I must begin this rare book review (I don’t think I’ve ever reviewed a book on my blog?) with a disclaimer: I love Seth Godin. I think he is one of the smartest, coolest, most generous people ever, EVER. Naturally I’m predisposed to like his newest book, so let me get the formalities out of the way and say: YES I DO.
After reading a few pages I wasn’t sure if Weird was about how to become a better business person or a better person-person. Sure, I was learning about shifts in the marketplace and the way the digital revolution is changing the culture of art and commerce. But at the same time I was noticing my faith in myself expand as well as my enthusiasm about opportunities in the marketplace and, well, for humanity in general. How many business books do that? And how many self-help books talk to you about commerce as a proving ground for your humanity?
Then I remembered that it was Seth and he does not distinguish between these things, which puts him pretty much in a category by himself. So although on one level, this book is about shifts in marketing, it’s really a compassionate argument for why you could have confidence in yourself and our world.
Now that’s my kind of “business book.”
Until recently, Seth points out, the world of marketing was founded on the principle of en masse. The larger our corporations became, the more customers they required to support them. The more customers they required, the less specifically the product could appeal. And, beyond pushing a product that appealed to the lowest common denominator, to get you to pull (i.e. buy it), marketing strategies were simply propaganda designed to make you believe you needed it.
Enter the great equalizer, the internet, and one of its most heartening manifestations: communities of interest based on, well, interests. The internet has provided us with a platform to navigate beyond propaganda and instead connect with each other around what moves us, inspires us, and delights us. These connections are fast becoming our motivation for consuming, creating, joining, using, paying.
Giant advertising vehicles (television, magazines, celebrity endorsements) were the power source for getting you to buy. Now however, the locus of power is shifting to you, your community, your tribe, and what delights you most. The role of purveyors is to sell you what you want, not what they have. Additionally, the purveyors themselves are shrinking or disappearing. In one of the greatest changes of all, the book points out, we are becoming our own content creators, product manufacturers, and service providers. And the basis for this new marketplace? Not market research. Not bottom line freakouts. Not IPOs or strategic alliances. Rather, it is art, creativity, and the joy of making stuff.
We Are All Weird posits this as a shift of tremendous consequence and I agree. Someone once described the difference between entertainment and art in this way: entertainment begins with the customer and then works its way back to create the offering that will please the most people. Art begins with itself. It is created from the inspiration, longing, and brilliance of the artist and then works its way forward to those who want it most. Or not. It exists for its own sake.
We Are All Weird signals the end of the Age of Entertainment and, hallelujah, the opening days of the Age of Art. Thank you Seth, for saying this all so sharply and kindly.
For more on We Are All Weird, go here.
For more on Seth, go here.
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