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VOL. 35 | NO. 43 | Friday, October 28, 2011

Odd little book celebrates weirdness

By Terri Schlichenmeyer

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The writing on the package couldn’t be more succinct: One Size Fits All.

And as you pull the garment from the packaging, you wonder: were the manufacturers serious?

The garment you are holding with two fingers is miniscule. It is fashion-doll size. It is crumpled and woefully too tiny for your grown-up body. It is one size fits all, but only if the “all” is 5 months old.

Does anything ever “fit all” in this world any more? No, says Seth Godin, and in his new audiobook We Are All Weird, he explains why.

For a very long time, businesses have reached for the masses. Create a must-have, the old paradigm said. Make something that everybody wants, sell it to the world, and rake in the money. Be everything to everyone.

Godin says that’s wrong today. Business can no longer be all things to the masses because there are no masses anymore. Our culture’s most influential people are now outliers.

Weird is what sells, says Godin. Weird is normal. Weird can’t be faked. Furthermore, “… on close inspection, everybody is weird.” And we get weirder.

We Are All Weird

c.2011, Brilliance Audio $14.99 2 CDs: 2h 16m

by Seth Godin, performed by the author

Weird is unique and individual, and it’s made of choices. That’s good, says Godin, because choice makes people feel rich. Choice “means more,” which is not to say that you should rush out to make more or different products for your clients. No, we are wired to do the new, but not to follow something that gives off the merest whiff of mass. People want businesses that offer choices that are particular, not general.

But since, as Godin claims, this book isn’t about marketing to niches, how can you attract customers who will sing your praises? First of all, understand that “us” and “not us” doesn’t work anymore. Secondly, don’t insist upon conformity to the detriment of talent in your workplace. Most importantly, says Godin, find and assemble your “tribe.” Those are the people who are passionate about you and your product. Speak to them alone and your business will prosper.

True to its title, We Are All Weird is an odd little audiobook.

Expounding upon a previous book, author Seth Godin takes his “tribe” theories further here, explaining in two hours what I thought could have been said in 10 minutes; to wit: people no longer want what everybody else wants, and they are more willing to be fervent about products, causes, and ideals than ever before. Find them, connect with them, sell to them, and they will be loyal.

There. Was that so hard?

I appreciated that someone is finally pointing out this “revolution” made real by politics and protests, but We Are All Weird is repetitious, scattershot, and worth listening to, but only for the last few tracks. You’re better-served, I think, by looking for something by Malcolm Gladwell, who tackled this subject more suitably.

Terri Schlichenmeyer’s reviews of business books are read in more than 260 publications in the U.S. and Canada.

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