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Seth Godin has written 18 bestsellers that have been translated into 35 languages

The complete list of online retailers

Bonus stuff!

or click on a title below to see the list


An intensive, 4-week online workshop designed to accelerate leaders to become change agents for the future. Designed by Seth Godin, for you.



All Marketers Tell Stories

Seth's most important book about the art of marketing




Free Prize Inside

The practical sequel to Purple Cow





An instant bestseller, the book that brings all of Seth's ideas together.




Meatball Sundae

Why the internet works (and doesn't) for your business. And vice versa.



Permission Marketing

The classic Named "Best Business Book" by Fortune.



Poke The Box

The latest book, Poke The Box is a call to action about the initiative you're taking - in your job or in your life, and Seth once again breaks the traditional publishing model by releasing it through The Domino Project.




Purple Cow

The worldwide bestseller. Essential reading about remarkable products and services.



Small is the New Big

A long book filled with short pieces from Fast Company and the blog. Guaranteed to make you think.



Survival is Not Enough

Seth's worst seller and personal favorite. Change. How it works (and doesn't).




The Big Moo

All for charity. Includes original work from Malcolm Gladwell, Tom Peters and Promise Phelon.



The Big Red Fez

Top 5 Amazon ebestseller for a year. All about web sites that work.




The Dip

A short book about quitting and being the best in the world. It's about life, not just marketing.




The Icarus Deception

Seth's most personal book, a look at the end of the industrial economy and what happens next.





"Book of the year," a perennial bestseller about leading, connecting and creating movements.




Unleashing the Ideavirus

More than 3,000,000 copies downloaded, perhaps the most important book to read about creating ideas that spread.



V Is For Vulnerable

A short, illustrated, kids-like book that takes the last chapter of Icarus and turns it into something worth sharing.




We Are All Weird

The end of mass and how you can succeed by delighting a niche.



Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck?

The sequel to Small is the New Big. More than 600 pages of the best of Seth's blog.



THE DIP BLOG by Seth Godin

All Marketers Are Liars Blog

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Member since 08/2003

« July 2005 | Main | September 2005 »

BuzzMachine, disrobed

The rest of the story... BuzzMachine does have the Pam Anderson ad, and no, it's not explicit the way you might think (get your mind out of the gutter.) It links to KFC Cruelty >> Celebrity Endorsements >> Pamela Anderson. I knew that before I posted the ad below, but you probably didn't.

It's a good ad in the sense that it shocks, interrupts your flow, causes brand disconnect ("why is that ad here?") and might even cause you to click. The question is... how is this good for the blogger? if it happened every day, how is it good for the surfer? Is it worth the $x per click?

I'm certainly not picking on my friend Jeff... I was trying to make a point about the future of how we pay for all this hard work. I'm not sure that the old model (as below) is more likely/better than the new overture/google/permisison model.

The scary thing about blog ads


Wish I said that

Link: gapingvoid.

But the fact is, for pennies (and I do mean PENNIES) on the dollar compared to standard advertising campaigns, we're getting astrophysicists talking openly and intellegently about a bottle of $10 plonk.


Link: Scobleizer: Microsoft Geek Blogger on top blog lists...

RSS clarifications and amplifications (of course)

Happens every time I write something technical.

First, Jack Dahlgren points out that blogs don't ping your reader, your reader pings the blog aggregators. Even that knowledge wouldn't have helped me get into Cornell.

Rajesh Setty likes: Life Beyond Code :: Killer app on top of a killer app :).

What's RSS?

Yes, I still hear that question a lot. Yesterday, I got an email from Tricia asking me if I would email her when I update my blog, because the whole RSS thing is too complicated. When I explained (see below), she was delighted and is now done with the whole email thing. Totally 1990s.

This blog has one of the fastest-growing RSS feed lists I know of, but it's still a scary-low percentage of my readership. With your help, we can fix that.

EXPLAINED: RSS is just a little peep, a signal, a ping that comes from a favorite blog or site, telling your computer that it has been updated. If you have an RSS reader (and they're free and easy, and two of the easiest live on the web so you don't even have to install anything), whenever a blog is updated, it shows up in your reader and you can catch up on the news. If there's nothing new, it doesn't show up and you don't have to waste time surfing around.

GETTING IT: All you have to do to subscribe to this blog is ONE of the following:

a. Look down the left side of this blog until you see the little MyYahoo logo. Click on that and you'll be taken to Yahoo where you can add this blog to your MyYahoo page (or add a MyYahoo page if you don't have one yet.)

b. click on this icon:

Subscribe with Bloglines

c. Copy the text in red below into your RSS reader.

d. Easiest of all, just click the link below:
Link: Seth's Blog - powered by FeedBurner.

