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

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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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« August 2005 | Main | October 2005 »

Open Big

That's what Hollywood wants. Martha Stewart is a write off because her first episode of the Apprentice had horrible ratings. That female president show, on the other hand, is on a roll. The irony, of course, is that these ratings are based on the promotion and the premise, not the show itself--they reflect viewership before word of mouth or first-hand experience.

We all want to open big. We want our product launches to be instant successes. We want the resumes we send out to be opened in one day, a call the next, an interview the third and a corner office by the end of the week.

The new marketing, it appears, doesn't work that way.

This is blog post #1,002 for me (I was so busy blogging today, the milestone flew right past... sorry). When I first started (thanks, Joi) many years ago, my readership was tiny. Just a few people a day. Today, they say this is one of the top 100 most-visited blogs in the English language... and I hear from people I never imagined I'd run into again (if I taught you canoeing in 1978, sure, send me an email!)

Permission Marketing : Turning Strangers Into Friends And Friends Into Customers. a book I wrote seven (SEVEN) years ago just went back to  press at the publisher and continues to sell. Unleashing the Ideavirus, which you can get for free online or in a handy paperback edition, came out five years ago... but they're just now launching trade organizations around the ideas in it.

The bottom line is that it's way way easier to start things than it used to be (opening a movie big costs a tenth of a billion dollars, while opening a blog costs about twenty). The natural, user-driven networks that make a product succeed or fail rarely hit all at once. But the snowball effect online is far more powerful than the old-world scream & dream approach.

So, what's it mean to you?

Make something worth making.
Sell something worth talking about.
Believe in what you do because you may have to do it for a long time before it catches on.
Don't listen to the first people who give you feedback.
Don't give up. Not for a while, anyway.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I gotta figure out how to help The Big Moo open big. Hope you're around for post #2,004.

David Galbraith disagrees with me

...about my viral shorthand post. And he's mostly right: David Galbraith.

What to drink while looking at your Donald Trump watch...

Thanks, Red...  Ed McMahon Vodka? You Are Correct Sir! | Liquor Snob.

Here it comes

For a few months now, I've had that feeling of the impending rush, the way you might feel just before a thunderstorm or at the beginning of a much-anticipated play. I used to feel that way when a copy of Wired or Fast Company hit my mailbox in 1996...

The web is changing, and so fast it's almost impossible to keep up.

But Emily is trying.

Check out: Emily Chang - eHub.

In just a few weeks, she's collected literally hundreds of new companies/projects that are examples of things that are turning the web upside down.

Hang on, here we go.

the browser wars

I apologize to anyone who signed up for ecomXpo who browses the web with Firefox. It turns out that the only way to watch the presentation is to have a PC (gasp) running IE (double yikes).

It's unavoidable, and I'm told that they're aware of the issue but, alas, that's the way it is this time around. I just wanted you to know before you got there.

The interesting opportunity for Firefox is to reward sites (by giving them traffic) for making themselves incompatible with IE. Could get messy. (yes, that's a joke).

Check out web 2.0

Dave's new site: ROLLYO.

Web 2, in my opinion is the junction of:
1. large scale audiences with high bandwidth
2. no need to explain what you're doing
3. lots of tools you can use to build your app so you don't need a big team
4. user generated content
5. platform orientation

(note, it's not just #4).

Tip: to be #1 (check out the most popular rollyo on the site) it helps to go first! I'll never have a shot once it gets crowded.

Viral ideas and inside baseball

I'm getting a ton of mail about the iPod Nano "controversy". Mostly crowing about how powerful the blogosphere is and how the bloggers "won"  (Elizabeth sends us to On Demand Business : Blogs : Todd Watson.)

Well, the reason the idea spread so fast is that Apple is eminently viral, especially re: negative stories about new stuff. Report: Apple to replace iPod nanos with broken screens - Sep. 28, 2005

The thing is, I think we're noticing this a whole lot more than the general public. (the line to buy Nanos at my local Apple store was huge). And I think there's a danger here, because alert marketers are also online a lot, and if you drink your own koolaid, it can backfire (by the way, there wasn't Kool Aid at Jonestown, it was Flavor Ade... another example of how ideas spread and leave a history).

