What’s this? Why, it’s a Word Carnival post! Every month, Annie participates in the Word Carnival, a collection of awesome biz bloggers who contribute a post on a pre-selected topic of interest to small biz marketers and owners on the web. This month, we’re tackling the topic of “Quirkology: How to Be Brandtastic by Embracing Your Weirder Bits.” Hit up that link to see all the fabulous posts from our Carnies!
Annie Comes Out of the Closet and Shows Her Quirks
You want quirky? You have so come to the right place. I’m about to come out of the closet here, in a sense.
I freely and gladly own up to all of the following quirks:
- I love submarine movies. I’ll see your The Hunt for Red October and raise you Crimson Tide, K-19, Das Boot, and U-571. I don’t care what the plot is. You place the majority of the action on a sub and I’m watching. Probably more than twice.
- I am pathologically curious. I can’t just read Smilla’s Sense of Snow. I read it, then I dive down the rabbit hole and have to go learn more about Greenland, about snow, about Inuits, about Copenhagen … and before I know it, it’s five days later and Google is pleading with me to take a freakin’ break already.
- I went to law school. Graduated and everything. Basically, because I couldn’t figure out what I really wanted to do and figured it would give me another three years to find out. (I don’t recommend this approach.)
- I have a very strange type of ESP. I can tell that a particular song is coming on the radio within the next ten minutes. The song can be anything, from any time period, and it doesn’t always work, but more often than would be attributable to mere chance, when I hear a song in my head, I can find it on the radio within a few minutes.
- I love spoilers. Spoilers do not spoil the show, movie, or book for me, ever. (See: “pathologically curious,” above.)
- I hate flavored crap in my coffee, but I always shake a little cinnamon in my morning French roast. Those “hazelnut cinnamon creamers with a shot of pecan syrup” drinks? I derisively call ’em “circus coffee” and usually then whistle a few bars of this.
- I’m a space geek. I freaking love the NASA twitter feeds.
- I’ve seen every episode of Star Trek, the original, at least four times. This may or may not be related to #7 above. Or it might be because …
- I have a deep, decades-long love for Leonard Nimoy.
- Also Alice Cooper. Yes. That guy.
There you have it. Ten of my biggest quirks, laid bare for all the world to see.
Why Quirks Matter So Much
Erika Napoletano‘s been making waves on the web – well, for awhile now. But most recently, Erika’s new book The Power of Unpopular has been at the center of the hullabaloo. (Hullabaloo. Isn’t that an awesome word? We totally need to use it more.)
This book, which you should totally go buy right this instant (not an affiliate link – that’s how much I love it), has as its central thesis that in order to succeed at business, not only can you not appeal to “Everybody,” but you shouldn’t even try because that’s the kiss of death. Rather, the book suggests, embrace your oddities — your quirks, if you will — and narrow your focus to those folks who are by nature sympatico with those quirks.
That you should, as the book’s official site suggests, “get your black sheep on.”
Erika herself is probably the most compelling evidence that this approach works like gangbusters. Wherever she writes — at her own site, in the book, at Forbes — she very clearly communicates a persona that is definitely not everybody’s cup of dark French roast. And that? Is totally OK.
Not only is it totally OK – it’s preferable. Erika is crazy popular — with the right peeps. Her right peeps.
Because the more you embrace and communicate who you are,
the more appealing you will be to your natural good-fit tribe —
that is, the folks you’re truly best suited to serve.
To explore this concept further, let’s look at three real-live case studies …
Quirkology Case Study #1: Maxwell House and the Anti-Press-Pot Crowd
Have you seen this commercial?
But when I saw this commercial, I hated Todd Stashwick.
I was offended by Todd Stashwick.
Y’all, I wanted to kick Todd Stashwick’s ass.
Why? To understand this, you gotta refer back up to Annie Quirk #6: “I hate flavored crap in my coffee, but I always shake a little cinnamon in my morning French roast.”
What does that quirk tell you, as a marketer? It should tell you I take my coffee seriously, yo. In point of fact, I use a press pot, and my drip coffee maker sits neglected in the back of a corner cabinet.