EVERYWHERE: RSS is just about everywhere you want it to be. So add other RSS feeds on stuff you care about. And if you want a downloadable reader, just go to google and search on "RSS reader" and the name of your computer OS. You'll find a bunch.

That's it. You're done.

Free, easy, permanent until you undo it and it'll save you time, tire wear and help you avoid male pattern baldness.

Managing the vague

Marketing projects are almost always vague.
They almost always involve people who aren't your direct reports.
And they almost always use people who have other stuff on their plate.

(this, btw, is very different than running a factory, where all three things above are never true).

So, here are three questions I'd challenge every person working on any marketing project to ask. Ask them whenever someone gives you a task.

--when is this due?
--what does it look like when it's done?
--how important is it compared to everything else on my plate?

Rigor isn't pretty, but sometimes it enables communication.

Nonsense, marketing and gullible doctors

Don't tell me that marketing isn't the most powerful force since nuclear fission.

The real question is this: would you go to see a doctor who wears a titanium necklace because his favorite baseball players do--and because he believes it helps him surf better?

Faith is an enormously powerful tool. And one that's easy to misuse, apparently.

Performance-Enhancing Jewelry Knocking 'Em Out of the Park - New York Times.

Clayton Everline, 27, of Short Hills, N.J., has been wearing a titanium necklace since friends recommended it a few years ago. "Every time I wear the necklace or another Phiten accessory, I do perform better," said Mr. Everline, a third-year resident at St. Michael's Medical Center in Newark. "I surf and lift weights. I attribute my improvement in those activities to Phiten."

More on negative feedback

My earlier post on this topic got a lot of feedback (not negative!) because it's counter-intuitive. One person reminded me of Jeff Jarvis' summer long odyssey with Dell (BuzzMachine � Blog Archive � Customer service in reverse.)

I think the lesson is that marketers/corporations/organizations are way more interested in negative feedback because it's quite useful. And I agree with Steve Rubel and others that are pointing out that using focused search, a marketer can identify unhappy customers long long before they find their complaints in Business Week (thanks, Pheloxi, for the link).

On uniforms

Let me assert for a moment that marketing is about storytelling (hence the Liars book). If you're telling a story, though, that means that in some sense you're an actor. Not that you're con artist or doing something fraudulent... far from it. But that you're an actor in that you are using emotion and amplification of ideas to make your point in a limited amount of time.

Actors do better when they wear costumes.

And at work, a costume is called a uniform.

Would a cop be as effective at keeping the peace if she was wearing jeans and flip flops? What about a surgeon in a bathrobe? Sure, they need to wear something in the operating room, but don't try to persuade me that scrubs are just for utlity. It makes you more confident to know that they're dressing special in order to cut you open.

So, fast food places are pretty good at getting people to wear uniforms, but what about where you work? Why don't accountants or web designers or direct marketers wear uniforms to meetings? Not the bland invisible suit/dockers/gap uniform, but a real uniform?

For my new secret project, we're going to buy uniforms from Crooked Brook. Hey, even if you don't want to spring for the embroidery, you might want to try to get over your social weirdness uncomfotable about wearing a uniform to work mojo and give it a try.

Negative feedback worth less?

Wayne at Sellathon pointed me to an interesting phenomenon he's noticing. People online are starting to discount negative feedback. He points us to eBay Member Profile for and also to book reviews on Amazon where positive reviews are marked "helpful" nearly twice as often as negative ones (at least in his research). In both cases, you've got people saying "stay away!" and still, others buy.

I think the reason is classic cognitive dissonance. For unrelated reasons, you've already decided to buy. Now, the negative feedback needs to be ignored in order to validate your earlier hunch that you wanted to buy.

Supply and demand

So they said on the radio today that for the first time ever, oil consumption worldwide is exceeding oil production.

How does that change your world? How will it change your world a decade from now?

Today's blue light special

I'm fascinated by audio books. So linear, so multi-taskable. Precisely the opposite of a book (except for those crazy people you see reading while driving). I've done some tracking on my Liars book, and discovered that a huge percentage of people who listen to it on get all the way to the end. It's onsale right now for about $10, thought you'd want to know.

PS  other titles at Simply Audiobooks too.

The future of affiliates and SEO?

Jaime can write, that's for sure. Sorry for the late post of this link. adBUMb The #1 Online Advertising Source.

Review of the Big Moo

Thanks, Dave: Write On !.

PS if you hurry, he's giving away one or two galleys.

Who's side are you on, anyway?

At 4 am in the morning, it’s easy to be defensive.

I’m staying at the Kimpton Prescott in SF tonight, and, being unable to switch time zones, I’m awake. Have been for hours.

At 4 am, I went down to the front desk and asked to use the fitness room. When I checked in last night, I was told that the room opened at 6 am, but because the website says:

On-site free 24-hour fitness facility with state of the art cardiovascular equipment, Universal gym ...

