Marketing Heresy: Own Your Crazy

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Yoga, schmoga! There are a million great studios in NYC, so why would someone go to mine?

That’s the question I asked when launching Sonic Yoga NYC back in November 2001. From the get-go, I knew we’d have to do things differently. We’d have to be different in a way that wasn’t just different to be different, but better.

It wasn’t enough to be the first studio in our neighborhood, others would come soon. It wasn’t enough to be a studio in a sea of gyms. We had to stand for something, appeal to someone who wasn’t being spoken to. Solve a problem in a way it wasn’t being solved.

And, so we became the first NYC vinyasa yoga studio to “preserve the power of the practice, while lowering barriers to participation.” We were yoga for people who were terrified of yoga…or at least what they’d imagined yoga was.

Over the years as the community matured and my partner, Lauren, and I evolved, the energy of the studio followed suit. Plus, being in the heart of New York’s famed theater district, we realized we’d built a community that was hands down the most talented group of singing, dancing and acting yoginis and yogis ever assembled.

And, we catered to that, bringing powerful music, free-form movement and more than a bit of crazy to the mat.

After 7 years, I stepped aside from Sonic, selling the studio to Lauren and one of our top teachers, Johanna. When you sell a business, you have to be willing to let go and trust that the new stewards will keep doing what got the business to where it was, while also owning it and taking it to the next level.

And, they’ve done just that. This December marks the two-year anniversary of the hand-off. And, along with it, they brought amazing new energy into the space.

But, that’s not all…

Remember how I said the community is wall-to-wall with the most talented performers on the planet? Kinda like Broadway meets Chennai? Borderline nutty…in a wonderful way?

Well, the crew over at Sonic decided to feature this in their just-released version of Chicago, Sonic-style. The video is a wonderful example of honoring what makes you different, then shining the light on it and giving people something to react strongly to.

Some will say:

“Oh my, this is traditional yoga treason.”

But, others on a quest for a yoga studio with great energy that doesn’t take itself too seriously will say:

“OMG, these guys are really fun, playful, goofy and different IN A WAY THAT RESONATES TO MY CORE! I NEED me some!”

Here’s the video…

So, what’s the take-away?

If you plan on starting a business, own up to who you are and what makes you and your offerings so very different in a way that will appeal to a select, yet big enough slice of the community to keep you in business.

Own your own crazy.

Amplify it.

Flaunt it.

Not because it’s schtick, because it’s you. And, because owning your crazy will help:

  • Differentiate you
  • Better align you with what you’re building and offering
  • Attract “your” people to you, then…
  • Give them permission to own their own crazy.

And, believe it or not, giving people a place to own their own crazy is a pretty powerful way to grow a community and a business.

Curious, have you owned your own crazy yet? As a person? As a creator? As an entrepreneur?

Oh, and, what do think of the yoga-meets-broadway video by the best little yoga studio in NYC?

Share away in the comments…

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46 responses

46 responses to “Marketing Heresy: Own Your Crazy”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jonathan Fields, Les McKeown, Rich LoPresti, Alisa Bowman and others. Alisa Bowman said: RT @JonathanFields Marketing Heresy: Own Your Crazy [blog post] […]

  2. Julie Roads says:

    I have no words. Okay, yes I do. This is BRILLIANT. Fricking BRILLIANT!!!

  3. What an amazing marketing tool for Sonic Yoga. Clever and memorable… definitely highlights their “crazy” and differentiates them from other yoga studios. LOVE IT! Shared on my FB page.

  4. Rob Levin says:

    Great post. Most business owners are afraid to be bold. But many successful companies are very bold in their thinking and their marketing.

  5. Karen says:

    I think that it was an awesome way to capitalize on the uniqueness of the studio. I practice in Nashville, and can attest that the benefits that they describe are real ones! Namaste!

  6. This is totally amazing. I have been a bit scared to own my crazy, now I have permission.

    Avil Beckford

  7. Cory says:

    This is BRILLIANT! Our business has its own precious little “freak flag” that we’ve treated rather tentatively because we are a “serious” profession. But now you’ve got me thinking. You CAN take something as serious and austere as yoga and make it “pop” while openly embracing/honoring the “crazy” in the business and the “crazy” in the client… Make people feel their “crazy” is welcome here…We’ll even give it a treat, scratch it behind the ears, and post a picture of it on the wall!

    Thank you, Jonathan. And thank you Sonic Yoga, for juicing my creative orange!

  8. Shauntelle says:

    That was INCREDIBLE!!! Just amazing…

  9. This is where being authentic comes into play in a positive way. You were who you were while appealing to others.

    Two key statements
    – “Not because it’s schtick, because it’s you.”
    – “We had to stand for something, appeal to someone who wasn’t being spoken to. Solve a problem in a way it wasn’t being solved.”

