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A slap on the face of traditional thinkers who go about preaching that 'Being Normal is the way. Seth takes us through the a different, unexplored thought process, i.e 'To Be Weird'. Loved this book for encouraging one to be Weird and categorically stating that Mass and Normal are going to be a thing of past.
Seth Godin became famous as a marketing guru, but I think his real value lies elsewhere. Lots of people say the same stuff he does about marketing. His real talent, IMO, is his ability to distill trends and marketing know-how into inspiring manifestos.
About three years ago, Godin's Linchpin completely changed how I thought about my career and the business I'm in. We Are All Weird takes the core ideas from Linchpin and applies them in a marketing context. However, this is more than a marketing book. It is very purposefully meant to change how the reader looks at the world.
Seth Godin's premise is simple. When people have an opportunity to make choices, they tend to want to express themselves. At no other point in history have we had so much opportunity to do both. We have nearly unlimited choices on who we want to be and what we buy. No matter how we may want to express ourselves, there are others like us to whom we can instantly connect. As a result, we are increasingly unsatisfied with one-size-fits-all goods, services, and lifestyles. Companies and organizations that thrive on normal are finding it very difficult to eek out the steady results they used to.
Godin discusses how "normal" mass markets were a creation of mass production and mass communication. Brands profited from defining the normal and making sure everyone wanted that. Governments and religions enforced normal to ensure a well-educated and independent populace was controllable. It came down to efficiency and productivity.
But then, something started to happen. We got so good at normal it allowed us to be weird. Increases in efficiency and productivity lifted everyone's standard of living. We had more time and more money for discretionary purchases. Advances in the technologies of production made it cheaper for companies to offer more choices. Computer technology and the Internet let us reach out to a larger world. We could express our individuality, find other people who were into that, and gather ideas and products from anywhere.
Seth Godin presents several arguments which come together to make a convincing case that weird will prevail. In our desire to express ourselves, we will continue to pursue the weird. Some people will only get a little bit weird. Others will really color outside the lines, and push the envelope within their affinity group.
-The forces of normal fear the weird.
Seth Godin is a pretty provocative guy. He is not afraid to point out the forces allied against our freedom to express ourselves. The forces of normal fear the weird because it disrupts mass control. Weird throws a monkey wrench into their ultra-efficient factories and control mechanisms.
In most cases, market forces have allowed the weird to get more of what they want. In nearly every product and service, there are far more choices available now than in the past. We vote with our wallets, and if companies want our money they have to somehow fulfill our desire for change.
In a few cases, especially those connected with government, we have little power of choice. Americans have become much more diverse and individuated in our political beliefs over the years. In fact, most elections are decided by independent voters. Yet, we are stuck with two political parties, both of which are dominated by centrist power brokers.
So whenever we vote, we're stuck voting between the two candidates deemed acceptable by the privileged folks in the parties. And that candidate, if elected, has huge incentive to avoid rocking the boat. We vote for change, and get very little of it, because the status quo is too beneficial to the privileged.
If you'll allow me to step on the soapbox for a bit, this is why embracing free-market capitalism promotes our right to choose better than pushing centralized bureaucratic control. In a free market, companies and organizations have to serve us if they want to make money. When government bureaucracies rule, they can do whatever they want because they have the authority to take our money with guns.
-Smart companies will embrace the weird.
Seth Godin makes a persuasive case for why brands need to let go of the nostalgia for mass markets. All of the economic forces that made mass markets the most efficient way to make a buck are now helping the weird get weirder. So brands can pursue a shrinking "normal" or get their fingers in a lot of "weird" pies.
Embracing weirdness and niche markets will also help companies resist cost pressures. If a brand delights a dedicated audience, they will be willing to pay for the product or the experience. If a brand is an average commodity, people will just look for the cheapest price from all competitors.
-The Politically Correct Revolutionary
Seth Godin does an excellent job of pointing out the problems with the status quo, but he seems to have a real aversion to naming names. This is true for a lot of his critiques that involve government and politics. For example, he is highly critical of education in the U.S. He makes all the points of how our educational systems are holding kids back. However, he completely fails to point out the culprits - teacher's unions and sympathetic politicians. There is now a Bipartisan consensus that education needs to be modernized. The ONLY thing standing in the way is the power of the teachers unions. This is demonstrated throughout the country. I think it's really unfortunate that Godin won't say this, as his influence could really help people who want to reform our schools.
-Does not sufficiently warn against "fake weird"
Seth Godin does have a small section of the book where he talks about the pitfalls of faking weird. This is the phenomenon of brands giving some halfhearted lip service to niche marketing without actually changing anything. I would have liked to see more emphasis on this issue in the book. Because I can see a lot of brand managers reading Seth Godin, adding a couple of "edgy" signifiers to their existing offerings, and then patting themselves on the back. That's not enough to genuinely serve the weird. They'll see right through that stuff. I truly believe that even the weirdest subcultures are open to marketing, but brands need to be humble enough to learn from their customers.
