the Four Forces
The world is moving from the dominance of the normal to the growing influence of the weird for four reasons, or “forces,” according to Godin. These are:
Force one: Creation is amplified. Today, not only can anyone be a creator, but through the free, simple and instant worldwide connections of the Internet, your creation can be seen and appreciated by fans. “Anyone, anywhere can publish to the world,” Godin explains.
Force two: Rich allows us to do what we want and we want to be weird. In Godin’s terms, rich does not mean a large accumulation of wealth, but simply having enough wealth to be able to choose. Most people no longer have to focus on survival.
Force three: Marketing is far more efficient at reaching the weird. Marketers, writes Godin, are willing to try to reach “particular pockets of weird people with stuff they’re obsessed with.”
Force four: Tribes are better connected. People who share the same unique obsessions or interests are no longer isolated. They can connect and interact very easily through the Internet.
In sum, Godin argues in this deceptively short but insightful manifesto, thanks to today’s technology, the weird are no longer isolated or no longer ignored by marketers and companies. And thanks to the wealth offered by the productivity of the past industrial age, most of them have the time, money and confidence to choose to be weird.
The bottom line for business, in Godin’s words: “If you cater to the normal, you will disappoint the weird. And as the world gets weirder, that’s a dumb strategy.”
Once again, the inimitable Godin, master of the descriptive phrase (remember “the purple cow”?) has produced a deceptively small sliver of a book that is packed with original insight.
* * *