We Are All Weird (2011) takes aim at the one-size-fits-all mentality that underlies much of our culture. For too long, marketers, manufacturers, and the media have approached the world as if all people were the same. With this perceptive manifesto, Seth Godin unravels the myth of the mass market, arguing that humanity is much more diverse, eccentric, and weird than it seems.
A few years ago, the Antwerp Zoo was in crisis. Once a major attraction, the park was facing declining popularity. Its menagerie could no longer pull in the crowds it once had. Then its elephant got pregnant.
Hoping to generate a bit of buzz, the zoo threw the animal’s sonogram up on Youtube. It worked; the in-utero elephant was a hit, a nationwide news event. They kept going, posting polls and holding a naming contest to keep the public engaged. More and more Belgians became invested in the baby elephant. Attendance rose. The Zoo was back in the limelight.
What makes this success story stand out? The fact that it’s relatively rare. These days, major media events with mass appeal just don’t happen as much as they used to. In fact, mass market success is becoming as rare as a baby elephant.
The key message here is: the mass market is fading fast, and the future will be weird.
According to Godin, grasping exactly what this change entails requires knowing a few key terms: mass, normal, weird, and rich.
First, mass and normal. The author uses these words to describe the old way of doing things – the system of large-scale, undifferentiated production that is our current status quo. Within this system, manufacturers and marketers aim to efficiently meet the needs of the masses, by catering to what they think of as normal.
Of course, normal is relative. Being vegetarian is normal in Mumbai, but not so normal in Kansas. Either way, once marketers decide something is normal, they attempt to make it morally right as well.
In contrast, weird refers to everyone who falls outside the normal masses. This doesn’t mean people with uncommon physical features or minority identities. Instead, it means those with characteristics and qualities that are unusual by choice, that is, strange hobbies or oddball interests.
Having the resources to make those weird choices is what Godin calls being rich, which doesn’t always mean money in the bank – though that certainly helps. It can also mean having free time or community support.
This leaves you with a decision to make: do you want to be on the side of the normal masses, or use your riches to make a leap into the weird? It’s not an easy choice, but Godin believes the way to succeed in this brave new world is by being bold enough to buck the status quo and embrace the bizarre. The next blinks will explain why.