Yes, marketers are weird. But what’s so bad about that?

© Paulprescott | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos
© Paulprescott | <a href="">Stock Free Images</a> & <a href="">Dreamstime Stock Photos</a>
© Paulprescott | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

Last fall, Seth Godin released We Are All Weird, a book that celebrates the oddball individuality of humanity. In the blog post announcing the release of this book, Godin wrote, “During the age of mass (mass marketing, mass manufacturing, mass schooling, mass movements) the key was normal. Normal was important because you needed (were required) to fit into your slot. … But what happens when mass disappears? When we can connect everyone, customize and optimize — then what happens to normal?”

Godin adds that:

Normal is so ingrained in what we do every day that it’s difficult to notice that your tendency toward the normal is now obsolete.

So recently, when Guy Kawasaki posted an infographic comparing how marketing people use social media compared to the rest of the world, I thought again about Godin’s book, and about weirdness and the abnormal.

Clearly, when it comes to social media usage, marketing types are out of the mainstream. According to the infographic (created by SF Heat), we’ve flocked to  Twitter, Pinterest, Spotify and Instagram in greater proportion than the “normal” social media user. (Case in point: 53 percent of us are on Instagram, versus 6 percent of the “normals.”) The majority of us (63 percent) strongly agree that brands should be using social media more to connect with customers, while just 23 percent of the normals believe the same thing. Ninety-three percent of us marketing types follow brands on Twitter, compared to just 33 percent of the normal population.

We can look at these stats in a couple of ways:

  • We are spending far too much time focusing on social media as a tool to connect with customers; or
  • We are ahead of the curve, early adopters who are establishing outposts in new corners of the social media universe where the rest of the online world will eventually catch up with us

I think we need to be out of the mainstream in our experimentation with social media. But we also need to be mindful that many of those we hope to reach — among our customers, in our audiences — aren’t quite where we are yet, and may not catch up for a while, if ever. Leaders should lead, yes, but they  should not get so far ahead of their followers that they lose sight of them.

Besides, some of us marketers aren’t exactly on the vanguard, as a peek at my dormant Pinterest account would confirm.

Getting back to Seth Godin’s point, the Internet is where the weirdness takes root. He writes in We Are All Weird (excerpted here) that:

… [T]he Internet permit[s] a different sort of power, one of silos and smaller but tighter networks. Now, there’s an incentive to fragment instead of coalesce. And given the choice, given the chance to be weird, more and more of us are taking that chance.

Is there any doubt at all that we’re going to get weirder?

So, my fellow marketers, branding and PR types, enjoy your statistical outlier-ness while you can. The rest of the world will soon catch up. And it will be up to us to push help explore the next levels of weirdness, to lead the way for the others.


Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

4 thoughts on “Yes, marketers are weird. But what’s so bad about that?”

  1. Andrew,

    Great post! A key challenge for the early-adopter types is not to moralize people’s choice of platforms. You see this a lot with Facebook right now, with people complaining about how Facebook isn’t cool anymore and Google Plus is so much more elegant and Zuckerberg’s a jerk and who wants to be on a platform where their mom has a profile? Well, most of us working in this space have jobs because there are huge numbers of people using Facebook, numbers large enough that they’re impossible to ignore. It’s great for us to experiment with new tools to understand how they work and the ways in which they can advance our strategic goals, but there’s a lamentable tendency to then be dismissive of the people who haven’t yet adopted the latest and greatest thing. Contempt for your audience is never a good foundation for productive engagement, and I think we need to make a conscious effort to embrace our own outlier-ness while simultaneously embracing the herd instinct that shapes the communities where we do most of our work.

  2. Everything (almost) eventually becomes mainstream. It is human nature to push the envelope. When I first got my tattoos, it was right on the cusp of ink becoming mainstream.

    Now the stand out is scarification or branding (literal not marketing lingo).

    The key is to retain your relevance and know your audience. I agree with the overall concept that normal is “out” (Niche Marketing is in). However every push for individualism eventually becomes the mainstream. We are going on 7 billion people in the world, so no matter the niche, there will still be a sizable audience.

    Try to lead the pack and be the innovator, I do disdain the term “capitalize” but the fact is that the ones who lead the pack gain the most from the “new” while the stragglers are left to devour what remains.

  3. Andrew G. – I hear you on the moralizing thing. Personally, I don’t get Pinterest (or Quora, or in many ways G+), I love Twitter, and I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. But I know the social media platform that connects us most closely with current students and alumni is Facebook. If Pinterest becomes their go-to platform, then Lord help me. (Oops. There I go moralizing.)

    TMS – Good point that the niches grow larger.

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