    Some might call it targeted marketing, but it was also thoughtful, creative, and inspiring.

  10. Steve says:

    Great insight into human nature and effective marketing. Loved the video!

  11. Karen says:

    Okay first, GREAT video – very clever!

    Great post, and I particularly liked the line about how owning your crazy will attract “your” people. It’s so overlooked but so obvious – in order to attract people that fit with you, you need to BE you.

    Thanks Jonathan!

  12. ginabad says:

    Great article, and the video? Not only brilliant, but downright FUN. Makes me wish I still lived in NY, I’d sign right up…

  13. Sue Bates says:

    I LOVED The Video! It makes me want to move to New York, and well, maybe take yoga:) Just the video was a great morning pick me up.
    Oh, and the article was good too, reminds me to own my CRAZY. I will!

  14. Heather says:

    I love the video. So much fun.

  15. […] Content that shows, amplifies and flaunts your own crazy. […]

  16. Contrarian says:

    Jonathan – Here’s the problem with your article: Most people will read what you say, and go out into the world and “be crazy”, because that’s what they now think the secrete is. Wrong! This worked for you because you are crazy ;-)! But not everyone is crazy, because not everyone is the same.

    The secrete to our success is to be fully congruent and completely ourselves. Most people are trying to be other people. If we want to stand out and be unique, then we should be ourselves! There is nothing more “contrarian” than this!

    We are a born a unique being, unlike anyone else in the entire world. From the moment of our creation we receive the stamp of originality, and by no extraordinary chance will such a marvelously distinctive piece of handiwork ever walk on this earth again.

    If you are crazy … then go be crazy! If you are not … then don’t try to be.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Yup, very true. That’s exactly why I said “Not because it’s schtick, because it’s you.”

    • Anne Wayman says:

      ah, but watching Jonathan be crazy opens up something in me… who isn’t the same kind of crazy and needs encouragement to be more me than usual.

      And yes, it is about being true whatever that looks like.

      Thanks to both of you.

  17. Video – awesome!
    Owning my crazy? Getting there..this video helps jump start the process 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  18. One person’s crazy is another person’s FABULOUS!

    I like how Sonic takes the unique situation they have (being surrounded by amazing dancers and singers and storytellers) and uses those surroundings to make me want to do yoga (boring, pretentious, difficult yoga).

    It’s not crazy. It’s resourceful. So maybe it’s not own your crazy, so much as its, look around you and celebrate your unique approach and resources.

    It’s not about finding something different about you and shouting it. It’s finding the value in the unique-ness you are.

  19. LOVE IT! Thanks Jonathan 🙂

  20. I like the way Cory Doctorow (sf author and one of the dudes at Boing Boing) put it. He put a spin on an old familiar line by saying “Follow your weird.”

  21. Interesting article, Jonathan. I really agree with most products and services. I wonder, though, how far do you think this principle holds up in the B2B world? This is a genuine question I’ve considered for a couple of months.

    My experience has been that the same quirky marketing that will get you noticed and differentiated in the B2C market will get you labeled as inconsequential and unprofessional in the B2B market. Your thoughts?

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Great question, and one I explore all the time, too. And, the answer I’ve come up is three-fold:

      1 – It depends on exactly how good you are at what you do and how many others are equally good. The more unique your ability to solve a problem or serve a delight, the more even mainstream b2b people will “get with your program” or at least tolerate your individuality because, in the end, the bottom line is the bottom line. If nobody else can do what you do, that’s what really matters.

      2 – You’ve got to ask “are there enough of ‘your’ people even in b2b?” At first, a lot of people will answer that question with a no. But, dig just a smidge beneath the surface and you’ll often find a wellspring of buttoned-down or short-sleeve button down shirt wearing folks who are bored out of their minds dealing with the same old same old and would love to be able to work with someone that brings a little spice to the party. Here’s the real challenge, I think, finding those people who are high enough up in an organization that they don’t really care about what the higher ups will think of them when they bring you in.

      Most people buy your services at least 50% based on whether or not they believe hiring you will make them look like fools and heros to their bosses. Speak to that need and you’ve gone a long way to getting the client.

      3 – Depends on the business. Show up in conservative dress to a blogging conference, ad firm or a recording studio and you’re actually the oddball in the room (or you’re the account manager, which translates to enemy of the creatives all to often, lol).

      And, again, don’t fly your freak flag just for the sake of flying it. Do it because that’s who you are, you’re really good at what you do AND you’ve got a good sense there are enough other people who’d want to do business with you on your terms to keep you afloat.

  22. Jenny Foss says:

    Bar none, one of my favorite phrases of 2010.

    “Own your crazy.”

    LOVE! Oh, how I love.


    Jenny Foss, JobJenny

  23. I am now making plans to move to New York and start yoga again. It’s couldn’t cost me more than $20,000, right?

    Worth it!