This book is available on Kindle for $3. It took me about two hours to read. I'll be using many of the principles from this book for years. What's not to like?
We are all weird? Well this book is a bit weird, but it is actually interesting. It is weird because it is obvious that the author has a strong message at the core of the book which is about how marketing has changed and that it is out of touch with us. But at the same time the reasoning for this notion and the way the author tries to explain it is actually more profound. The conclusion of the author in what we should do about it all seems less convincing than the reasoning or case for the notion.
To explain further the author is saying that the Bell Curve of marketing strategy that has been the plan of business for a long time has gone flat. The idea of Mass production and bulk selling has worked in the past because it relies on the way society creates the market through popular culture and fashion. It has worked because we are manipulated into wanting things and we have been taught that we must conform to what the author describes as a tribe. Or a group of people or to just do what everyone else does so that we do not miss out or look weird. Anybody in the past under that model of marketing that wanted something different to the rest of the tribe would be Weird.
The author suggests that things have changed because we now have more choice than ever before and we can choose without being so manipulated if we actually stop and think about it, The author is trying to remind us that we should think for ourselves. We can all choose even the things that mass marketing would have ignored in the past. That is to say that we all now can pick things that once were thought of as weird and therefore we are all weird.
Now I do not see that the "bell curve" has actually changed much, if at all. I think there is still the same marketing strategy as always. Society has not changed either and marketing depends on the manipulation of society. In fact there are benefits from it as well as the not so good elements. But I do agree that society is all powerful and manipulative and that we are often told what we want or what we should do or buy. And I agree that we can all forget to think for ourselves. And therefore the examples of the manipulation that the author uses are good examples and they are interesting.
The author also has a better understanding of Individualism that many sociologists and psychologists would have us believe. Some of these so called distinguished professionals argue that there is no true individualism since we are all part of a collective. I don't agree. The author advocates that within a collective we can still be individuals by making our own choices. I agree with this. Further the author suggests that we have much to choose from and that we have choice and that, in itself, makes us individual if we choose something on our own terms.
The author also suggests that we have such a choice that marketing should be more diverse to cater for our diverse needs. He points to things as the internet as examples of the choice we have and therefore we are more likely individuals than ever before. I believe the author is right that we have more choice and we do have more choice to be individual and that is where the book is great. However the threat of the suppression of our individualism is greater than ever because of the choice that actually society puts there in order to manipulate us. And so although the author is looking in the right direction I also think it is too simplistic as a notion. The threat of collectivism against individualism is greater than ever. The biggest problem with the book is that the author is looking at marketing as a subject and then studying how it needs to change in order to catch up with how we have changed. His priority is marketing and that is fine but does not interest me as much as the sub plot of his observation which is that we can all have the potential to be true individuals even if it does seem "weird" that we choose something different to the collective of society fashion. The author is actually saying that we are all weird now because we all choose things that are outside of the collective fashion these days and therefore marketing needs to catch up with that. I don't agree that we are all thinking to that level of individualism since clearly most people still follow the fashion of marketing. However the author does get the reader to think about things and to ask questions. He also gets us to see what is happening around us and in that this book is really good.
The book is interesting, funny in places, and thought provoking. It is also well written and is easy to read.
Seth Godin wrote "We Are All Weird" to encourage people to celebrate weirdness rather than try to encourage normalcy.
He traces history of normalcy and weirdness. Before specialization, people couldn't be as weird because they had to spend time on surviving. Mass marketing through things like 3 TV channels made it easy to promote one way of being. Standardized industrialization made it profitable to encourage everyone to be the same – then you could sell to everyone. People internalize this, and a culture of normalcy became self perpetuating.
Today, we're seeing a massive increase in weirdness. People are richer now than before, so we can spend time and money and niche things unrelated to survival. The internet lets us find communities (and products) that validate our weird quirks, which makes us more comfortable being weird. The internet and other technologies allow everyday people to produce unique things rather than only allowing big organizations to produce things (which happen to be standard). Also, weird people are a good market because they're obsessed about their particular niche.
Now, we don't have a cultural center that unifies us. We're all weird.
I thought that most of the book accurately described our current epoch. However, there was little attempt to describe why people are weird. That is, the book assumes that people, as unique individuals, are very different from one another and that it is unnatural, external limitations (factories, mass media) that encourage normalcy. From what I have seen, people are mostly the same, and the few differences that are there are superficial. People believe in difference because we, culturally, place a large value on individualism and because certain people want to create different niche markets.
My other problem with the book is that there wasn't much attention paid to ethics. There are people who are exploited. There are injustices. Ethics is a fairly normalizing force – if people generally believe that hate crimes are wrong, then few people will commit hate crimes against others, and weirdness (committing hate crimes) is strongly discouraged with cultural outrage and with legal punishment. Certainly, that ethic should be compatible with pluralism (the ethic should accept that people are different from one another), but that is different from moral relativism (not that Godin advocates relativism).
