This morning I read Seth Godin’s newest book “We Are All Weird“. Don’t be too impressed it’s only about 100 pages so it’s a perfect Sunday morning read. Deep into it, he talks about a friend of his that started a string of boutique hotels in Los Angeles. He goes on to say that Hyatt jumped on the bandwagon and started a chain of trendy boutique hotels, but something felt ‘off’. From the framed Beatle’s record to the “Oops” eraser on the desk. Mass produced “weird”, he calls it. No wonder it doesn’t work.
I started thinking about that more and it finally hit me. This is why “weird” bugs me. It’s not the weird itself, but the popularization of the ‘weird’. Who else is completely driven nuts by the t-shirt that says “Why Be Normal”? It’s not that the shirt exists that bugs me. It’s the fact that the person wearing it got it at Target because they saw five other people wearing that shirt and thought it was cool. Mass production of “weird” is no longer weird. It’s annoying. Especially to the ‘weird’.
Think about it. How many hipster’s out there are completely annoyed that Jónsi is on a Chevy commercial? Or that you can hear Fleet Foxes at the grocery store? What was once “weird” has been commercialized and now it’s not “indie”. It’s not weird. And it’s not cool.
I had a friend who would wear leather Indian moccasins. You know, the kind with the tassels? He wore them because they were ‘weird’. They were different than other shoes and he thought they were cool. He didn’t want ANYONE to find out that you could get those exact moccasins at Urban Outfitters for $30. Because if that happened, POOF, not cool or weird anymore.
Get to the point Brody.
Seth, speaking about the Hyatt hotels says this,
“It doesn’t’ work because while they did the surface things, the easy things, the cheap things, they failed to do the hard work of being (and embracing) the weird. It’s sort of weird for the masses, not the actual work of a human being with interests.”
I’m looking at you record labels.
How many times have you seen one artist do the same “weird” thing another artist did six months before? I’ve said it before in my “Spaghetti” post, but just because it works for one band doesn’t mean it’s going to work for another. Labels, you’ve taken the ‘weird’ parts of what certain artists do and tried to make every artist their style of “weird”. You’re adding leather moccasins to the Urban Outfitter’s inventory, and by doing that you’re ruining the coolness of weird.
Like Seth said, “no one wants to do the hard work of embracing the weird”. Instead labels try to generalize the “weird” and hope it works for everyone. Maybe the Facebook gimmick isn’t going to work this time. Maybe the Twitter campaign doesn’t matter to this crowd. Maybe we’ll have to come up with something just a little different this time around.
See, if there’s one thing that fans see through, it’s the fake weird. It’s the generalized tactics. Especially with the Internet, we can now pick and choose our version of cool and as soon as someone else thinks our version of cool is cool, it’s no longer cool. The same goes with marketing tactics. We’re already seeing articles about how “uncool” Kickstarter is, or the abuse of Twitter in marketing. It’s too mainstream, so it’s not cool anymore. Nobody really thinks the person wearing the “Normal Is Boring” shirt is weird. They think they are like everyone else…. or normal.
“Don’t dress up your general and pretend it’s particular. It’s not. Average is for marketers who don’t have enough information to be accurate.”, says Godin. And I completely agree. Study your fan base, study your artists, learn their “weird” and embrace that. And for crying out loud, throw away that “Opps” eraser.
So, I got this message on Facebook the other day from a friend of mine in high school. We were on the same baseball team, had some of the same classes. You know. Normal stuff. Last I heard he went to the military, but literally hadn’t spoken to him in over ten years. Ten years.
So I get this message from him that was super nice and short. Sort of a “Hey man, heard you were married and might have some kids. What have you been up to?” kind of message…. In the last ten years?!?
Hmmm. Well, I’ve been up to a lot in the last ten years, and so have you. It’d be awesome to sit down over a meal or two and chat about our wives, kids, careers, and, you know, the last ten years.
I don’t know. Maybe that just throw me off and not other people, but how on earth to I respond to the last ten years of my life in a Facebook message? Do people really connect this way?
But my weirded-out-ness doesn’t stop with just connecting with people I haven’t talked to in ten years. Another part that weirds me out about it is when people throw up a status update pouring their heart out for the world to see. Their depression, their divorce, their issues with their kids, their issues with their parents… on Facebook. Really?
I guess what it all comes down to is it feels like “connecting” on something like Facebook or Twitter seems like it might be disconnecting us from actual relationships. And I’m sure there’s someone else who has written about this far more eloquent that I have. Heck, they probably even have a list of ten things do to keep this from happening or something. But that’s what’s weirding me out today.
What do we think?
I’ve always been fascinated by the 1940′s for no other reason than the fashion. I wish I could have lived back then, and been able to dress like these guys. How cool would that be? I mean, I don’t know when the last time was that I wore a tie and I think I look pretty stupid in a hat like that, but that’s okay. I think if I lived back in that time I could have pulled that stuff off.
Kristin and I have talked numerous times about how we wish that we could dress like we lived in the 40′s but how there’s really just no way that we could do it and be able to afford it, for one, and second, it’s not like you can run down to Target and pick up clothes like that.
I think everyone has an “era” that they are drawn to for one reason or another. I think for Kristin and I it’s always been the 40′s. And what’s weird is I have no idea why other than the cool clothes. Is that a thing? Or are we just freaks?
It’s a few years from now, Nashville has run out of gas again, but this time it’s worse. This time we officially have reached a “Mad Max” state and there’s a huge colony of us living in a deserted downtown area. Sort of like the second Matrix, but without the weird rave scene.
Pete Wilson is in charge and sends out a request for someone to go down the the basement level of a warehouse across town and kill our once pet, now a threat, tiger-dog. This tiger-dog is half golden retriever, half tiger, and according to Pete, a threat to our already fading society. Pete corners me and asks me to be the one to take the white fifteen-passenger van down into the lower level of the warehouse and “take care of” the tiger-dog. I reluctantly agree.
I find myself driving down into the basement level of this abandoned building and parking the van in an open space and start to look for this tiger-dog creature. All of the sudden a massive tiger shaped dog thing jumps at me and starts rubbing it’s face on my head the way cats do. Only this one has massive teeth rubbing right next to my face. This is the tiger-dog I am here to kill, but for some reason he’s being really nice. All of the sudden from nowhere a white, pitt bull-tiger come running out of the dark and slams into the side of the van. The golden retriever-tiger and I jump into the van and speed away.
Back on the street level I drive the van into the part of the city where our colony is living and everyone is scared because I have this tiger-dog with me and according to Pete, he’s still a threat. Pete walks up and tells me that I was supposed to take care of the tiger-dog and I tell him there’s another one down there. A white one that is more pitt bull looking.
“I know” Pete says, “That one was mine. I put him down there because he had a broken arm.”
Then I wake up to my alarm. What the crap?