  24. Wow, who WOULDN’T want to try Yoga, now? 😛

    Sooo brilliant! 🙂

  25. If I could write I’d leave a ‘real’ comment, BUT I’M SPEACHLESS. . . . this was beyond awesome, I have a Yoga teacher friend in VT that will absolutely go gaga over this. Again, and as always, you totaally rock Jonathan!

  26. Jen Brentano says:

    Jonathan – this is f-ing brilliant! Can I say f-ing??? Well, yes. Brilliant!

    Here’s the deal – I am *ahem* 34 years young and had been told for the first 33 years of my life to cover and hide whatever makes me ‘crazy’ and unique. Since I started my business over a year ago, I now realize that we are all uniquely designed and divinely created for something spectacular. I know what that spectacular is for me, but understanding even WHAT my crazy is, that is a different story. When you hide your crazy for 33 years, how would you begin to embrace it when you don’t know it…

    I trust my crazy is in there – I’m open to receiving her. The more I am present and honest with myself, the more she will unfold.

    Thanks for a great post!

  27. fi says:

    I love it!!!! Passion and humour rules! I wish there was a Sonic in Australia! I’m converted!

  28. beth chase says:

    I would totally go there. Would you consider opening a branch in Corpus Christi?

  29. Dino Herbert says:

    Great example of differentiation, Jonathan. Given their location and unique clientele, it will be hard to duplicate Sonic’s brand. Point well made!

    author of “Business Jump School: 15 Drills You Must Master Before Starting Any Business.”

  30. Hey Jonathan,

    Your Yoga business story is one I have thought about a number of times. I remember your article about getting free media exposure and I thought it was brilliant the way you incorporated your Yoga studio with weight loss and the study conducted at the university.

    This article spoke directly to me as a coach and consultant. I have recently been putting out videos showing my crazy/zany side and the videos had nothing to do with business. Just showing that I’m a fun loving guy. The response has been amazing. It has solidified existing business relationships and opened doors to new clients. I’m blown away.

    I think when you create this kind of environment where you let people “express” their “crazy” side, you help them step out of their comfort zone and become more aligned with who they really are. Once you do that for them, they will go to bat for you on all fronts.

    Thanks for the insight in this article

  31. Ann McMahon says:

    In 2011 I resolve to own my own crazy. May also move to New York just to go to Sonic 😉

  32. Talk about owning your crazy – that video is brilliant. So enjoyed the quirkiness and that you took this from an idea into fruition, one of those things I would brainstorm, think was awesome, but not execute. Fun video and excellent illustration of your post concept 🙂

  33. Jen Gresham says:

    One of the reasons I left the corporate world was because I realized I couldn’t be my true self at work. I’m a bit goofy. I like puns. I don’t take myself too seriously. And though my husband rolls his eyes when I say it, I love to laugh! The solemnity and rigidity of senior management just wasn’t a good fit for me.

    AWESOME video. Congrats on owning your crazy. Talk about an inspirational message. And I love the puns! 🙂


  34. “ a way that will appeal to a select, yet big enough slice of the community to keep you in business.”

    This pretty much sums up how you need to distinguish yourself and your business to find success (eventually). We need to make THIS (one of) our mantras.

    Fun, pertinent points!
    Thanks, Jonathan!


  35. I found my own crazy in creating the tshirts i sell, it also helps others express thier crazy as well.

  36. Loved it…great example. So when are they taking this on Broadway???

  37. OYC – now THAT’S a manta. My crazy has been owning me for so long it never occurred to me to turn that relationship on it’s head and own IT. Here’s to unleashing the inner crazy within – and listening to this video every time I don’t feel like going to the gym :). Amazing what the power of passion, wild crazy passion can lead to. Thanks for showing us the light, Jonathan!

  38. I died laughing and went to heaven, for these reasons:

    — Have LOVED the “He had it coming” scene in Chicago since the movie, so to see it used with a quirky twist was orgasmic.
    — Have been reading so much about standing out and knowing your customers’ wants, but this was a “show, don’t tell” moment. Effective!
    — Have been trying to pin down why anyone would care that my blog and clothing shop are for oddballs and misfits, and this post said it best: Empower people by giving them a way to own their crazy. Instant sweet spot where my passion and the marketplace meet!

    Thanks as always, Jonathan!

  39. […] Jonathan Fields is not only getting his freak on, but he’s noticed the trend too and recently wrote about it. […]

  40. […] second video, in a blog worth following, turns the conventional view of yoga upside down. Genuinely entertaining. If I […]

  41. […] Fields has written a terrific little blog post (complete with a not-to-miss video) called Marketing Heresey: Own Your Crazy.  Although he’s using yoga rather than psychotherapy as his focus, I’m sure […]