A Little Bit Of Deviancy Does You Good

Why marketing needs more deviants – a Museum of Brands masterclass

Wikipedia describes Frank Zappa as an American musician, composer, activist and filmmaker, whose work was characterized by nonconformity, free-form improvisation, sound experiments, musical virtuosity, and satire of American culture.

His quote “Without deviation progress isn’t possible” was therefore a pretty obvious choice to open my masterclass ‘Why Marketing needs more deviants’ at the Museum of Brands last night.

In a talk that covered examples ranging from Pixar to Pampers, I made the case that too often best practice becomes common practice.  In a world of mass disruption where brands need to be distinctive, too many brands are sticking to the old rules rather than embracing more deviant thinking.

I challenged the audience to think differently about many of today’s accepted marketing norms, such as ‘the consumer is king’, that ‘simplicity is everything’ and the incessant need to be first to market. Are these really still the case?

Sharing some of the techniques we use at The Value Engineers to get our clients creating new and radical ideas, our audience came up with new concepts for a new deviant mineral water brand – which I’m not at liberty to share in case one takes off.

Then there’s the new three degrees – of deviancy. Where all deviancy isn’t equal.


Think about sport as a metaphor – you can work away getting better at what you do – playing the same game with the same rules to become world leaders; like the All Blacks in Rugby Union. Not deviant but potentially effective

However if you what to be deviant you can then choose what level you want

Diversion suggests you are playing the same fundamental game, but selectively changing some of the rules (Rugby League rather Rugby Union)

Disruption suggests you want to play a new game, but selectively keep a few rules from the original. (It’s American Football)

Dreaming is a whole new game with a whole new set of rules (It’s just not Cricket …or rather it might just be!)

In the ensuing Q&A a good discussion was had on some of the practical difficulties in getting businesses to accept and commit to disruptive ideas and the maintanence of a deviant culture. My advice? Create a culture that welcomes challenge, stays curious and accepts failure from the top down. And perseverance. The most deviant brands fall at the first or often second hurdle.

My thanks to all the deviants who actively participated in the Masterclass and left with a new thoughts of their own personal brandographics.

Get in touch: giles.lury@thevalueengineers.com

By: Giles Lury

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