MarketEd.Live 2021: if you want to stand out, you need to stop playing safe

Act normal. How often have you told someone else to do that, or told yourself? We want to be accepted. We want to fit in. We want our work to be accepted too. The trouble with acting normal is:

Everything looks the same.

We all talk about creating a stand out brand, about creating memorable marketing campaigns, being instantly recognised in the market, ‘stopping the scroll’ – and then we create things that fit the mould. We’re told Reels are new, so we do Reels, we’re told to tell stories, so people compete to tell earnest stories in the hope of a reaction on LinkedIn, and we tell people we’re different.

But are we?

Have you noticed, asked Amy Kean at MarketEd.Live 2021, that everyone is ‘reimagining’?

Amy Kean at MarketEd.Live. The slide on screen reads: "Our obsession with the new normal is making creativity worse."
Amy Kean

It’s time to ditch normal and embrace weird

Amy discussed why we’ve all become so boring in her talk “Science or Seance? Why the marketing world needs to channel its weirdness”. She explained that “we associate normal with being good” and we all want to be good don’t we? At a time when a misstep can lead to a Twitter storm of abuse, she revealed that 34% of workers are living in fear every day. We’re normal because we want to survive.

Amy said: “We associate being normal with being good… Our obsession with the new normal is making things so much worse because in the business world we seem literally desperate to be told what normal is going to be.

“In an era when every brand believes they need to be good and they need to have purpose, what they are doing is trying to fit in and there is a massive lack of originality.”

Instead, she encouraged people to allow themselves to be a little weirder. She defined weirdness as “something unmissable that doesn’t make sense”.

She said: “It is an act of bravery to be wholeheartedly yourself.”

Amy encouraged the audience to doodle during her talk, telling us, “Doodles are the link to your weirdest self.” Let your mind wander and stop tidying up your thoughts.

Nathan Anibaba at MarketEd.Live. The slide reads: "Creativity is all about how obscure your references are."
Nathan Anibaba

Embrace obscurity and bring these influences together to create something new

One of the interesting things about MarketEd.Live is always that themes emerge during the day from disparate talks. Not following the norm was one of them.

Nathan Anibaba, host of the Agency Dealmasters podcast, shared 10 lessons ‘every marketer should know’ gleaned from interviews he had done with leaders in sales and marketing. One of these was to ‘develop range’ and it dovetailed with Amy’s talk on being weird.

Nathan said: “You need to read books that people don’t read, watch movies that people don’t watch, travel to places that people don’t normally go to be able to use those different reference points and come up with really creative solutions.”

He found that people who were successful didn’t play safe. They didn’t do the things everyone tells you to do in order to have a happy, financially secure life. They took risks and did things that many people would find challenging, like quitting jobs.

I’m not going to urge you to ditch the day job (unless you really want to) but if you have a secret love of Greek mythology, or the work of an artist many people haven’t heard of, then dive in and use those influences to innovate.

Doodle about yourself and follow tangents.

Tim Elliott and Paul Chapman on stage at MarketEd.Live
Tim Elliott and Paul Chapman

The value of standing out

If you’re wondering why you might want to be different, and whether it’s worth it, MarketEd.Live founder Paul Ince asked Tim Elliott and Paul Chapman about the value of standing out.

Tim replied: “It’s all about the edges. The edge of the marketplace, the edge of the ecosystem is where all the action happens. The world, and businesses and brands, are constraints, are all here to make us conform. Making it harder, making it more creative, making it a bit weird is the key to effectiveness.

“Ask yourself about your brands, or your clients’ brands, what makes them remarkable? What makes them stand out? It could only be one or two little things but that’s the stuff that you need to amplify out because they’re only yours.”

Kenda MacDonald at MarketEd.Live. The slide reads: "Bias happens."
Kenda MacDonald

There’s science behind the seance

The last speaker of the day was Kenda MacDonald, author of Hack The Buyer Brain, who spoke about bias. One of these is the Availability Heuristic – and it is responsible for how breaking the mould gets you remembered.

Kenda said: “The availability heuristic is fascinating because what the brain does is it takes the most recently encoded information … and it makes that the most important information. It is not the most important, it’s just recently encoded. It also takes the information that it can recall the fastest, and it says, ‘Oh, well, this information is better than all available information’. It is not. It can just be recalled really easily. So we fall foul of this because, do our consumers remember who we are, do they remember our products and services? Are our things memorable enough that people can be like, ‘yeah, I know who that is’.

“All the talk we had today about weirdness and being different and creating something that stands out – here it is! The Availability Heuristic is the thing that is responsible for all of that working. You can fall foul of this, if somebody else can recall your competitors more than they can recall you. So what are you doing to be more memorable?

“This is why content marketing works fantastically well because it makes you more memorable. It means that you’re there, you’re helping, you’re encoding, you’re creating information, you’re building a relationship, and it works empathically.”

As a weird content marketer, this all makes me very happy. I hope it chimes with you too.

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