Weird is good

Aug 04, 2008

When it comes to architecture, engineering, and environmental firms, or just about any business for that matter, weird can be good. How so? Being weird means being memorable. Being memorable translates into more calls from clients, more projects won, and more qualified people seeking out your firm for job opportunities. I have often thought that it may help to have a weird name. I always thought the creators of CH2M HILL (Englewood, CO) were geniuses for picking such a strange name. The folks at CUH2A (Princeton, NJ) knew a good thing when they picked their company name. Zweig, for example, is a weird name, too. It’s even spelled weird, with the “e” coming before the “i.” Like the name or not, it is memorable. Looking weird can help, too. Think about the huge glasses world-renowned architect, Phillip Johnson, wore, or the ascots Frank Lloyd Wright was so fond of. Or, think about Albert Einstein’s hair. Each of these people was weird— weird in the sense that not everyone would wear or look like they did. That helped make them more memorable people. Doing weird projects can be a plus, too. It’s certainly a way to get some attention. There was an architect in St. Louis who lived in a weird house in a western suburban neighborhood— one that he designed. It was all normal except it had one very conspicuously crooked window that was immediately visible to passersby from the street. Everyone there knows who the architect is who lives there. Doing this weird project got people talking and made him memorable. Marlon Blackwell, a Fayetteville, Arkansas, architect and professor at the School of Architecture at the University of Arkansas designed a house for himself that looks somewhat like two trailers— one sitting on top of the other in an L-shaped arrangement that spans a creek— and built it in a very traditional neighborhood. If they didn’t know who he was before, everyone knows Marlon Blackwell now. Weird marketing tactics can work too. Look at some other businesses and you can see how acting weird has helped them create a name for themselves. There used to be a fellow named Steve Mizerany who ran zany radio and TV ads for his store. He talked loud, fast, said crazy things, and moved around his store on roller skates. And, for years, Mizerany was a household name in St. Louis for appliance sales. He was memorable! As the bumper sticker says, “Why be normal?” “Normal” is not a compliment. It means boring. Boring is unmemorable. Unmemorable means you aren’t anything special. If you aren’t anything special, you should be willing to work cheap and are easily replaced. Not a good place for any firm to be! Weird... is good! Are you weird enough? Or, are you playing it too safe? Originally published 8/4/2008

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.