They’d make an exception and let me in.

So, early this morning, I presented myself to the night clerk and asked him to let me in.

Now, it would be easy for him to get defensive. He could quote policy at me, point out that he’d worked there two years and had never let anyone in, etc. For a brief moment, I felt the impulse pass through him.

Then he realized that there was a better way, an easier way, a way that didn’t require him to exert negative emotional energy in the middle of the night. He switched sides.

He became an advocate for my cause. He said, “Well, I’ve never done that before, but if that’s what the website said, let’s see if we can make this work.” Notice the “we.”

He called the bellman, explained what we needed. If the bellman pointed out it was impossible, it would be easy for me to trudge upstairs, foiled but not defeated, unexercised but not disrespected.

The good news was that the room was easy to open. The better news is that even though customers (and prospects) can be a real pain in the neck, everyone in the organization that wants customers on a regular basis needs to take a breath and realize that we're always on the same side. The challenge (and the benefit) is in acting that way.

Link: The Prescott Hotel - A Kimpton Hotel in Downtown San Francisco.

Hard to be nice (easy to be mean)

Check out this restaurant review. Link: Chowhound's Chicago Area Message Board: Lula Cafe and TAC.

Doesn't it make you want to fly to Chicago and eat there?

It's so easy to rip into someone or something. So easy to write a negative review. Raves like this are a lot harder to write, which is on reason they're so rare.

Lots of publishing news today

Some of it worth a comment.

Amazon launches a short story series with well-known authors selling digital short pieces. ( reveries - cool news of the day.) I was asked by Amazon to jump in and I declined. The reasoning at their end is simple: they should be a publisher. They have every element necessary to be a successful publisher:
a. access to readers who want to hear from them
b. knowledge of what those readers want
c. infinite shelf space
d. cash to act as a VC for authors who demand upfront money

Barnes & Noble is secretly making a fortune as a publisher (check out the front of the retail store next time you're there) and Amazon is way, way bigger.

Alas, I think digital and I think short are the two worst ways to start. The first two ways you know if you want to buy a book is to either read part of it or hear about it from a friend. Well, if it's short and you read part of it, you're done. And if it's digital, your friend ought to just send it to you.

The third way to decide you want a book is that the author is someone you know and trust. But if that's the only thing a publisher has to offer (the famous author) then the author gets most of the money in her advance, because, after all, it's her brand not the publisher's that's selling the thing. Lots of online platforms are facing this very same challenge.

I've been pushing Amazon to become of a publisher of just about everything for five or six years now. Alas, I'm dubious about the success of this effort. I hope they don't give up when it doesn't take off.

The second thing is the New York Times piece that seems to think that free ebooks were just invented and might be the next big thing. Longtime readers will be surprised at this insight. Try this Google link to see what I mean: (ideavirus - Google Search.)

The third article also comes from the Times. Once a Booming Market, Educational Software for the PC Takes a Nose Dive - New York Times. It talks about the death of the educational software market. That was my very first job, in 1984, with Spinnaker Software, the firm widely credited with inventing the educational computer game. It was a very exciting time. The company grew 10x a year, and suddenly this was a real industry.

Like most industries, everyone thought it would last forever. It didn't. They don't. Yours probably won't either.

The Big Moo ([poetically] reviewed)

A co-author passed on this note to me:

WOW, three days in the moo pasture and I’m in love….I feel in the
spotlight, not my spotlight, but the spotlight of innovation
--remarkable possibilities-- in the making.

You spoke it and I took the message with me to [my Fortune 100 company]
“There is freedom to innovatively use the book/tour for any purpose”….the implicit
message: Let’s have fun in that discovery process. What would it mean
for us to be involved…what a fun question that is. Big Moo, by
definition, is FUN….

Now I don’t know Seth (in fact know little about him) except that the
book’s very nature is contagious. And -- it’s about connectivity
(yours-mine-the authors- the sponsors- the world!) Inviting
sponsorship “to combine forces…to contribute, connect and celebrate”.

And look at what has happened in so little time: you invited me into
this…and now I am connected…and inside this celebration in the making.
Now that’s contagious. All from a little book…who would have
guessed….I can’t wait to reread it again and again. I am so excited
about what might, could, will unfold as a result of all this. Thank
YOU for inviting me in. Thank you for the gift;  inspiration is the
prize, the gift.

  If I were a cow, I might just moooooooooooo.

Sleepless in Albuquerque,


: The Big Moo by The Group of 33:: Galley Offer.

What Bootsy said

Here's some profound marketing thought from Bootsy Collins.

"You have to bring some funk to get some. You just can't walk in a place and expect to get some funk. If you ain't bring no funk, then you can't get no funk... Another thing is, you can't fake the funk or your nose will grow."

