A while back I grappled with whether or not I wanted to keep the name MischievousMal as my social media emblem. My brother had advised me that it was in my best interest to drop the “Mischievous Mal” playful branding sstrategy. “It’s so not professional,” Grumpelstiltskin said. I advised him to stick to cranking numbers, tinkering with calculators, and other CPA work and leave the branding gig to me. However, I did begin to ponder the brand name. I thought and thought about more professional alternatives, but found myself creatively paralyzed by the rigid formalities entailed. And so I quickly forfeited the short-lived attempt, and decided Mischievous Mal was here to say!
My lifelong penchant for mischief has always been carried out in a light-hearted, silly, and playful vein, never endowed with a tinge of malice or promiscuity, as some interpretations of the word might conjure up. And because I am a bit of a rebel, it’s more than safe to say that I have a propensity to shake things up, diverge from the status quo, and frolic on the outskirts of orthodoxy, only because in playfully pushing the envelope on societal conventions can we realign ourselves with a childish sense of wonder, and harness the creative impulse that so frequently alludes as as adults.
My favorite author, Tom Robbins, is a vehement advocate of using playfulness as a vessel to amplify creativity and overall happiness in life. I belly-flopped into a moshpit of evanescent ecstasy, wondrous whimsy, delirious discord, playful prose which contribute to the nonsensical zig-zaggy plotlines buttressed in each of his novels. The most endearing quality T Rob brings to the table is that he has clearly liberated himself from ego-driven artistic inhibition, he writes with an unfettered air of reckless abandon and poignantly playful syntactic serenade. Reading Tom Robbins for the first time invoked a sense of wonderment and sublimity I’ll never forget. Immediately and uncontrollably rivulets of tears streamed down my face—I’m talking full out cry sesh on the Union Square subway. Soulful Writing, which comes from the authentic churnings of raw vulnerability —unfettered by the dictates of the ego—has the capacity to invoke resonating sentiment with the reader which contrived, forced writing can never touch on.
Robbins is not for everyone. The topsy-turvy tilt-a-whirl plots which govern The Robbins-pit would make the rigid likes of academia cringe and would rapidly disgust those who forfeited their imaginative propensities with the passing of age. His unorthodox, wildly entertaining, and deeply profound style vehemently lampoons the stifling orthodoxy which play-it-safers so adamantly cling to in life and in writing. “All things are possible; and we all could be happy and fulfilled if we only had the guts to be truly free and the wisdom to shrink our egos and quit taking ourselves so damn seriously,” says Robbins.
In a culture where the tyranny of the dull mind reigns, to be seriously playful is to combat the humdrum monotony and enable one to tackle the playfully profound in such a way as did the mythological trickster, Nietzsche, and the original gangster of literary sublimity, the Bard himself, who utilized wit as part of their stylistic voice, aka their brand. One particular text, by my favorite writer, Tom Robbins, introduced me to a Tibetan concept first coined by Chögyam Trungpa—Crazy Wisdom—which encapsulated the philosophical premise underlying my thoughts and outlook on life, the very essence of my alignment to mischief: Crazy Wisdom
What is Crazy Wisdom?
“Crazy wisdom is, of course, the opposite of conventional wisdom. It is wisdom that deliberately swims against the current in order to avoid being swept along in the numbing wake of bourgeois compromise; wisdom that flouts taboos in order to undermine their power; wisdom that evolves when one, while refusing to avert one’s gaze from the sorrows and injustices of the world, insists on joy in spite of everything; wisdom that embraces risk and eschews security; wisdom that turns the tables on neurosis by lampooning it; the wisdom of those who neither seek authority nor willingly submit to it.”Tom Robbins, In Defiance of Gravity
Give Us Authenticity
Our need for perfectionism and underlying insecurities make us tense and stiff, stifling our creative capacities, and brands our no different than human beings when it comes to such ego-driven hindrances. We place so much emphasis on conveying our brand to fit within a cookie-cutter, normative template, and in taking the safe route—by emulating the status quo— brands miss out on what consumers are ultimately looking for: authenticity, raw, real life nitty gritty, wherein everything is not embellished with a porcelain veneer. We also want to know and interact with the person(or people) behind the brand. At the core we want engagement and entertainment. Sterile brands focused on automated workflows and professional facades are as useless as megaphone sales pitch banter. Play should no longer be perceived as a waste of time, but rather as an investment in brand optimization, used to cultivate a distinguishable presence. In the online ecosystem, one must always be different.
There are a number of progressive business entities online that have assimilated playfulness into the heart brand. The brand I think stands out by and large is Innocent Drinks, a British company that specializes in smoothies and organic drinks. Their tweets and facebook updates are comprised of a series of innovative, playful, clever content that, as the name suggests, is oh-so-innocent in a whimsically appealing way. They engage with their ever growing customer base in an engaging and relatable manner.
A Little Silly Never Hurt Nobody
Through humor and silliness, which are inherent in human nature, we don’t have to forfeit “seriousness” in fact, if you look at Louis C.K. or Tom Robbins’ writing, for instance, we can see that playfulness serves as a very poignant vessel in harnessing profundity.
Another supplementary reading that venerates the wisdom of the Holy Fool : Crazy Wisdom – the Archetype of the Fool, the Clown, the Jester and the Trickster, is a well-written essay that shows that although thee mischievously branded might be deemed misfits or outcasts, they are, in fact, endowed with an overarching sensibility regarding society and morality, and channel such sage knowledge through the vehicle of cheeky charades.(Remind you of a certain someone??)
A video with Tim Ferris—author of The 4-Hour Work Week, claims that he’s spent much of his time lately “seeking out and creating the absurd,” showing just how paramount such creative endeavors are, even for someone as militant and regimented as The Productivity Wizard himself. In a podcast episode with Chase Jarvis, “How to Optimize Creative Output“ Ferriss echoed much of Robbins wisdom, saying:
“I think that there is so much absurdity in life and as adults we’ve inculcated ourselves to be very serious, we are so serious and mature ,And I think that’s kryptonite for creativity.for your creativity. I really think that taking life and yourself too seriously is just like waterboarding your creativity, It absolutely nullifies or decreases it dramatically. So for me I’ve been trying to not only seek out absurdity, which I think quite frankly is a synonym for creativity or creative. So if creative ideas are nebulous…Just go for the absurd. Try to find the absurd or create the absurd. “
The remainder of the podcast episode alludes to topics Robbins’ piece similarly beckons: mention of the trickster archetypes(like Robbins’ Holy Fool) and by perceiving the act of making and playing as one in the same.
The Importance of Play
Another recent inspiration I’ve found was a Copyblogger piece, A Champion of Creative Play, an interview with Melissa Dinwiddie, of Living a Creative Life with Melissa Dinwiddie that completely resonated with me as I attempted to piece the correlation between these seemingly dichotomous entities together. Melissa’s coaching business in which she describes herself a Happiness Catalyst and Creative Instigator, gives struggling creatives the inspiration, advice, tools, and most importantly the permission and encouragement to play in order to rekindle their misplaced innate creativity, clients have is based on helping struggling artists and writers out of creative stagnation. She says, “Really I help people play again, and return to the joy, freedom, and happiness of a four-year-old playing in a sandbox, back when creative play was a normal, daily part of life.”
I like to take a playful approach to differentiate my brand, and that might not be your cup of tea. The overarching message is that your brand needs to stand out and diverge from the humdrum monotony tyrannizing industry standards. So, I really would love to hear your thoughts on the topic and pose this question: what makes your brand distinguishable??