I was struggling this weekend to write a Halloween-oriented post linked to an architecture firm’s credo spotted during a trip to Columbus, OH last week. While a fantastic early thought about the phrase lent itself to a Halloween post (as I try to be more seasonal on the Brainzooming blog), I only had ONE other fantastic example instead of the five needed to do a whole post.
Trying to figure out what I could get written for Halloween, it struck me to run this Blogapalooza post from Sean Roark. When I first quickly scanned it after Max Utsler forwarded it to me, I wasn’t getting the whole Conan O’Brien pmpadour thing. But after re-reading the post, it was completely obvious that orange is my “relevant ridiculousness,” as Sean describes it. Orange (and not just the color, but the orange socks, orange clothing, orange backpacks, orange office supplies, and yes, even our orange kitchen) not only suggest excitement and creativity, the ridiculousness of that much orange always provides an opening for somebody to ask, “Why the hell do you wear orange socks?”
Sean is a working marketing professional, graduate student at the University of Kansas, and a “Brand Master of the Universe.” To find out more about Sean’s title and how you can identify your relevant ridiculousness, dive in and enjoy:
Finding Your Conan O’Brien Pompadour
Pretty much everyone is certified in something. Some are certified in CPR. Others — certified notaries. Diplomas and GEDs are certifications. Few, however, are certified Brand Masters of the Universe.
Granted, it’s a relatively new certification, and as far as I know, it’s only offered once a year at the KU Edwards Campus. But hey, I did my time, I paid for it, and I can’t wait to put it on my business cards.
My brand sensei — Pasquale Trozzolo, trained me in the art of brand warfare. A notable chapter in our brand Shinto was to identify and exploit the relevant difference — the one main attribute that relevantly sets a product or service apart from its competition. Simple, seemingly obvious, but rarely mastered. After considerable practice and branditation, I have fully embraced the importance, and harnessed the chi of relevant difference. But like Plato to Socrates before me, I have developed a new philosophy citing certain instances that challenge the law of relevant difference. I call it the Art of Irrelevant Relevance AKA Relevant Ridiculousness AKA Finding your Pompadour.
What’s Conan Have that I Don’t Have?
Everyone knows Conan O’Brien. Well almost everyone – 74% of you according to a Marketing Evolutions study. What is it about Conan that makes him so memorable? Well it’s pretty safe to say that those 74% didn’t watch him on the Tonight Show on a regular basis or Jay Leno never would have gotten his job back. Here’s a hint. It’s red, it’s retro and it’s ridiculous. Yes, what makes Conan O’Brien so recognizable is that preposterous pompadour. The pompadour has no relevance to Conan’s comedy. If it did, his monologues would consist mainly of Abe Lincoln jabs. The relevance of the pompadour is its ridiculousness – ridiculousness that has stopped countless channel surfers dead in their tracks just to see what that giant red head with the weird haircut is all about.
A few years back VH1 aired The Pickup Artist. A collection of virgin nerds turned to an ex-nerd turned illusionist, philosopher and master pickup artist named Mystery to help them land beautiful women. Mystery had studied the courting habits of thousands of bar goers throughout his early 20s and developed the Mystery Method. A key component to Mystery’s opening was peacocking. Peacocking is donning an interesting (most often ridiculous) article of clothing or an accessory that gives women easy bait to start a conversation if they are interested. Peacocking sets pickup artists apart from the rest of the bar and (just like the pompadour) provides the relevant ridiculousness that is so useful in getting noticed.
So how does this have anything to do with marketing? Well by now, most of our products and services are contending in highly competitive industries with relevant differences that aren’t that different. In other words, our products and services are stuck in a loud, crowded nightclub filled with younger, more attractive products and services that only stop lifting weights to shave their chests and apply more cologne. How will our average looking products and services ever get the chance to speak to those hottie consumers? The answer is to whip out that hair gel, pile up a pompadour and get noticed.
The Relevant Ridiculousness that’s Right for You
Finding the relevant ridiculousness that’s right for you is going to take some good old-fashioned creativity — and most importantly, originality. First, pompadours are best suited for highly competitive industries. They’re clutter breakers so if there isn’t substantial clutter, your brand is just going to look weird. Irrelevant relevance is only relevant if it hasn’t been done before. Riding the coattails of someone else’s ridiculousness is only going to leave your image battered, your brand bruised and your career prospects left in the dust. Finally, keep your pompadour light-hearted and playful. There’s a fine line that separates creative and creepy – get close, but don’t cross it.
Great brand pompadours of the past include Ubu Productions — which paved the path for production company awareness nearly 30 years ago. Old Spice found its pompadour and, in turn, its way out of grandpa’s medicine cabinet. And don’t forget about the now defunct BK King who brought the Whopper back to the consideration set of drunks and burnouts nationwide.
So if your brand has become a wallflower in the crowded discotheque of commerce, take it from Conan O’Brien, Mystery and myself. Puff up that pompadour, spread those feathers, get a little ridiculous and give your brand some irrelevant relevance to separate it from the rest of the pack. – Sean Roark