The best thing I never said

Mike Sellers (Terra Nova: Fun Is What You Make It) quotes me:

Seth Godin said something like "the good news is, everyone's visible online. The bad news is, we're all three inches tall."

Thing is, I love this quote. It's the sort of thing I wish I had said. And in fact, I'm going to start saying it. However, to be fair, I can't find the quote on Google or in my files. It seems like the sort of thing Lisa Gansky would have put on a t shirt in the old days.

So, if you know who really said it (even if it was me), please let me know. Am I getting old or is it my imagination?


There are two ways to catch a plane. The first, which happens to be the most common, is to leave on time, do your best to park nearby, repeatedly glance at your watch, and then start moving faster and faster. By the time you get to security, you realize that you're quite late, so you cut the line ("My plane leaves in 10 minutes!" you shout). You walk fast. As you get closer to your gate, you realize that walking fast isn't going to work, so you start to jog. Three gates away, you break into a run, and if you're lucky, you barely make the flight.

The second way is to leave for the airport 10 minutes early.

The easiest way to deal with change and with all the anxieties that go with it is not to deal with it at all. The easiest thing to do is to allow the urgency of the situation to force us to make the decisions (or take the actions) that we'd rather not take. Why? Because then we don't have to take responsibility for what happens. The situation is at fault, not us. The beauty of the asymptotic curve is that at every step along the way, running ever faster for the plane is totally justified. The closer we get, the more we've invested ourselves. The more we invest in making our flight, the easier it is to justify running like a lunatic to make it.

Years ago, I published a directory of law firms. No fewer than 70% of the firms sent their payment the night before it was due, by FedEx. Eight of the firms sent their payment by messenger--at an expense that was equal to about 10% of the entire cost of their listing. Obviously, there was no need to waste all that money. Law firms spend millions every year on last-minute deliveries because, like most of us, they confuse urgent with important.

Urgent issues are easy to address. They are the ones that get everyone in the room for the final go-ahead. They are the ones we need to decide on right now, before it's too late.

How can you tell if you're too obsessed with urgent?

Do senior people at your company refuse to involve themselves in decisions until the last minute?

Do meetings regularly get canceled because something else came up?

Is waiting until the last minute the easiest way to get a final decision from your peers?

Smart organizations ignore the urgent. Smart organizations understand that important issues are the ones to deal with. If you focus on the important stuff, the urgent will take care of itself.

A key corollary to this principle is the idea that if you don't have the time to do it right, there's no way in the world you'll find the time to do it over. Too often, we use the urgent as an excuse for shoddy work or sloppy decision-making. A quick look at Washington politics (under any administration) is an easy way to understand how common this crutch is. No responsible business (or diligent family) would spend money and resources the way our government does when faced with an "emergency." Urgent is not an excuse. In fact, urgent is often an indictment--a sure sign that you've been putting off the important stuff until it mushrooms out of control.

The most important idea of all is this one: You will succeed in the face of change when you make the difficult decisions first. It's easy to justify running for your plane when it's leaving in two minutes and you're only five gates away. It's much harder to justify waking up 10 minutes early to avoid the problem altogether. Alas, waking up early is the efficient, effective way to deal with the challenge. Waking up earlier may seem foolish to the person lying in bed next to you, but when you enjoy the benefits of a pleasant stroll to the gate, you realize that your difficult decision was a good one.

Organizations manage to justify draconian measures--laying people off, declaring bankruptcy, stiffing their suppliers, and closing stores--by pointing out the urgency of the situation. They refuse to make the difficult decisions when the difficult decisions are cheap. They don't want to expend the effort to respond to their competition or fire the intransigent VP of development. Instead, they focus on the events that are urgent at that moment and let the important stuff slide.

A quick look at the gradually failing airlines, retailers, and restaurant chains we all know about confirms this analysis. They're all content to worry about today's emergency, setting the stage for tomorrow's disaster. Better, I think, to wake up 10 minutes early, make some difficult decisions before breakfast, and enjoy the rest of your day.

(Thanks to Rick Terrien for pointing me to this article. I wrote it more than a year ago in Fast Company, then things got urgent...)


We're all clueless. That's the best word I can use to describe the state of the art of marketing.

Three examples:

I'm at the supermarket yesterday. I run into my friend John, not someone I often see at the Food Emporium. John has a list. Standard grocery list, "here honey, please go out and get this..." But John wants to show me something on the list. It says,
1 woman's razor that matches our bathroom.

Wow. Gillette has been making razors for almost a hundred years, and you wonder how many hours and how much money they've spent trying to answer that want... probably .0001% of what they spend on blade technology.

Then, this morning, I head to the bank. Poor guy is arguing with the "customer service manager". The problem? He had $4 in his checking account as he was waiting to close it. The bank charged him a monthly $5 service fee. The fee bounced. Then they charged him $30 for bouncing the fee on an inactive account.

