Stand out from the homogeneity consumers are confronted with every day by creating something new, unique and remarkable. Using bizarreness effect in marketing is about leveraging things that are bizarre, especially those that are incongruous and out of context, to stand out and be more memorable.

As explained by Seth Godin of Purple Cow:

“If you travel on an airline and they get you there safely, you don’t tell anyone. That’s what’s supposed to happen. What makes it remarkable is the service is so unexpected (they were an hour early! they comped my ticket because I was cute! they served flaming crêpes suzette in first class!) that you need to share it.”

The tale of a bizarre car that sold 6x higher than its rival

In 2007 two Japanese car giants were selling competing hybrid vehicles. Both were similar in the usual attributes that would factor into a buying decision (price, running costs, reliability, size etc) and most importantly, their green credentials. They both came from trusted manufacturers and had sizeable marketing campaigns dedicated to them. Why then did one sell 181,221 units to its competitors 32,575?  Because it was bizarre.

Honda made what later turned out to be a whopping mistake with the Civic Hybrid; it looked like a normal Civic. And why wouldn’t it? You can imagine the focus group feedback and boardroom discussions – looking like any other Honda, like any other ordinary car, was no bad thing.

Except this was no ordinary car. It was a hybrid, and hybrids were then the answer to saving the planet.  They were the car to be seen pulling up to the school gates in or parking outside Waitrose. Celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz  were seen cruising around Hollywood in them, and if you saw one on the motorway, you noticed. Well, if it was a Prius.

In fact, 57% of Prius buyers said their main reason for choosing the Prius was because “it makes a statement about me.”

The Prius didn’t look like any other Toyota. Shaped by its designers drive to lower its drag coefficient, it forwent the usual category aesthetics creating a distinctive shape that at the time looked like nothing else on the road. It’s these distinct looks that are believed to have played a significant part in its success.

The Prius was bizarrely cool…because it was bizarre.

5 top tips

  1. Subvert the ordinary – map out your competitors to understand what the conventions are in the category. Visit the homepage of the top five players and you’ll be surprised how similar their brands, language and offerings are. took this to a new extreme in car leasing, earning millions of hits a year, hundreds of sales and the attention of a couple of Dragons.
  2. Bake your marketing into your offering – as legendary adman Alex Bogusky wrote in his book Baked In some of the most clever product marketing is when the product is the marketing. Nike’s omnipresent volt trainers at the 2012 games are a great example of how bizareness can save create a massive impact even when you aren’t the lead sponsor of an event.
  3. Don’t be weird, be better – bizarreness isn’t about being zany for the sake of it. The Prius got its unique shape from it’s designers drive to make a more aerodynamic car, without compromise.
  4. Be true to yourself – is 100%  Ling – just listen to her in an interview and you see exactly why the site is so bizarre.
  5. Understand the psychology of products – emotion plays an important role in decision making. ‘My car makes a statement about me’ is not a feature you’d find on the spec sheet yet it was a benefit that Prius owners felt compared to Honda owners.

This is an excerpt from our latest free report: Applying Behavioural Economics in Marketing

For a short time only we are also offering a free one-hour training workshop to inspire, surprise and expand the minds of your brand and marketing teams on some of marketing’s hottest topics.

By Greg Copeland

Behavioural Strategist