Yes, Apple discovered that 1% of the Nanos were defective, and yes, within a week, they agreed to take them back. Good for them. But no, this isn't the sort of groundswell public conversation that all the online pundits (like me) keep telling you about.

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Noted. But you also never get a chance to tell a great story with a boring product. The real story here is how gaga the world went over the Nano. Don't hesitate to build something like this just because someone might build a blog complaining about a broken screen. Nope. Build something this cool as fast as you can so you can be in the center of our conversations.

What about Ringo?

Robert Prisament points us to big news about Kiss: Kiss News on Yahoo! Music.

The guys in make up are about to hire other guys in make up to go out and sing in concert.

As the babyboomers age, what happens to personal brands? L. Ron Hubbard is gone, but Dianetics lives on. Mark Levinson is still around, but it's not him behind those amplifiers that cost $10,000. Is there something inauthentic about buying Martha Stewart fabric that Martha didn't make, or listening to a Kiss concert with someone else singing? Or for that matter, lip synching?

Is it okay for a blog post to be written by someone other than the blogger? Daily Kos is now written by a team, not a person...

First we got smaller, with lots of tiny, personal brands. Then, as those brands succeed, the temptation is to scale them.

And, yes, the Beatles were never the same after Pete Best left.

What makes an idea viral?

For an idea to spread, it needs to be sent and received.

No one "sends" an idea unless:
a. they understand it
b. they want it to spread
c. they believe that spreading it will enhance their power (reputation, income, friendships) or their peace of mind
d. the effort necessary to send the idea is less than the benefits

No one "gets" an idea unless:
a. the first impression demands further investigation
b. they already understand the foundation ideas necessary to get the new idea
c. they trust or respect the sender enough to invest the time

This explains why online ideas spread so fast but why they're often shallow. Nietzsche is hard to understand and risky to spread, so it moves slowly among people willing to invest the time. Numa Numa, on the other hand, spread like a toxic waste spill because it was so transparent, reasonably funny and easy to share.

Notice that ideas never spread because they are important to the originator.

Notice too that a key dynamic in the spread of the idea is the capsule that contains it. If it's easy to swallow, tempting and complete, it's a lot more likely to get a good start.

But that doesn't mean that there's no role for mystery or ideas that unfold over time. In fact, the unmeasurable variable here is style. Howard Dean's ideas spread at the beginning--not because of the economic ramifications of his immigration policy, but because of the factors above. The way they were presented fit into the worldview of those that spread them.

A key element in the spread of ideas is their visual element. iPods and visual styles spread faster in the real world than ephemeral concepts. Pictures and short jokes spread faster online because the investment necessary to figure out if they're worth spreading is so tiny.

And of course, plenty of bad ideas spread. Panic, for instance, is a superbad idea at all times, but it spreads faster than most. That's because spreading an idea is rarely a thoughtful, voluntary act. Instead, it is near the core of who we are, and we often do it without thinking much about the implications.

Live online

In October, I'll be doing a presentation for eComXpo that will include a preview of the new Squidoo project. I wanted to let you know about it, and I finagled a free pass for my readers.

Go to eComXpo October 05 Registration and sign up. Choose the cheap option ($29). On the next screen, you'll see it goes to $0.

It's virtual, so there's no travel, and the show lasts for three days, so you can come when you like. My talk is the first day, the sixth, in the morning, but you can catch it on reruns any time you like.

Don't use Photoshop while driving

Matt Galloway recorded KnockKnock as an audio book: Seth Godin's Knock Knock - The Audio eBook.

Probably should avoid any sort of heavy machinery while using, but it's there if you want it. Thanks, Matt!


Thanks to all who responded to my recent post about a bounty for a new engineer. And especially to those that bothered to post the ad.