The manager was trying to explain the policy, but the bottom line is that all the real estate, all the ads, all the marble, all the computers... all wasted... because they were enraging the guy. Over $4.

And finally, leaving the bank, I saw the most amazing interaction (yes, this is true.) A woman is first in line. She's withdrawing $1,000 from her account. The teller pushes away from the desk and goes and gets her signature card (this is a neighborhood bank) to match it against the woman's signature on the withdrawal slip.

The customer tells me that:
1. the teller has been working there for twenty years.
2. the customer comes in at least once a week.
3. they always check her signature
and, ready for this...
4. she's been a customer at this bank for seventy years. I am not making this up. She is very proud that she's nearly (nearly!) their longest-serving customer. The account is more than seventy years old. And they check her signature.


Marketing is now officially about wants, not needs. That's what Liars is about and what your entire day should be about. Your church, your company, your restaurant, your blog. Doesn't matter. Give me what I want or I'm out of here.

Will you help us?

Moocoverlittle_1In eight weeks, my last traditional book project hits the street.

I have 32 co-authors this time and 100% of our royalties go to charity.

This time, we're shooting for the big time. And we need your help.

The book is called: The Big Moo by The Group of 33. Our goal is to sell a million copies before the end of the year and to raise millions for three worthy charities. Our bigger goal is to transform thousands of organizations--corporations, non-profits, community groups, whatever.

Here's where you come in.

I've found that most business books don't get bought. Those that do, don't get read. Those that do, make a difference, but only for those that read them. Every once in a while, a business book breaks through because organizations buy it by the truckoad. When a group buys 100 or 1,000 copies of a book, it gets talked about. It becomes a touchstone, something that people can refer to, use as a shorthand and take as a common foundation.

When I pitched Tom Peters, Malcolm Gladwell, Guy Kawasaki, April Armstrong, Julie Anixter, Marcia Hart and dozens of other big thinkers on contributing to a book that was designed to change the way organizations dealt with being remarkable, they all said yes. No hesitation, just yes.

Now it's your turn to say, "yes."

For the first time that I'm aware of, we're selling the galleys to a book. The galley is the very expensive pre-publication not-quite-paperback version of a hardcover book. The galley is created to give reviewers a chance to read the book before everyone else. I persuaded my publisher to print 10,000 galleys, a huge number. And we're selling them at cost.

Here's the catch: I only want to sell the galleys (50 at a time) to people who will give them to people who will buy a lot of the $15 hardcover. (Sell isn't really accurate. The fine print is that we're actually giving them away, but you need to spend $100 on postage and handling to get them... we promise to handle them very carefully.)

That's complicated, so I'll type it slowly:

I only want to give the 50 pack of galleys ($2 a copy s&h) to people who will turn around and give galleys to people in organizations with the will and the ability to pre-order a dozen or more copies of the final hardcover.

This means that if you buy a bunch of galleys and give them to people who don't do anything, you've killed the project and turned me into a publishing pariah.

If, on the other hand, I'm right and every galley turns into 10 or a hundred pre-sales, we just hit a home run.

So, there's only 100 or so sets of these galleys left (my co-authors bought most of them to distribute) so I apologize in advance if Jack at 800 CEO READ runs out. If he does, don't despair... just pre-order the hardcover. Not for me, for you. For you and your organization and your friends and our charities.

Here's that address again: The Big Moo by The Group of 33.* Please don't order a set unless you know the right sneezers/connectors/influencers. And thanks.

*At the site above, you can order galleys, pre-order the hardcover from various sites, see the bios of the authors and read about our charities. (Did I mention that Hugh Macleod is doing the illustrations?)

The problem with lawyers (part of an ongoing series)

This site featuring cheesy furniture (FedexFurniture.Com) would have essentially no traffic--except for the fact that Fedex sent a cease and desist letter and claimed it violated the DCMA (that and Kinko's refused to print cards for the site's owner, because, of course, they're owned by Fedex!)

No, it probably won't hurt Fedex's business, but it's sure not worth the hassle, is it?

Let's just say the unlikely happens

And Hollywood and the music guys manage to sue the users and organizers of online file sharing out of business. Let's imagine that against all odds, you can't find copyrighted stuff online any more.

If that happens, sites like ibiblio - Sights and Sounds begin to do better and better. Here's hours and hours of stuff for free.

Now what you end up with paid online radio and free online radio. Paid online video and free online video.

At first, the paid stuff is good and the free stuff is less good.

But soon, producers seeking an audience start to make their stuff free. Because when they do, the audience goes up 100x.

And then, in order to compete, others do the same thing. Wouldn't you if you had a touring band? Wouldn't you if you had already exhausted your DVD sales and wanted a big enough audience for your sequel?

