Book Review

Seth Godin Thinks We Are All Weird (Book Review)

Remember after the Prisoner of Azkaban, when the Harry Potter books got fat? I thought about this recently as I read the latest from Seth Godin, We Are All Weird. Remember when Seth’s books shrunk? In a bit of literary foreshadowing, after the book Small Is the New Big, Seth’s books followed suit and got small both in size and page count. Though diminutive these newer books are no less impactful. So what’s this latest manifesto all about?

The Elevator Pitch

We all love a good bell curve, right? Well, flip We Are All Weird over and you’ll find a curve that illustrates the book’s central thesis. Basically ‘normal’ people, interests, and brands have historically dominated the center of our cultural and economic bell curve. What’s changed today is that many factors in our society have caused those ‘weird’ edges at the ends of the curve to spread to a point where we now have more ‘weird’ outside the box than the ‘normal’ on the inside. What does this mean?

The Big WEIRD Ideas

  • The Internet Helps the Weird Make Stuff — The rise of the weird is directly correlated to the rise of the internet. With the web, anyone can be a content creator, manufacturer, and distributor. This is how the concept of ‘weird’ is directly impacting our economy.
  • Richness Yields Weird — When you’re wealthy you can branch out. Godin defines wealth not just as money but time and confidence, too. As you get richer and explore, the weirder your branches get.
  • Marketers Ears Perk Up at the Weird — Wait a minute! With all of these unique niches cropping up, it’s probably a lot easier to reach out to them, right? Yep. However, if you think this is a book about how to target niche markets, think again and remember that the title is We Are ALL Weird. It’s not us vs. them with an emphasis on how to exploit them. It’s learning how our old model — in all aspects — doesn’t work anymore and must embrace the growing fringe. Marketers especially need to understand this.
  • The Internet Has Made It Easy for the Weird to Connect — The Internet did it! These pockets of weird have always existed on the edges but now the ‘net has made it easier for these groups to connect, create things, and build strong tribes of followers.

Is that it?! Not by a long shot. This is just the framework. From here the book bucks linear structure and dives into classic Godin jazz riffs, with all of the pros (a menagerie of examples from swamis, Gutenberg, Johnny Carson, Mad Men — even Harry Potter himself) and cons (a couple odd off-beat tangents).

So, Should You Read It?

Seth Godin

Mid-way through the series, the Harry Potter books simply had to get bigger as the epic plot escalated. Godin’s arc offers a different variation. While his newer books are smaller it’s certainly not because they are lighter. That’s because these recent small books provide deep dives into tentpole issues that together are part of a larger conversation that Seth is weaving that celebrates the particular, the weird, and the tribes that follow them. Weird is also peppered with familiar codas hearkening back to the Purple Cow days on how unsafe it is to be normal and the fall of the TV industrial complex. Concise manifestos like We Are All Weird can easily be consumed on a plane trip (like I did) or a car ride if you go with the audiobook.

Those familiar with Godin’s work, know that you aren’t going to come out of it with a 7-step checklist to execute. Rather, you usually emerge with your thinking turned out its side, viewing the world through a new lens that he helped you create. Those unfamiliar may find some of the ideas abstract or even overly simple. However, creatives, innovators, and anyone charged with looking at what’s next will find We Are All Weird to be a wacky and welcoming walk with an old friend who still likes challenging our thinking and that of the world around us.

FREE Copy of We Are All Weird (Limited Edition)
There’s an added bit of social media baked in to We Are All Weird. I’m not talking about the #weirdDomino hashtag but rather Godin’s postscript where invites you to spread the ideas of the book by getting social the old fashioned way — GULP! — by actually talking to people. He also recommends giving away your copy of the book when you’re done. Sounds like a good idea, right? Leave a comment below on how you’ve observed the rise of the weird or telling us about your own weird idea and I’ll select a winner next Monday to send my copy of We Are All Weird to. Of note, the Domino Project is only printing a limited run so a hard copy of this book is a pretty rare bird.

Photo of Seth Godin via Flickr user Joi