My concern is that when people focus on what makes them unique, they lose track of what keeps us together. When I was enamored with postmodern philosophy in high school, I read philosophers who were skeptical of large, homogenizing structures. In debate in general, students grow accustomed to advocating issues from many sides, and they often don't develop a strong opinion about what they believe or what might be the real truth of the issue. I think that people need to know what they believe and stick to it, and I think that people need to believe in some of the big things that keep us together.
The first Seth Godin book I read was "The Idea Virus." I enjoyed it, but didn't feel it was as groundbreaking as others did. It could have been that I heard about the book from so many people that it never could have lead up to expectations, but that's another review all together. I "appreciated" the stuff he came up with next and, then, Linchpin hit me like a ton of bricks. Huge fan since.
This is not Linchpin. It's not even close. It's, in many ways, a examination of many of the forces that make Linchpin such an important book. It could almost be a chapter or Appendix of Linchpin (yes a long one).
Paul, make your comments about "We Are All Weird" please. O.k.
In short, mass media, mass marketing, mass everything (he just calls it "mass") is dying a quick death. You want to succeed and you need to cater to the niche - what he calls the "weird." We are all weird - we are all niche. Get it?
"Productive and useful work for and by and with the tribe that cares about you" is the recommendation of Seth for dealing with this reality. The commoditization of mass (Linchpin) requires that everyone who wants to see and do great things reach out, and cater to, the "weird." He warns us that it is more than "going after niche markets" - that it is an open door for "creativity, innovation and art."
I agree, but wish we had a bit more on how to accomplish the challenge be puts in front of us. Not a complaint, just an observation.
The book is part of Seth's "Domino Project" which is as much about getting people talking about the concepts in the books as it is getting them to take action. I'm ok with that - but wanted to warn accordingly.
I liked it, appreciated it, but won't be losing any sleep over it. Could be, like my first experience with Seth that the good stuff had all been leaked to me before I got a chance to consume.
Worth the read, yes. If you haven't read Linchpin - do that first.
One of my new years declarations was that I'd read a book every week. Join me on this journey? [...]
I'm weird myself. And that is why I enjoyed reading this book! In addition, people who consider themselves weird need to find time to read this book that has been specially written for them. Nothing much that is new about weirdness is found in its pages, except that it celebrates 'weirdness' in all its totality and far from what marketing specialists of old days had been crafting with their strategies and in implementing their tactics to sell/promote good and services to a worldwide market that continues to shift every moment.
You'll be helped a lot, as usual, if you have got a business background when you read this book because certain ideas found in it are strange and won't be of help if you are just reading it for the sake of reading it and because it's a book by the venerable Seth Godin. Whew! That is a complex one, I must admit. Why bother to read a book when it's something you'd rather ran away from? But nowadays, if you want to continuously move on with your life, you gotta be weird (or take the position of the weird among us, if you're still not comfortable yet to admit you're weird). And this book will give you ideas on doing just that, and in trying to make a business from your own weirdness. But you got to learn the basics as well in the process (which you'll be doing in your own style).
Godin proposes that the onus of marketing focus these days has changed from what was considered 'mass marketing' to a set more focused on the weird characteristics of people we meet in the streets and those we know personally (including our very selves) --- those people we usually offer our products and services. If you want to grow and build long term businesses, you may have to retro-fit your usual marketing approaches to highlight elements of the weird but wonderful in your products and yourself. These approaches have been followed and pursued relentlessly by those who are in the market these days. You may still choose to do mass marketing strategies but you'll have to fold up quick because you'll be competing head on with so many like you (who use the similar approaches). Hence, it makes sense to discover, specialize on, pursue with, and celebrate the traits of the weird among us, so as to make it stay & stick longer, become more profitable being in the market. And start your efforts by reading this book first.
I think you get Seth Godin, or you don't. If you do and you read other books by him and others then you start to see where marketing is really going. This book, out of context is a nice read, I read it in 1 hour on my Kindle and as always I was highlighting and note taking more than reading as each inspirational sentence followed another. It's a basic book but it prompts you to go and think and look up other subjects on how things have changed and where they're going right now.
In context however is where this book really scores. If you read other Seth Godin books then you'll have a history of what he's been banging on about over the years. He's the first to admit how its all changed now and you start to really see how this is obvious and right in front of your eyes. The book is sharp and accurate and the ideas in it really are where you need to be thinking. It practically destroys 50% of your marketing strategy in a 1 hour read!!
This book is one of the smaller Godin reads and had less in it but at the same time it almost had an air of unusual seriousness in it too. It really points out what you need to be doing as a marketing professional or business owner. It really is bang on!
I would thoroughly recommend this book, above and beyond any of Godin's other books. if you don't get it, read it anyway as its an enjoyable read and the ideas in it will get you thinking.