Gil, a New Orleans native and Katrina victim, starts tomorrow. He's incredibly talented. Just what we were looking for. We're excited...

Thanks again.

Justin and Ashley

According to the latest government data, those are the two most common names given to children of Hispanic parents in NY last year.

For Asian parents the story is different: name number one is Emily.

Names are a funny thing. Now, naming a company Google or Squidoo or BlueTurnip in the dot com world isn't weird... it's the equivalent of naming your kid Michael.

A recent study (sorry, I'm linkless here) by the government found that distinctly ethnic first names got fewer callbacks on otherwise identical resumes. Fair? Of course not. Not surprising, though, either.

Standing out is not the same thing as being remarkable. Standing out can just as easily get you ostracized. I don't think Purple is the same as just being different.

Catching up on my blog

If you haven't been here in a while:

2 free ebooks can be found here: Seth's Blog: Who's There? the new ebook

A recent popular post (not about Akron): Desire for gain

How to sign up for RSS (what's that?)

AND my new book (with Guy and Malcolm and Promise and April and Heath and Randall and dozens of other authors) all for charity: THE BIG MOO  

Sold out!

We're about four weeks away from the ship date for The Big Moo by The Group of 33.
and I was just told that they have completely sold out the first and second print runs of the book. Stuff like this happens to my co-authors all the time, but not to me, so thanks. (and don't worry, they're printing more as we speak, so you should have no trouble getting yours, especially if you pre-order).

100% of all author proceeds go to charity. We've already raised $140,000 thanks to you. If you haven't ordered a few dozen for your organization, now is the time. I got my finished books yesterday and it came out just the way it was supposed to. Hope you like it.

The only book on my coffee table...

Is this beauty from our hero, Tom Peters: tompeters! management consulting leadership training development project management.

The fact is, few people sit down and read non-fiction the way they used to. Tom is on the cutting edge in figuring out how to turn books into snacks.

How much would you pay to be on Oprah's TV show?

Oprah_1What would happen to your organization if you had a solid ten minutes with her majesty? How much benefit would you receive if you were able to tell your story to millions of people on television? Of course, you can’t pay to be on Oprah, but if you could, no doubt you would.

This simple thought exercise exposes the paradox that we’re finding online.

Should authors get paid to put their work into Google Print, the online service that lets you search for information inside a book?

How do you measure how much to invest in a blog?

The persistent reporter who spoke to me the other day wouldn’t stop asking the same question, “What percentage of your annual sales are directly attributable to your blog?” Perhaps you’ve heard the same question from your boss. Proof is what they seek! Management doesn’t want to invest in new media without understanding what the short-term payoff is. Authors don’t want to “give away” content without proof that it’ll pay off.

But they’d all pay to be on Oprah.

That local paper, the one that struggles to make its subscription and newsstand guarantee every day, wants you to register before you can read an article online. And they want to know a lot about you (your gender, your date of birth) before they will allow you to pay attention to your site.

The same company that runs ads hoping you’ll buy a newspaper that costs more to print than it does to sell, puts up roadblocks to keep you from reading online.


“Pay attention” are the key words. The consumer is already paying. You’re paying with a precious commodity called attention. Instead of fending you off and holding you back, perhaps the newspaper ought to be making it easier to give your precious attention to them…

A quick gut check will probably confirm what many of us truly believe: the number of channels of communication is going to continue to increase. And either you’ll have a channel or you won’t. Either you’ll have access to the attention of the people you need to talk with, (notice I didn’t say talk “at”) or you won’t.

So, the real question to ask isn’t, “how much will I get paid to talk with these people?” The real question is, “how much will I PAY to talk with these people?”

Wow! a great viral blog...

Samir points us to Presentation Zen.

This is what I was talking about in Who's There? the new ebook. And it's all about the kinds of presentations I was pitching you in the now missing Really Bad Powerpoint.

You really should check this out.

Be like Dell?

