“Weird (not normal) means that you’ve made a choice, that you’ve stood up for what you believe in and done what you want, not what the marketer wants. More and more, that’s precisely what’s happening.”
We Are All Weird, page 16
It’s easy to be convinced when you don’t care enough. It’s much harder to think intelligently about what you believe in, to resist mass opinion, and make a statement by choosing who you buy from, who you sell to, and the products or services you include in your life.
We Are All Weird is a manifesto for people who care. It’s a well-written reminder that life’s too short to simply adapt and adopt, and that we live in a world that rewards those who stand for something.
I had a chance last week to connect with Jim Caruso, CEO of Flying Dog Brewery. Jim stands for something. Flying Dog Brewery stands for something. And they’ve been attacked for it. Considering the time and money they’ve spent on their many censorship battles around brilliant beer labels, one might suggest that it would be easier to just follow the rules. To toe-the-line. To homogenize. And they’d be right. It would be easier. It would also be easier for the dedicated, personable staff at Flying Dog to start treating their passionate work as simply a job, putting in only the minimum amount of effort required. It would be easier to work with a more “traditional” artist than Ralph Steadman (the artist behind Hunter S. Thompson’s books). Flying Dog does a lot that could be done easier, that could better support the status quo. They could have conformed, and created a product that appealed to the more mainstream.
Then again, the world already has a Budweiser.
Embrace the Weird
“The chance to become the next Wonder Bread/Budweiser/Chevy is seductive, but no longer practical. The field is too crowded, and there’s not enough upside after you build a middle-of-the-road normal brand.”
We Are All Weird, page 53
What Flying Dog understands – what we all need to understand – is that we have a very small chance in competing for the masses. The giants of “middle-of-the-road normal” own that space, and will destroy you with marketing dollars. After all, if you’re selling the same products as everyone else, the loudest guy wins.
But (and it’s a big but), if you have created something different – something that appeals to a particular personality – you won’t need to shout loudest. People who share your personal brand of weird (different) will tell their friends about your weird, and proudly share with their world the loyalty they feel to your brand. Flying Dog has rabid fans (pun intended). Their fans are loyal because of the specificity of the weird.
GEM # 1
Know Your Weird
“If you persist in trying to be all things to all people, you will fail. The alternative, then, is to be something important to a few people.”
We Are All Weird, page 53
Flying Dog drew a line in the sand and said, “Here we are, take us or leave us” and then refused to compromise. Their imagery is bold (and offensive to some). Their language is crass (and offensive to some). And they make no apologies.
Here’s the important take away though – it’s not a gimmick. Spend some time on Flying Dog’s website and you’ll see that the people who work there live the brand. For them, it’s not a marketing ploy, it’s a way of life. Have they leveraged their personal brand of weird? Absolutely. And so should you. But don’t try to make something up, simply for the “weirdness” of it.
In We Are All Weird, Seth shares a story about staying in a Hyatt hotel (Andaz, in LA) that’s trying to be hip. The all-too-predictable Beatles album framed on the wall. The eraser with the “oops” written on it. As Seth says, the Hyatt saw a marketing opportunity and went for it. But since it’s not true to their culture, it comes across as fake; a facade designed to deceive. Instead, the Hyatt should stick with what they do well. They have a tribe (of sorts), and should focus on delighting them instead of trying to attract a different kind of weird.
We live in a world where authenticity wins. Consumers are smarter than ever, and they’re looking for a place to connect with like-minded people – people who share their sense of weird.
Know what it is that makes you different and celebrate it. Draw a line in the sand. You can’t be everything to everyone, so focus on being something incredible to someone.
GEM # 2
Connect the Weird
“Tribes are fueled by our never-ending desire to avoid loneliness. Weirdness (which used to be a shortcut to lonely) is now fueled by the very tribes that fought it.”
We Are All Weird, page 80
Pug owners in Bronxville, NY are connecting online and offline. Beard and moustache enthusiasts are competing on a global level. DameElizabethTaylor.com boasts 60,000 articles written by community members. The online world has removed the geographic barriers between people with a shared sense of weird.
As human beings, we crave community. The desire to be accepted and appreciated is innate to all of us and, potentially because of the isolating nature of being weird, we stayed closer to the middle of the pack on certain things in the past. Now, we’re connected to over four billion people online (and counting), and four billion people offer a whole lot of varieties of weird.
If you run a brand, a company, or simply feel strongly about your tribe, you have an obligation to share your weird. Give people a place to connect around that weird. Let them know it exists and they will come, simply for the sheer joy of interacting with like-minded individuals and proudly identifying with that which makes them unique.
We Are All Weird is a 97-page book about giving a damn. It’s about caring about what you do and (as importantly) who you do it for. It’s about celebrating your individuality, while simultaneously connecting with like-minded individuals. As Flying Dog Brewery (and others) can teach us, professional apathy is a relic of a dead era and – as Seth teaches brilliantly – a mentality you cling to at great peril. Everyone with a pulse and a paycheque should be living We are all weird. You owe it to yourself and your business to read this book.