‘Cause here’s the thing that Maxwell House and its ad peeps understand: people who use press pots and Take Their Coffee Seriously will NEVER USE MAXWELL HOUSE.
They won’t use any pre-ground coffee because the grind is always too fine to work in a press pot which requires a much coarser grind.
Predictably, press pot lovers? Whoa Nelly. They were not happy with this ad. Witness this post and the comments after it from “CoffeeNate.”
Maxwell House is very smartly capitalizing on the divide between the press pot peeps and the anti-press-pot peeps. The latter doesn’t just prefer a drip coffee maker. In all probability, they don’t give much thought to their coffee at all. But they do react negatively to press pots, viewing them as MH’s “Ted” (Stashwick) does – a symbol of snooty pretension.
This — the attitude that press pots are pretentious — is a quirk of psychographics that results in a quirk of habit.
Instead of placating both groups and trying to convince the press pot peeps that Maxwell House is a good choice in some circumstances, MH went the opposite way and embraced the quirks. Not only embraced them — celebrated them. Made them BIGGER. MORE divisive.
Take another look at the comments to that CoffeeNate post. Look also at the comments under the YouTube video link. What do you see?
Emotion. Raw, amped-up emotion. The anti-press-pot peeps feel strongly about the pretentious asshats and their snooty plunger coffee. The pro-press-pot peeps are livid about the ridiculous assertion that they’re somehow inferior for their choice, which actually predates automatic drip makers by many years.
Yes, they’ve thoroughly pissed off a whole segment of the population – the pro-press-pot peeps. But they weren’t ever gonna buy Maxwell House anyway!
Look at what they’ve simultaneously done for the anti-press-pot crew, though. It’s the advertising equivalent of a standing ovation! Those folks feel GOOD about themselves after watching this ad!
The lesson here?
Embrace the quirks and you’ll connect on a positive
and deeply emotional level with your targets.
And that sells more coffee.
Quirkology Case Study #2: Help My Awful Website and the Anti-Life-Coach Crowd
Here’s another example that hit a little closer to home for me recently.
Nick Armstrong and I recently soft-launched a new venture called Help My Awful Website. I’ll give you a minute to go check out that page.
:::Annie pours another cup from the press pot:::
OK, back? All righty, then.
I shared that link with a friend recently. This is a woman who’s extremely well-known in her field, who works with a lot of life coaches. Life coaches are her peeps. She speaks their language. They speak hers. Whatever. She gets them. She had them at “Hello, world!”
I respect the hell out of this friend. She’s someone worthy of respect, basically, so her opinion does matter to me.
So, when she hemmed and hawed after I asked her what she thought about HMAW, my heart fell.
It’s … kind of angry, she said.
That picture of the woman and man yelling at each other, she mused.
And the “awful” thing … I just don’t know, she sighed.
But, but, but … I sputtered. The copy! It’s funny. We’re not really calling anyone’s site “awful.” Did you read the copy?
Uh, yes. Of course she did.
She just didn’t like it.
Well, if that won’t knock the wind out of your sails …
That’s when it hit me — my friend’s peeps are not the HMAW peeps.
Life coaches are much more likely to embrace a more touchy-feely, warm-and-fuzzy, strictly-positive persona than … well, what Nick and I are like. See, Nick and I have a lot in common. We’re both Star Trek nuts. We both have a tendency towards spicy language on occasion. We’re both dry wits. We tend towards sass, more than class. That feeds into our joint venture — it has to, when you’re talking about marketing a service.
And while a crap-ton of folks from all sorts of industries and professions might be interested in our service — professional, expert reviews of business websites from both the male and female POV — our service is not meant for folks from all industries and professions.
The people who’ll get turned off by a word like “awful” and that picture of the woman and man yelling at each other are not our targets. Our targets are folks who respond positively to our sassy, slightly sarcastic (but never mean or unkind) style.
That’s an example of marketing to a quirk of psychographics as opposed to the quirk of habit as in the Maxwell House example.