DittyvbicAaron Sagray sends us this scathing review of Dell's new Ditty (and the marketing thereof). Daring Fireball: Rhymes With Ditty.

update: of course, Dell sells a whole bunch of stuff. They have a market share that is nothing to complain about... but, just for a second, imagine if they decided to add some style as well...

Billboard irony

Mcd_obesityAdrants via Eder Callejas

What do you think?

My friends Julie and Dean (co-authors of the Big Moo) have built a mammoth site designed to make it easy for organizations to discover (and buy in large quantities!) our new book for charity. It includes some very neat ideas on how the book can be packaged for everyone in an organization.

They're launching the beta today Check out Remarkabalize. If you have thoughts, please drop Julie a note (she's on the contact us page).

Do billboards work?

000_0277Red Maxwell sends in this great photo. He reports that for the first week, all six muffins were in place.

My colleague Jay Levinson taught me that the two best words to have on a billboard are, "next exit." I have serious doubts that you can cost-effectively sell an item that isn't a "right now" purchase from a billboard, though. I'm have no doubts at all that hospitals have no business whatsoever running ads on billboards. "Oh, George, you've been thinking of having heart surgery--look at this great ad from Memorial Hospital!"

So, yes, it's funny and even memorable. But is it selling muffins or a particular brand of muffins? If I got a muffin craving from this ad, would I pay extra for these particular muffins?

Would you buy life insurance at a rock concert?

If you took an $800 dress out of Neiman Marcus and sold it on the street, would it be worth as much?

Why don't they sell books at the grocery store? But Price Club used to sell tons of CDs...

When you spend all day making stuff (and making it better) it's easy to get carried away with the magic of your stuff. You (and your team) believe that your service, your candidate, your new product--whatever it is--is so powerful and well-priced and effective that any rational person will choose to buy it instead of the competition.

But what if you're selling it in the wrong place?
Or with the wrong tone of voice?

I think context is underrated. Especially online.

Yes, Amazon sells just about everything, but my bet is that you could build an online process that would dramatically increase the yield per click that they receive (for your product, anyway).

The narrative of discovery is an essential part of how someone decides to try your product. What did the click before your site look like? What's that missionary wearing?

Marketers are terrible at thinking about this and worse still at sussing it out. How many times have you heard (or read on a form) "how did you hear about us?" That's an okay question, but not nearly as important as, "what was going through your head in the moment before you decided to take a huge risk and buy something from us for the first time?" Of course, you can't ask that question, but that's what you need to know.

Some blogs don't sell very hard. They're not filled with ALL CAP COME ONS or frequent, nearly constant links to all the stuff you can buy or links to the latest postive reviews. Other blogs, on the other hand, have a very different posture. They make it clear to the reader that the purpose of the blog is to sell something, and they do it over and over again, to apparently great success. What's going on here?

What's happening is a shift in context.

Salespeople are often effective because they make it clear from the first moment that they are salespeople. They are trying to sell you something. That makes the conversation authentic and transparent and goal-oriented. Others succeed because they take precisely the opposite tack, selling trust first and products second. I think both approaches can work, but being muddled about what you're doing never will.

The Zagat restaurant guides had a breakthrough early on because they were able to get distribution in places that weren't bookstores--like the counter of the local Korean deli. By intentionally changing the context, they stood out enough to reach people in a different mindset.

On the other hand, the guy who tried to pitch me financial services as I was packing up my computer after a speech didn't have a prayer.

What's your context? Could you find a better one?

Business literature winners

No, it's not an oxymoron. Congrats to  John Battelle and Tom and the Freaknomics guys. / Business life / Business book of the year - Shortlist of six announced.

Dave on semantics of persuasion

Check out: Marketing - The Bold Approach Method.


Garrett_morrisOne of my fondest memories of adolescence was staying home on a Saturday night and watching Garrett Morris do his politically incorrect riff on SNL*. He would cup his hands around his mouth and yell the top stories on the news--for those who might be hard of hearing.

Sometimes bloggers need to do the same thing.

We assume that our readers have been around for a while, understand our metaphors, our shorthands, the shortcuts we use to make a point.

Bad idea.

