The Power of Weird

As a marketer, you want your brand to stand out. Problem is, everyone else wants their brands to stand out, too. The market is crowded and elbow room isn’t easy to come by.

Every day, the average person sees between 4,000 to 10,000 ads, depending on where they live and work. Every second, 6,000 tweets are posted on Twitter. Competition for viewer eyeballs has never been more aggressive. To get noticed, you must be different. You have to be bold and unexpected. You must be willing to be downright weird sometimes. 

Marketing that’s out of the norm makes some marketers and clients uncomfortable. It can take you to places you’ve never been. At the same time, it can influence your target audience in ways you never thought possible. In most cases, the squeamishness caused by putting unusual advertising out there is probably a good thing. It means you’re forging new paths and taking risks. 

The science of weird

According to Science Daily, neurobiologists have proven that novel experiences and environments encourage learning and exploration. Research showed that the part of the brain that’s activated by greater novelty is similar to models of brain function that view unfamiliar objects and experiences as a motivator to explore an environment for a reward. 

Additionally, Smithsonian.com says researchers have found that the more someone is exposed to something — from food to music to art — the more they generally like it. In fact, studies have shown that it takes most children nine exposures before they’ll like a certain food. Research also shows that there’s a twist to exposure: Most people tend to like more complex things and tire of simple ones. So what does this say about our craving for things that are complicated and different — maybe even weird? 

Be weird with a purpose

Every marketer wants to get their brand noticed. But being weird for the sake of weird won’t do you any good. The key is to align a weird idea with a solid marketing strategy — that’s where magic can really happen. 

Take IHOP for example. When they wanted to shine the spotlight on their burgers, they decided to let their freak flag fly. They went so far as to change their name to IHOb — International House of Burgers. Except they didn’t really change their name; it was all a trick to get attention. And it worked. People literally freaked out and the internet couldn’t believe what happened. Ultimately, IHOP earned 36 billion media impressions and saw four times the growth in burger sales because of the naming stunt.

At the same time, there’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed that can take a campaign from out there to offensive. Hyundai fell into this trap in 2013 when they ran a commercial in the UK that showed how their cars were so safe people couldn’t even commit suicide in them. They wanted to convey that their sedans don’t produce harmful emissions like other vehicles, but adding suicide to the mix backfired. The public didn’t respond well to showing a man’s unsuccessful suicide to illustrate a point.

How far is too far?

When it comes to whether or not an idea is too extreme, it’s probably best to just trust your gut. Maybe you fail. But at least you took a risk, and sometimes that’s half the battle. You’ll come up with other great ideas. And then you can wow the world with your next million-dollar weird idea.

While this campaign from Nivea didn’t win any awards, it certainly raised eyebrows and garnered significant attention for the company. It shows a seagull drone that poops sunscreen on unsuspecting kids at the beach. Many called it genius. Others called it bad taste. But no one disputed that it got people talking.

Go weird or go home

Next time you’re coming up with ideas for a future campaign, don’t try to think out-of-the-box. Think weird. It could give your campaign the edge it needs to break through the clutter and get noticed. It’s time we changed the definition of the word “weird” to something more positive and worthy of our attention.