The Planet’s Funniest Video Store Proves Weirdness is Branding Gold

Once there were 9,000+ Blockbuster Video stores in the U.S. Now there are about ten, mostly in Alaska. But the store that stands out is one nobody’s even sure exists; after all, the only location it gives is “between 3rd and Main in the Oak Lawn Shopping Center.”

But I and about 280,000 other fans don’t care, because The Last Blockbuster (@loneblockbuster) is the strangest, funniest thing on Twitter and absolute branding gold:

The Last Blockbuster brand might be more popular than the Blockbuster brand ever was. Why? Because it’s dry. Twisted. Weird. In brand building, weird is God. After a century of companies competing to see who could be more buttoned-up and serious, weird has gone mainstream. Check the radio and TV campaigns for Progressive and Geico and you’ll find yourself saying, “Dafuq?” Must be something in the water in the auto insurance biz.

From random, strange customer experiences to bizarre marketing tactics, being an oddball works wonders when you’re trying to win fans in a jammed marketplace. Consider our client Johnny Cupcakes. Founder Johnny Earle has a wicked, eccentric sense of humor and doesn’t care if he makes people uncomfortable as long as they remember his apparel brand.

Yeah. Apparel. Not baked goods. That’s part of the shtick.

Johnny Cupcakes stores are laid out like bakeries. Products come in bakery boxes, often with random stuff like batteries or candy bars thrown in for no reason. The stores even pipe the scent of baked goods into the street. Folks who walk in craving cookies sometimes exit hungry and pissed, but more often they laugh and buy t-shirts. Chutzpah and humor are a dynamic branding duo.

Conservative branding isn’t dead. I doubt we’ll see Raymond James rolling out singing hamster ad campaigns. But with IT giving every 20-year-old raised on Adventure Time and Uncle Grandpa the power to launch a startup, weird has definitely gone mainstream. So it’s a good idea to know why it’s effective. Here are 4 reasons:

1. It’s sticky.

Oddball messages and practical jokes are super-memorable, keeping a brand at the top of the customer’s mind longer. It’s tough to forget a CEO who not only rides in a Fourth of July parade in a hearse, but rides in the casket, like Johnny Earle did.

2. It’s original.

The market is packed with “me too” brands. Everybody has an app, a place in the sharing economy, a hip young founder and a vague mission statement. But a brand that’s basically identical to 20 others is worse than no brand, because you’re burning cash to build something with no soul. Quirks and goofy obsessions, on the other hand, can’t be copied. They’re yours. They tell people who you are and what you stand for, so they can decide if they dig you or hate you. Either one’s fine. In branding, the enemy is indifference.

3. It engages.

People follow The Last Blockbuster because they want to know what kind of resigned, deadpan strangeness they’ll tweet next. (Go follow them now. I’ll wait.) Back? Cool. But seriously, weirdness keeps people engaged because they’re dying to know what a company will do next. Business can be boring and overcautious, so when a brand has the guts to fly its freak flag, people get into it. They become fanatics.

4. Fun is infectious.

We’re more apt to do business with people who make us feel good, and what’s not to like about a company whose brand is all about having a blast and not taking themselves too seriously? Dollar Shave Club could’ve had a nice launch just by promoting great razors at a killer price, but it went nuclear with its hilarious launch video.

Weird. It’s the new cool.

Artwork by Ariel Vergez.