Chris Brogan Nails A Universal Truth

Across the varieties of content that exist – from music and movies, to blogs and books, there is a constant.  Inevitably the banal/common is popular, and the brilliant/offbeat lives in obscurity.  Perhaps given life from those close to the industry or years later from wider audiences if the producers of that content are lucky.

What does this mean?  If you play to the middle you’re likely to be more popular than doing something which challenges people and pushes them outside their comfort zone.  The truth is, most don’t wish to be pushed outside their comfort zone.  They want what is familiar and predictable.

A-list marketing blogger Chris Brogan gets criticized for his work frequently.  That’s no surprise, most popular bloggers do.  But what’s interesting is the universal truth Chris expresses in his recent post, although unintentional:

One repeat criticism of my work is that I’m not telling anyone anything new, that it’s all common sense. That’s actually reasonably true. You don’t spend time with me, read a few lines, and then smack your forehead and say, “I’ve got it!” Most of my ideas are basically reminders for us to do the things we don’t do, but know we should.

And this truth – that people want what’s familiar – it’s exactly why Chris’ content is so popular.  He knows it, and has a content strategy behind the ideas he publishes which have enabled his own rise to popularity.  None of this is by mistake.

Content or ideas that are daring or takes chances scare most people.  They’re not ready to hear it and shut down when exposed to it.  I’ve seen it time and time again as someone who has worked with aspiring artists – their work is so raw, creative and original that others aren’t sure how to process it.  Only after they have iterated enough times and been exposed to opinions of others who are creating for the middle do they too begin to gravitate to the middle.  Their work takes less chances, follows accepted and anticipated norms, and starts to become aurally pleasing to others.  Think it’s coincidence that only four chords are needed to write so most pop songs?  It’s normalization, and what (most) people want.

Chris is far from banal or common, but it’s obvious when he writes he’s dialing himself down for his audience. He could easily write content that challenges readers and pushes them out of their comfort zone.  He could speak to the industry specifically and create ideas that those of us super close to marketing and PR would praise.    But why would he do that when his strategy of common sense is devastatingly effective?

At the same time, it’s all in what you want to attract in an audience.  Personally I would prefer to have a smaller, yet smarter audience deeply interested in the subject matter.  Popularity at the macro level is nice, but you’re likely to have a closer, tighter community at the micro.

With that said, it’s a delicate balance.  If you go too deep, you risk falling into obscurity.  Go too broad and you’re skip-able.  Find the point that works for what your goals are (and doesn’t make you feel like you’ve sold out) and you’ll be both prolific and satisfied.