Like many others, I learned as a kid that playing it safe is safe. Taking risks is risky. And if safe is “acceptable” or “good enough,” you shouldn’t take risks.
Showing what makes you weird is risky. But it feels much riskier than it really is. That’s true in our personal lives and business.
It follows the “10-89-1% rule” (that I just made up).
For example, I’m quite geeky. I like riddles (example at the end), difficult puzzles (e.g., Hanayama level 6), a couple of video games (mainly LoL), playing cards (it’s like collecting small art), physics/math (example at the end), and philosophy (I can spend hours with a philosopher friend talking about a single question—last time it was this thought experiment).
Now to the 10-89-1% rule.
10-89-1% rule of being weird
10% of people now relate to me a little more because I just shared some fairly odd things about me. They feel more welcomed by me because they know we’re alike—even if we don’t share the exact same weirdnesses. They’re more likely to consume my content and eventually get my help.
89% of people don’t think much of it. Many of them nonetheless feel more welcomed by me because it’s easier to feel that when the other person shares something personal. And perhaps I’m slightly more memorable than the next marketing person because I don’t just talk about “the next awesome tactic for you to spend a few months on.”
1% of people absolutely lose their poop. They think there’s no way I could be trusted because “only kids play video games and like puzzles.” Or maybe they’re worried that getting coaching from me is like working with the Riddler (instead of getting the most practical step-by-step instructions possible ;-). Or that there’s some other connection between my ability to teach marketing and the things I listed.
The 1% with nothing better to do
The problem is that the last 1% are those who make their opinion heard the loudest. Like the people who told me it was “inappropriate” to use the phrase “motivation is bullshit” when my point was to underline the absurdity of waiting to be motivated to do something you know you should do (because motivation generally doesn’t come when you need it most).
It’s because those last 1% that showing your weird sides feels riskier than it is. That leads to plenty of personal hurt, but also lots of missed business opportunities.
All this came to my mind when I saw Ryan Reinolds’s latest video (note: it’s an alcohol ad). It’s one long joke (with such an obscure reference at the end I can’t believe more than 1% of viewers would understand it).
But it was great specifically because it was so weird. I have zero interest in gin, but if I ever want some, I’ll see if I can find his brand. Not because I’d think it’s better than others, but because I enjoy the humor and the gin would remind me of that.
Similarly, there are people who won’t get the joke in his video promoting “Detective Pikachu.” (By the way, missed opportunity: the movie could’ve been called “P.I. Kachu.”) And if the joke happens to be sarcastic, that’s more than 1% of people because apparently more than 1% of people hit their heads one too many times as a kid and permanently injured their humorellum—the most important brain region. It’s truly tragic, so let’s remember how hard life with brain damage must be when they leave negative comments, reply angrily via email, or say hateful things on Twitter when all you did was make a sarcastic joke.
The 10% who get the joke
The 1% are not the people you were talking to anyway. By showing your weirder sides, you’re talking to the 10%. And you’re making them far more likely to buy. Losing potential sales from 1% to increase odds of making sales to 10% is a great deal.
If you share something personal that’s a little weird, there’s something for people to really grasp. Sure, lots of people can relate to my being married, having dogs, living in a house with a yard, and having an iPhone. But no one’s going to think, “He’s just like me!” based on such commonplace things.
This all relates closely to your story, as well. It’s worth talking about separately, so I won’t go into that more here.
It also feels good not to hide what you’re like. Whether it’s your sense of humor, enjoyment of puzzles, or something else, hiding it is rarely a good idea (although, far too often, it’s still a matter of life and death—not the interest in puzzles, but things like non-heterosexuality or some political views).
Show some skin, but don’t write an autobiography
Note that there’s a difference between hiding something and it simply not coming up. You don’t need to share everything. No one (except maybe your mother) cares to know that much.
For example, I can sew. It doesn’t come up often, but that’s not because I hide it—it just rarely comes up. Similarly, I enjoy high places, think “Rick and Morty” is perhaps the greatest TV show ever, and I love card magic.
Don’t “share everything.” Instead, think of something personal you could share. Something the kind of people you’d like to have as customers might see as interesting and/or relatable. Something “weird”—as in something that’s different compared to others in your industry.
Then share those weird sides in your marketing. Mention them directly or just include them between the lines. Give the 10% something to relate to—something that helps them want more from you.
A bit of randomness—just because I like it
I include “tidbits” to the end of my “Friday scribbles” emails just because I like a bit of randomness in otherwise predictable things (like emails), and it’s a fun way to share things I find interesting. Given the feedback I get about them, plenty of other people like the idea (that I copied from Tim Ferriss…thanks Tim), too.
Here are this week’s tidbits, so you get the idea:
- Good news for cat lovers: More specifically, lovers of one particular theoretical cat. Physicists have figured out how to predict when Schrödinger’s cat will jump (and finally save it). And because this is the only chance I’ll ever get to tell this joke (that I heard from Physics Girl): What is Schrödinger’s cat’s favorite theory? … String theory. (Get it? … Geek humor.)
- The best riddle/paradox I’ve heard—maybe ever: It’s called “boy or girl paradox.” Here’s my short version of it: You meet some parents. Each of them have two children (25% have two boys, 50% have a boy and a girl, 25% have two girls). They all named their firstborn girl Erika (if they had a girl). You have a conversation with two of them and they both have one of their children with them. Person A says, “she’s my daughter” and person B says, “she’s my daughter named Erika.” The odds of person A having another daughter at home are 50%, but the odds of person B having two daughters are 33,3%. Can you see why the name changes the odds?
- One of the best parts about Finnish language: We don’t have gender-specific pronouns. We only have a generic third-person pronoun “hän” that substitutes “he,” “she,” and all other gender pronouns. On that note, Happy Pride Month! The month when even Finnish people wear less than 50% shades of grey. (Get it? … I feel like calling that “literary humor” would be a stretch given the literary quality of the reference.)
If you’d like possibly the most practical marketing advice each week with a dash of randomness at the end, join now to get this/next week’s Friday scribbles (it’s free and you can unsubscribe if the puns are too much for you).
Note about non-single-person brands
Even if a company has a marketing department the size of a small army, the brand can still have personality. For example, Innocent (juice brand) is a good example of building around a goofy and cute image.
Or take Wendy’s and their well-known snarky style on social media. If you like sarcasm and snarky humor, you probably like Wendy’s (even if you don’t eat their food).
The point is to stay consistent, even if marketing is created by a bunch of people.
That said, an alternative is something, for example, Wistia does. They share (although not as prevalently as I’d like) the personalities of the individual people. There’s still a sense of consistency, but it doesn’t come from everyone having the same odd hobbies, but rather the way they’re presented.