After Norm Macdonald died on September 14, 2021, praise for the writer / comedian poured in from all corners of social media.
And one thought appeared more than any other: there was no one else like Norm.
Talk show host Conan O’Brien: “Norm had the most unique comedic voice I have ever encountered.”
Comedian Whitney Cummings: “Norm is the pinnacle of originality.”
Actor / comedian Steve Martin: “One of a kind.”
Comedian Sarah Silverman: “Norm was in a comedy genre of his own. He was derivative of no one.”
Derivative of no one.
What a compliment. It’s an acknowledgement that Norm was not only a different type of thinker, but that he also had the courage of his convictions.
In an industry that’s filled with sound-alikes, sequels and a desire to appeal to the lowest common denominator, Norm dared to be his own type of creator. He made his individual art, presented it unflinchingly and signed off on it proudly.
Did everyone get Norm or find him funny? No. But he didn’t need total buy-in to be successful or influential or lasting.
And you don’t either.
MadAveGroup CEO Jerry Brown often expresses this idea: "I'm okay if we actively alienate 25% of the audience. I'm okay if we don’t appeal to another 50% of the audience. I just want our agency to stand out and be meaningful to that last 25%." Because, like Norm, we’re not for everybody, whether you’re a prospective client or a potential employee. And we’re not willing to change our unique perspective or culture simply because “that’s not how everyone else does it.”
What about you and your brand?
Are you unafraid to be yourself, whether it’s in how you market your company or the type of work environment you encourage?
Are you focused enough for your brand to be strongly associated with one quality as Norm was? If not, the benefit you provide might be watered down or too generic to stand out as memorable. As a result, yours may not be the first name that comes to mind when your audience needs what you sell.
Are you cultivating what’s unique and special in your team members? In your ongoing brand story? In your marketing touchpoints? In your customer relationships?
Are you bringing your singular personality and humanity to your work each day and looking for new opportunities to apply them? Norm did. And because of that, the world will be talking about him for a long time to come.
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