And then, of course, we end up where we sort of are today.


The voice on the answering machine at the big fancy "customer-centric" company said (italics are theirs, not mine),

We guarantee a member of senior management will call you back as soon as possible.

and the spokesperson for the huge corporate lobbying organization assured us that, "we have very strict guidelines for members."

and of course, the box in the supermarket said FREE with purchase.

Naturally, none of these sentences mean what they appear to mean. And I think that people have finally figured that out. Nobody really guarantees the weather will be good... what are they going to do, give you your day back?

It may very well be that the tried and true weasel technique of joining a powerful assurance with a weak, hard-to-define modifier is finally reaching the end of the road.

I can unequivocally assure you that there's a 100% certainty that weasel words are pretty close to dead.

Pseudofeatures and the Purple Cow

Abhijit Nandy points us to Guest Commentary - Killer Features vs. Pseudo Features : Gizmodo. It turns out that one reason we ignore what marketers say is that they tout stuff that's nonsense. What makes something purple is that a fellow human touts something that happens to be really and truly great.

Two kinds of writing

If you're writing for strangers, make it shorter.

Use images and tone and design and interface to make your point. Teach people gradually.

If you're writing for colleagues, make it more robust.

Be specific. Be clear. Be intellectually rigorous and leave no wiggle room.

Takeaway: the stuff you're putting online or in your blog or in your brochures or in your business letters is too long. Too much inside baseball. Too many unasked questions getting answered too soon.

Takeaway: the stuff you're sending out in your email and your memos is too vague.

Figure out which category before you put finger to keyboard!

What would Jerry do?

Articles about the Grateful Dead have the inevitable snarky headline (Jerry Garcia: The Man, the Myth, the Area Rug - New York Times) and often try to trivialize what the band accomplished, or make the case that it was a unique occurence, something that will never happen again.

Of course, this is nonsense.

More than Campbell's Soup or American Airlines or CAA or Cisco or McKinsey, the Grateful Dead is the template for how organizations are going to grow and succeed moving forward.

No, not every element of who they were and what they did, but the idea of conversations and open source, the idea of souvenirs and emotion and live events and of remarkability. The Dead sells through permission marketing, spread their music through an ideavirus and yes, as long as we're slinging buzzwords, profits from the long tail.

The most important takeaway is this: They repeatedly did things that felt like huge risks, that challenged the status quo and that seemed, on their face, to give too much power to their audience. And in those moments, the Grateful Dead were at their most successful.

Tiny cuts

The portobello mushrooms in the shrinkwrapped container seemed like a great idea. Until I got them home, unwrapped them and discovered that the bottom layer was rotten. I'm sure some produce mailer is smiling because he got rid of those mushrooms. But was it a smart decision?

Salt_1The Napa Style catalog arrived at my house today. On the cover is some overpriced artisanal salt. And the amount of salt pictured couldn't possibly fit into the container you'll receive. Of course they may be able to claim that they were just touting, but is the disappointment worth it?

Starbucks wouldn't sell me a cappucino over ice today. Instead of answering, "I don't know," to my question of why, the barrista said, "we're not allowed to because pouring the cappucino over ice causes bacteria to grow."

I love the fact Toyota is fighting with the EPA over the mileage reported on the Prius. It turns out that the way the EPA computes mileage means that the typical Prius driver will rarely or ever achieve the mileage posted. Toyota has realized that big mileage on the sticker isn't nearly as good as big word of mouth in the parking lot.

Fine print is everywhere I look. Fine print means that a lawyer has made sure that you probably won't win a lawsuit, but is the lawsuit really the point?

When did marketers fall in love with the idea of overselling and then hiding, instead of doing precisely the opposite?

The wrong question

For the last six years, people in big media have been asking me one question: "How will new media work for the big advertisers?" This is paraphrased over at:  gapingvoid: the multi-billion dollar suicide pact between clients and television.

While it's human nature to be selfishly focused on your issues, there is a bias implicit in the question that's fatal to the entire discussion. The question shouldn't be, "How do we use this different media to replace the media* that's broken?" (*"media for big advertisers".)

The right question is, "How does this new media change the game for all the players?" How does it move upstream and influence everything from what gets made to who makes it to how much is charged...

Can the world of blogs etc. help Budweiser? Only on the margins. The world of new media is not the place to launch the next one-size-fits-all mega brand, nor is it the place to shore a flagging brand like that up.

Instead of using new media to promote the next megafilm from Disney or Julia Roberts, it permits movies like WAL-MART: The High Cost of Low Price to get made at all.

Instead of using new media to promote brands like Budweiser, it permits that very same megabrewer to launch brands that tell a much more vertical, more focused, more powerful story to a smaller group of people.