The lesson here?
Aim your offerings not only at a certain demographic
but at a defined psychographic if you want to work
only with people who respond positively to your personality and personal style.
Quirkology Case Study #3: Trauma Dolls and the Anti-Anti-Prescription-Pain-Meds Crowd
OK, one last case study in quirkology marketing before we call this post done, and again it’s a personal one for me: my chronic pain website Trauma Dolls.
About a month back, a friend of mine who’s a certain kind of coach, appealing very much to the New Age crowd, was asking me if I had any recommendations for websites that might be a good guest-posting opportunity for her.
Immediately, I thought of Trauma Dolls. But I wasn’t too sure. There was some nexus there – folks in chronic pain often are open-minded about new and alternative therapies, and so I decided to go ahead and share the link with her.
In sharing it, though, as I realized later, I didn’t quite make it clear that the site was mine.
So, she took a look, and came back to the conversation with a very strange impression, in my view. She said it turned her off – she mentioned “the language of victimization” – she mentioned an image of a broken doll – she mentioned the first line of the most recent post at that time, which started off “I’m about to make you very angry” – why would anyone want to be angry?
I was stunned. Anyone who’s read that site for any length of time knows victimization is exactly the opposite of what it’s about. That broken doll image? Had a caption reading “Put yourself back together.” That “angry” post? Was about two women who had DIED because their pain wasn’t taken seriously – anger was appropriate!
So, I gathered my courage, and wrote to her. And as I was composing my response to these points, something odd happened.
Because suddenly I got it.
My New Age, crystal-loving coach friend was so not my targeted peep for Trauma Dolls.
And it sounds odd, but I’d never really considered the question before of what, exactly, were the psychographics for the Trauma Doll site? It never came up because Trauma Dolls isn’t a money-making venture for me. It has nothing to do with business. Ergo, marketing the site wasn’t ever really a concern for me, so I never thought about the site in those terms.
But even so, psychographics and quirks are at play. Who reads Trauma Dolls? Anyone who has a chronic pain condition and gets one of the articles on that site in the Google SERPs. Anyone who gets a link forwarded from a concerned friend or family member.
But who comes back to read Trauma Dolls over and over? That’s a very different question, and a very different answer.
Once I finally started asking this question and doing a little digging around, I found out that the TD readers do, indeed, fit a particular psychographic profile: they’re the chronic pain patients who have felt marginalized and discounted by the medical profession, who do not embrace the alternative medicine field and completely reject the whole “traditional medicine” field, especially the prospect of prescription pain meds. They’re the chronically pained peeps who aren’t afraid to get angry, who use their anger to lobby and educate and push for reforms in the way the medical profession treats us, and the legal profession and justice system treat the medical profession.
They are the opposite of the crystal lovers.
That’s not to say the crystal lovers are bad, or silly, or wrong. They’re just not TD peeps.
And that? Is more than OK. It’s awesome. Because now I know that, I can let that knowledge infuse future content and website revisions. I can more carefully target the right peeps with the right quirks. (“Right” not in the sense that anyone else is wrong – right as in “the right fit.”)
The lesson here?
Even a bad review from someone who’s completely outside
your targeted readership can help you tremendously
by drawing clearer boundaries around the folks
who are your targets.
Takeaways on Quirkology Marketing
So what can you take away from this post in marketing your own small biz on the web?
- Know your quirks. List ’em out, just like I did. Get comfy with them. Own them.
- Figure out your business’s quirk zone. That is, understand where the nexus lies between your quirks and your targeted market’s quirks. That nexus — those points of connection, the quirks you share — this is the stuff you need to infuse throughout all your marketing content and across all your digital channels (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, your blog, everywhere).
- Don’t be afraid to take a stand. You don’t have to be confrontational or mock those who lie outside the quirk zone the way Maxwell House did, but have the courage to state a controversial opinion and back it up from time to time. That kind of content speaks to your targets on a deep emotional level, and that’s the level you need to connect at if you want to convert casual readers into fervent fans.