Ten years ago, in Purple Cow, I argued that in a media-saturated marketplace, there was no room for average products for average people to gain the same foothold that they used to. Merely pushing an idea via relentless ad spend is no longer sufficient. The alternative: remarkable products and services, where 'remarkable' means something that someone is making a remark about.
When someone remarks on what you're doing, the word spreads, replacing the predictable and expensive Mad-Men strategy of advertising with the unpredictable but potentially magical effect of significant word of mouth–ideas that spread win.
But what makes something remarkable?
Last month, I self-published an 800-page, 19-pound book, a book big enough to kill a small mammal if misused. It's not for sale, but those that received a copy via Kickstarter have posted about it, talked about it and even made videos.
The nicest thing anyone told me was that it was, "ridiculous."
Of course it was. It weighs too much, it cost me too much to ship it to the recipients. It's too big to bring to the beach and will probably disintegrate under its own weight over time.
It's ridiculous to not sell a book this cool at retail after you've gone to the trouble of making it, and ridiculous to spend that much time making something at a loss.
It turns out that most of what we choose to talk about today is ridiculous. The dramatically overproduced music video. The business model that is so generous that we can't imagine it succeeding. The painter who produces a new painting every single day.
Hugh's cartoons are ridiculous, of course, as is his promiscuous non-business business model.
The audacity of caring too much, sharing too much and connecting too much.
If it's not ridiculous, it's hard to imagine it resonating with the people who will invest time and energy to spread the word. The magic irony is that the ridiculous plan is actually the most sensible…
We can view the term ridiculous as an insult from the keeper of normal, a put-down from the person who seeks to maintain the status quo and avoid even the contemplation of failure.
Or we embrace ridiculous as the sign that maybe, just maybe, we're being generous, daring, creative and silly. You know, remarkable.
Two more thoughts on this:
Ridiculous isn't safe. If you do something ridiculous and you fail, people get to say, "you idiot, of course you failed, what you were doing was ridiculous." Which is precisely why it's so rare. Not because we are unable to imagine being ridiculous, but because we're afraid to be.
Don't be ridiculous because it's a clever marketing strategy. No, be ridiculous because while the effectiveness allows you to be, the real intent is to be generous or thrilling or to touch some stars. Because you can.