Seth Godin for CNBC: Are You Weird Enough to Succeed?

September 30th, 2011

CNBC

September 30, 2011

By Seth Godin


The Battle of Our Time…

It’s not between men and women…

or the left and the right…

or even between the Yankees and the Red Sox.

The epic battle of our generation is between the status quo of mass and the never-ceasing tide of weird.

It’s difficult to not pick sides. Either you’ll want to spend your time and effort betting on mass and the status quo—and trying to earn your spot in this crowded mob—or you’ll abandon that quest and realize that there are better opportunities and more growth if you market to and lead the weird.

Do you want to create for and market to and embrace the fast-increasing population that isn’t normal?

In other words, which side are you on—fighting for the status quo or rooting for weird?

Are you confident enough to encourage people to do what’s right and useful and joyful, as opposed to what the system has always told them they have to do? Should we make our own choices and let others make theirs?

The mass market redefines normal

The mass market—which made average products for average people—was invented by organizations that needed to keep their factories and systems running efficiently.

Stop for a second and think about the backwards nature of that sentence.

The factory came first. It led to the mass market. Not the other way around.

Governments went first, because it’s easier to dominate and to maintain order if you can legislate and control conformity. Marketers, though, took this concept and ran with it.

The typical institution (an insurance company, a record label, a bed factory) just couldn’t afford mass customization, couldn’t afford to make a different product for every user. The mindset was: This is the Eagles’ next record. We need to make it a record that the masses will buy, because otherwise it won’t be a hit and the masses will buy something else.

“The defining idea of the twentieth century, more than any other, was mass…And now mass is dying.”

This assumption seems obvious—so obvious that you probably never realized that it is built into everything we do. The mass market is efficient and profitable, and we live in it. It determines not just what we buy, but what we want, how we measure others, how we vote, how we have kids, and how we go to war. It’s all built on this idea that everyone is the same, at least when it comes to marketing (and marketing is everywhere, isn’t it?).

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