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The Big Red Fez

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

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The Dip

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We Are All Weird

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

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Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck?

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« July 2005 | Main | September 2005 »

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: nbc6.net - 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 GoTo.com? Of course not. How about the banners or the slogan or the advertising?

Nope.

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.
Cube
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.

Why?

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?

And

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:
Ninja_1
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 - Forbes.com.

« July 2005 | Main | September 2005 »