When I wrote my Akron post  I suspected I'd get flack for it, but I had no idea how personal the attacks would be. Basically, they begin with, "I've never read anything you've ever written..." and conclude with, "Because of your poor judgment, I won't ever read anything you write ever again, or buy your books either."

Of course, given the first sentence, the closing sentence isn't much of a threat, but it also represents a common human trait and one that more careful writing could probably avoid. Regular readers know that I wasn't making any comment at all about Akron... merely a comment about a few of the people who live there. Just as I wasn't criticizing every struggling dot com company, just the group I was interacting with.

Organizations are nothing but people, and their attitudes have a lot to do with their future.

Not in all caps, but I think that makes it more clear.

As for those that will never read my blog again, you're probably not reading this either, and I hope that a friend who still does will let you know that I'm officially apologizing to anyone who thought that I had issued an edict re Akron. I haven't, I'm not and I won't.

*and now, in the interest of my new, ever more clear and complete description of my point, I was only using the Garrett Morris riff as a metaphor, not as a reflection of any kind on those with a hearing disability.

Mooing at the DMV

The talented Stas Balanevsky sends in this photo from outside of Buffalo. Of course, you need to live it, not drive it, but it's a start. The The Big Moo ships in a few weeks.


The long tail, in practice

Sort of like selling plaid elephants--you don't sell many, but you don't have to, either. Books: The 2006-2011 World Outlook for Wheel Rims and Spokes for Bicycles, Unicycles, and Adult Tricycles.

Private Idaho

In an interview just posted (which I did a while ago) I talk about cookies for the real world.

Link: 800-CEO-READ Excerpts: Branding Unbound by Rick Mathieson - Part IV.

Just one reminder

I've gotten some fantastic resumes for this gig, but surprisingly few people seem to be trolling for the bounty: Seth's Blog: $5,000.00 Bounty if you find us a chief engineer.

Not what I thought he was going to say

Hugh sent me over this very thoughtful (and kind) post: gapingvoid: there is no "purple cow 2.0".

From the headline, what I thought it was going to say was,

Sequels are rarely purple.

Once you've got a Purple Cow, you usually end up milking it, riding it as it enters the mainstream. The danger is believing that as you improve it and add features and create v 2.0, you're making it more purple. More likely, of course, you're not.

Diane Von Furstenberg's first wrap dress was a Purple Cow. The 5,000 varieties she followed up with, the sequels, were profitable but not remarkable. Only when you jump your comfort zone and build the next new thing do you have a shot at the next Cow.

Feature Creep

Badrinath points us to a riff from Jason about features, customers and creep: Getting Real: Forget feature requests - Signal vs. Noise (by 37signals).

Yes, we got our uniforms

HeathuniformHere's Heath, modeling the new Squidoo uniform, via Crooked Brook. You gotta love it.

(see On Uniforms)

Marriott's new bed

MarriottMarriott is launching a new bed to catch up with Westin, etc. in the race for tired business travelers.

Naturally, they're launching the campaign with tragically ineffective airport billboard advertising (does it ever work?) and a campaign that makes very little sense to me.

Instead of telling a story that the traveler wants to believe (that they will be filled with energety and ready to go after sleeping in the bed), the ads show model-perfect athletes... far too perfect to be believable.

But here's the real question: why are the basketball player and the runner black, while the gymnast and the swimmer are white? See all four of them lined up at LaGuardia and it screams, "stereotype." We have a long way to go, and these ads are more evidence of same.

The end of Akron, part I, stale bread

I just got back from giving a talk to a great group in Akron, OH.

The city is near death.

I haven't consulted any almanacs or economic factbooks, and I'm sure I'll hear from the mayor soon, but you can see it.

Someone at the conference explained to me that when you go to one of these events, you never leave the hotel anyway. That the hotel room, the lobby, the ballroom and the restaurant are all the same.