Instead of promoting mainstream political parties and mainstream political ideas, it provides donations and vocal support to the fringes.

I don't think new media leads us to products that are better or more healthful or honest, necessarily. I think it clearly leads us to products (and the stories about them) that are far more focused. Not only isn't there a cost to specialization, there's now a benefit to it. Focus is no longer expensive. Mass is.

Are they really purple?

I resisted commenting on the purple cow publicity stunt all day. But after counting the incoming mail and the media links, I decided it was worth weighing in. Link: - News - Cows Painted Pink, Purple Used As Living Billboards.

No, I'm not behind this.

The casino that did it (the same folks that bought the grilled cheese on eBay that isn't really the Virgin Mary's face (what would it look like if it really was her face? Not sure)) has an aggressive approach of gaining media attention with clever stunts.

Hey, if it's funny and the cows don't get beheaded, why not?

But it's not Purple Cow marketing. Why? Because you want your product to get talked about, not Paris Hilton or the grilled cheese sandwich.

My guess is that if they do it often enough and cheekily enough and crazily enough, they will actually build themselves into a mecca of kitsch. And thus the kitsch becomes the product, the same way a visit to the Leaning Tower of Pisa isn't about the Tower, it's about saying you went--"Hey! That looks just like the picture!"

it's the product....

Do you remember the logo for Bill Gross's Of course not. How about the banners or the slogan or the advertising?


In this excerpt from John Battelle's new book, there's a great riff on the insights of Bill Gross (who does it often enough that it's clearly not luck). Link: John Battelle's Searchblog: First Excerpt.

My takeaway is that, especially online, if your product architecture and your story make sense, you ought to do just fine.

Look who's talking

Did you ever wonder why William Seward wasn't nominated for president instead of Abraham Lincoln?

Neither did I.

Turns out that he almost was. Except for the seating chart.

Joseph Medill was a hugely powerful figure, the editor of the Chicago Tribune back when being editor of a newspaper actually meant something. He had a falling out with Seward, and Seward made the mistake of saying to Medill, "Henceforth, you and I are parted... I defy you to do your worst."

Well, somehow Medill ended up as the holder of the seating chart for the Republican convention in which Seward and Lincoln battled it out. And he did a very clever thing. He seated the Pennsylvania delegation, which was on the fence, in a spot surrounded by Lincoln states, far far away from the Seward states. (thanks to Peter Lamont's book on the Indian Rope Trick for the story).

The word of mouth did the trick. Pennsylvania went for Lincoln and you don't remember Seward.

Who are your customers talking to? Where do they sit?

No amateurs here!

Wrigley_stopthoseamateurgumsThanks to Nader Cserny for the image.

Gravity is not just a good idea...

it's the law.

So what? So what that all scientific data is on one side of an issue? So what if your service is half the price and better? So what if your candidate will govern better or your environmental solution is better than your competitors?

Truth is not marketing (though sometimes marketing with the unvarnished truth is a great story), and humans are far more likely to engage and embrace and believe marketing than they are to believe the truth. Check out this article from today's Washington Post: Bush Remarks On 'Intelligent Design' Theory Fuel Debate.

This is brilliant story telling in that it resonates with what a lot of people want to hear. It fits their worldview. It allays their fear of the unknown and resolves internal conflicts.

Of course it's not "true." Of course it's not "science." That doesn't mean the idea isn't popular and it doesn't mean the idea won't spread.

The brilliance of the story is that by asserting that there's a debate over something, you create that debate! Say it often enough and stick with it long enough, and in fact you create a debate that wasn't there before.

Please don't misunderstand me. This is not a post about the origin of life. I really don't want to hear from anyone on this topic. The thing we need to learn as marketers and consumers of ideas is this: this is marketing writ large. This is about telling stories, setting agendas and changing the way people feel. It has nothing to do with facts.

I changed my mind yesterday

...Actually, I changed it a lot.

As alert readers know, I’ve been holed up all summer, working on a new project that will debut this fall. We’ve got an exceptional team of people, and the invention process has been refreshing, fascinating and completely energizing.
Yesterday was the second day of a marathon 11-person meeting. We started at A and worked our way all the way to Z, considering the features, strategies and stories of everything we’re building. And I watched myself change my mind, not once but quite a few times.

I don’t know how it is for you, but for me, when I change my mind something chemical happens. I go from one mental state to another and I can feel something flip. What’s interesting (and particularly relevant to you and to your customers) is that a person can easily insulate himself from this flip.

It’s very easy to walk into a conversation with someone with the intent to persuade, but not to be persuasive. If the person you’re talking with (or marketing to) sets out to not change her mind, it’s very unlikely that any other outcome will occur.