It starts with the bread they serve at dinner. The people in the restaurant have given up. The bread (on a Thursday!) is stale. The chefs don't care about what they're doing, and the waiters don't care about their customers. The people I encountered (more than a dozen), were, with just one exception, beaten. Stooped shoulders and sad eyes, they've given up.

This wouldn't matter to you, except I saw precisely the same behavior at a dot com company I visited in NY earlier this week. The same look of failure, the same feeling of impending, slow, inexorable doom.

A few minutes later, I had another meeting and it was completely different. The attitude, at a company in essentially the same business, couldn't have been more different. The answer to every question was "why not?" instead of "why?"

Marketing isn't done by computers, it's done by people. And people who sense opportunity and have the confidence to be remarkable will always defeat defensive actions by people who have given up.

The end of Akron, part II, football

Driving to Akron for my talk, I had the chance to hear a great speech on public radio. It was one of those local things where they broadcast from a club for local leaders. The guest was the lawyer instrumental in keeping the Cleveland Browns football team in Cleveland.

Quick background: About ten years ago, the Browns' owner, Art Modell, up and announced he was going to Baltimore. Did the entire deal in secret and left in the middle of the night. There was a huge uproar and lobbying, protests, Congressional hearings and more. The city, in conjunction with the NFL, ended up building a stadium that cost the city more than $300 million and the NFL chipped in with a new team.

It turns out that virtually every one of the 170 plus pro sports teams in the US has a newish stadium, and that those buildings have cost more than $25 billion to build... with most of it paid for by taxpayers. And it turns out that almost none of them pay off, that they are impossible to justify by economic analysis.

The lesson: Having a football team is meaningless.

What matters is losing a team or gaining a team.

If Cleveland had lost its team, the morale of the city, even non-fans, would have been devestated. But Buffalo has and keeps its team and it doesn't matter a bit.

When Tennessee got a team, it was a huge shot in the arm to the story the region tells itself.

Organizations of all stripes have the football problem (and opportunity). Launching a brand (or shuttering it), opening an office, doing a layoff--all of these events change the story stakeholders tell themselves. And the story has little to do with the economic reality and everything to do with self-image.

Keep the change...

Rick Liebling writes and reminds me of a pet peeve. He stopped at the Cinnabon in Penn Station and his treat came to $3.03 with tax. Now, he has to hassle looking for change, or break a bill, and the store has to hassle with breaking the bill and shlepping lots of pennies to and from the bank. In the long run, they may even need to hire another clerk because productivity is hit.

How does this happen?

Well, it's because the price is set by corporate, I guess. And corporate doesn't know or care what NY State tax is. And it's too hard for them to think it through.

But do you know what's really hard? And what would work better?

They ought to RAISE the price on everything in store a few pennies. Then they should teach their clerks to always round off the pennies. So if a check comes to $5.05, the clerk says, "don't worry about the nickel."

Don't worry about the nickel!

Can you imagine? Would that make your day or what? A little free prize that makes you feel way better about a $5.00 fat and calorie bomb that you could make at home for fifty cents.

Expectation and surprise virtually always trump reality.

Gillette ups the ante, unveils 5-blade razor - U.S. Business -

Thanks, Dave, for the link: Gillette ups the ante, unveils 5-blade razor - U.S. Business -

There are so many things I want to say, so many pithy connections to my past writing. But I won't. You can just sit there and sigh.

UPDATE FROM THE GROUP OF 9 (yes, nine). Nine readers wrote to commend you to this not quite office safe article from The Onion almost a year and a half ago. Thanks, guys.

Commentary on customers, or the web?

Mark Hurst posts a winner.

Link: This Is Broken - NYT pointer to website.

Bureaucracy = Death

So, we learn today that the F.A.A. was Alerted on Qaeda in '98, 9/11 Panel Said - New York Times. Cockpit door locks would have saved thousands of lives.

A good friend is speaking at a major philanthropy conference and the organizers won't permit him to distribute a one page flyer about his organization. They are "too busy" to approve it.