Last week, I flew to Buffalo. The flight was full and I was on standby. It was a cheap flight and I really needed to get to my meeting in Buffalo. I decided it was worth $100 to get on board. And all I needed to do was persuade one person to give up their seat and I’d be fine.

New airport rules don’t make this easy, but it turns out that if someone ahead of you on the standby list gets on the plane but decides against it, that’s permitted. So I camped out and waited for the standbys to get called.

First person, about 20 years old, obviously a student, gets called. The next flight out (for which she has a ticket) is in ninety minutes. “Hi,” I say, calmly taking $100 in cash out of my pocket. “I’ll pay you $100 to take the next flight—the one you’re already on—so I can take this one and make my meeting.”

Now, my guess is that this woman has rarely made $65 an hour to read a novel. But that's precisely what she turned down without a thought. She smiled, said no thanks and got on the plane.

The next two guys to clear standby had precisely the same reaction. I didn’t get on.

My guess is that I could have offered $1,000 and it wouldn’t have mattered.


Because for an hour, the people on standby had been imagining/visualizing/praying that they’d make the earlier flight. They had fallen into the human trap of believing that mental effort can impact external events. And when the thing they'd been dreaming of happened, they were sold. There was no way a short conversation with me would change their mind. Not because my offer wasn’t good, or my presentation was deficient or I wasn’t credible. No, because they’d already decided and they weren’t open to changing their mind.

This phenomenon is absolutely critical inside your organization. There’s no point whatsoever in having a meeting designed to elicit change if the attendees are insulated against changing their minds. Assuming you are surrounded by co-workers who are willing to try, it’s essential you go through exercises designed to loosen up the flip muscle.

Ironically, the setting and tone of a conference room work to create precisely the opposite effect. Business meetings (and sales calls) are custom-made for failure. People walk in and are reminded (in an overwhelmingly Proustian way) that this is the place to stand your ground, this is the place where good arguments carry the day and build careers, and weak-kneed flip-floppers hurt their careers. When was the last time you changed your mind in a conference room?

My recommendation? As a group, start by changing your (everyone’s) mind about something astonishingly simple, obvious and unimportant. Establishing a pattern in which people flip (no flopping, just flipping) is the first step to creating an atmosphere where things actually get done.

And what about outside your organization? How on earth are you going to sell something to someone when you don’t get to meet them, don’t get to pick the conference room, don’t have the leverage to insist on change?

Well, you can argue against human nature or you can follow a two part strategy:

1.    sell to people in the mood to flip. Pick an audience that for all sorts of external reasons is open to changing their minds. Example: people who just moved to a new town, just started college, just got a new job, just bought a new car. The value of these groups is well-known, but still underestimated. People who are reading a magazine about new ideas are a lot more receptive to new ideas than those rushing to catch the commuter train to work...

2.    Start a cascade of small flips. Apple argued for years that people should abandon the Windows platform and switch to the Mac. It’s better. It’s faster. It’s cooler. It’s proven. No dice. Mostly because Windows users refused to even consider switching. BUT, when it comes to music, getting someone to flip to an iPod from a walkman was a lot easier. And then, gradually, as people open up to flipping the other electronics in their life, Apple has a voice in that conversation.

Sometimes, people who come to my blog come with the intent of changing their mind about something. I'm hoping I can get you to change your mind about changing minds. If you’re one of those folks who's predisposed to flip, ask yourself the following questions before you try to persuade anyone of anything:

Is this person in a situation (emotional, professional, even architecturally) where they are pre-disposed to flip?


How can I get them to make a tiny flip? And then another one?

Being right isn't the point. Being right and being persuasive don't seem to matter much either. Being right, being persuasive and being with the right person when that person is pre-disposed to change their mind... that's when things happen.

The long life of a great idea

Chris Anderson has done a fantastic job of taking the germ of an idea and building out his idea. It continues to get better and better. Is there a field of discourse where this approach to ideas isn't the future? The Long Tail: Shorter, faster, smaller.

A picture might be worth 2,000 words

Here are two:
WalkThanks to David Schwartz and Oyvind Solstad

The new normal

Atkins destroyed Wonder Bread.

Now Atkins is gone. All in less than a decade.

It took ninety years for sliced white bread to go from healthy to evil. It took less than ten for the low-carb business model to fall apart.

The only thing you can bet on is change. Find the cow and milk it. Almost all organizations spend their time and energy looking for security and stability. This is nonsense. The only security you have is in your personal brand and the projects you've done so far.  Atkins Nutritionals Goes Belly-Up -

overheard in the elevator

I ran across my friend Rick's post: The Post Money Value: Memo to Dell - Jeff Jarvis does matter (thanks, Alex for the ping). Rick points out that blogs have an increasingly large voice in the consumer conversation about brands.

This will last as long as bloggers don't "act powerful" and as long as consumers seek unfiltered insight into how they spend their time and money.

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