Gave a talk to a pharma company last week, and the marketers there are wringing their hands because of the sea change in the way people view their work. No, they're not evil. Yes, the mindless bureaucracy continued to grind out products and ads and policies that weren't in anyone's best interest.

The victims of New Orleans know firsthand what happens when a large bureaucracy with lots of money and not enough responsibility fails to action when it should.

And what does all this have to do with marketing?


Very little remarkable comes out of bureaucracies for a simple reason. The members of the bureaucracy seek to be beyond reproach. Reproach is their nightmare, their enemy, the thing to avoid at all costs. And the remarkable feels like a risk.

Here's an idea I wrote about in a book a long time ago:

Appoint a CNO—chief no officer. No longer can someone say no to an idea and leave it at that. If you want to turn something down, you’ve got to pass it on to your boss. Then either he says yes or gives it to his boss. For a "no" to be official, it’s got to be approved by the chief no officer and countersigned by every manager along the way.

So, what would have happened if the FAA or FEMA had a CNO? Who would have had the guts to turn down cockpit door locks if saying "no" meant the idea would go upstairs?

And what happens to any organization that creates a culture where maintaining the status quo requires your boss to give you the okay?

Of course, it's not this simple. But the very act of talking about it helps people focus on what's killing their organization. I don't care if you're in radio, packaged goods, organized religion or an online merchant. If you're not saying yes to change, you're slowly losing whatever race you happen to be in.

email weirdness, part II

This may not affect you, but it might be hurting someone you know.

Four weeks ago, apparently, Yahoo tightened their spam filter. A lot.

Colleagues, co-authors, old friends... they all ended up there. And the Yahoo email search doesn't even search the folder, so my initial checks were fruitless.

Tonight, after investing a few hours, I found 87 emails from the last three weeks.

Probably worth a check, guys. Spam doesn't appear as obnoxious as before, but it still is.

Nano is the new Turbo

Diego hits a winner: metacool: Nano is the new Turbo.

Fear of loss, desire for gain

Found myself in the mall this weekend (gasp) at a Lord & Taylor (go figure) and discovered the oddest promotion.

After I purchased $200 worth of stuff, the salesperson said, "you qualified for two gift certificates worth $40. No strings attached. Go upstairs and you can get them right now."

Note: no notice before the purchase. No signs, no promises. The certificates weren't designed as an inducement to get me to buy anything.

"Why would they spend 10% of revenue and perhaps 30% of profit for no reason?" I wondered.

I headed upstairs, waited for two minutes and got my certificates, just so I could let you, my gentle readers, know about this crazy scheme. Walked over to the tie department and bought $39 worth of beautiful ties, marked down from $100 (hey, I'm cheap...) and I was done.

On my way out, I passed this woman:Lordtaylorbags_1
Here's her deal. She was on her FOURTH batch of gift certificates. Every time she got $20, she needed to spend it right away. She ended up spending more than $100 each time, so she then went back to get another ceritificate or two, but needed to spend it, and on and on and on. A quick talk with the gift certificate dispensing person confirmed that this was far from unusual behavior. It was a frenzy.

So, people "earn" the certificate, but unable to resist the fear of losing what was theirs, went over and collected it. But now that they have it, it's "free money" so they go and spend it, and the cycle continues.

This is so much more effective than the typical mark down.

I bet it would work even better online. Imagine how it could help shopping cart conversion...

$5,000.00 Bounty if you find us a chief engineer

That's US funds, no green stamps or frequent flyer miles.

Before I post this to the usual job boards, I wanted to give my trusted readers a chance to chime in and to earn some money (I'm also happy to donate the fee to wherever you choose... Joi Ito, my last successful referrer, did that.) One bounty per hire, paid six months after a successful hire. If there's no referrer, bounty goes to the Red Cross.

This job is for my new project, which I hope we'll be ready to talk about in four weeks or so. Please only send over the very best people you know... we're pretty picky.

Thanks in advance for thinking about who you might know. Feel free to pass this along, post it, etc.

Chief Engineer

Rapidly growing Web 2.0 startup needs a chief engineer to understand, extend, streamline and tweak our PHP/CSS/Ajax based system. Someone who is totally up to speed on MySQL, XML and Web Services (like Amazon and Google). Not ready to get up to speed, but already there. We're also looking for a person (the same person!) who gets along well with both non-engineers and Linux boxes, who can integrate the work of freelance programmers and also code what needs to be coded.

Our Chief Engineer will work closely with our head of IT, who worries about server loads and long-term planning. The person we hire needs to have a strong voice when it comes to technical issues, but, at the same time, be able to seamlessly integrate with a non-technical organization. The kind of person who would be happy working at Craig's List or Six Apart or Basecamp. We have a killer espresso machine, health benefits and a lot of momentum. Did I mention our office is less than twenty steps from the Hudson River, sixty steps from Metro North and is next door to a brand-new health club and a kayaking marina? If you're the sort of person who gets frustrated when Scotty can't get the dilithium crystals to put out just a little bit more energy, this might be the place for you.

You must speak perfect English and be delighted to work in our offices (a forty-minute train ride from Grand Central Station in New York). Alas, no telecommuters. We're seeking sterling references and significant tech chops, but it's okay if you've never run an entire tech operation before. We’re building a place to grow and we’d love to talk to you about joining us.

This is the biggest thing I've ever worked on, and it's working. If you’re not looking for a job, this may just be the job for you.

Send your resume, a short note and the name of the person who referred you (if any) to 

Good, better, best

Turns out that most people use only a fraction of the space on their iPods: Objects in Ears Are Not as Full as They May Appear - New York Times.

No surprise, of course.

We don't buy a bigger iPod because we need a bigger iPod. We buy one because we identify ourselves as the kind of person that doesn't squabble over a few bucks when it comes to buying the best. And that's the kind of person who buys a new iPod when her old iPod works just fine.

Businesses do the same thing (how much free space on your hard drive at work?) (how much cheaper could the HR guys have found an office chair for you?).

Nobody buys "best" in everything in their life. But in every category that's not a commodity, somebody is buying "best" because they want to, not because they need to.

email weirdness

if you wrote to me in the last week and I didn't write back, could I bother you to resend?

two non-spammers and good friends never made it through. And I can't figure out what happened. So if it happened to you...

What I did today (marketing is where you find it)

Homedepotline_1It's Sunday, and the local (good) hardware store was closed and there was a spray paint emergency, so off to Home Depot we went.

This is a photo of the line.

No, there's no impending natural disaster. No one boarding up windows. It's just 9:30 on a Sunday morning.

There's more than 40 people waiting!

And then, (sorry it's shaky) I see that half of the automated checkout machines are broken.Homedepotautocheck

If the machines are productive (and they appear to be, though they aren't particularly well designed) why not have ten or twenty or fifty not just four (with two broken ones).

It worked with ATM machines... the lesson to anyone visiting Home Depot is: we don't care, if you want low prices, suck it up and get in line.

Then, I headed over to the local synagogue. My neighbor Michael Brecker, the famous jazz musician, is quite ill (details: Susan Brecker Letter.) The community pitched in and offered a way for us to volunteer for bone marrow transplants, a process that involves giving a swab from inside your cheeks to be scanned, and then, if you are a match, they contact you for the more serious stuff.

Frankly, I was expecting to wait for several hours as I negotiated a tired, volunteer-based system.

What an amazing surprise. The system was cheerful, rational, swfit and beautifully thought out. I worked with three different volunteers (two on forms, one with the swabs) and was done in less than six minutes. Today, this dedicated team is going to process more than 1,000 volunteers in less than four hours.

I left feeling like I had helped out, but I also left feeling impressed with the organization and ready to spread the word to others that might be thinking of volunteering.

I couldn't help comparing the two processes. Couldn't help wondering about the difference between people who care and people who don't, about processes designed to serve all concerned and those designed to stamp out shoplifting...

This is marketing. Advertising, on the other hand, is fun and expensive but very far removed from the real thing.

Andrew on free

Andrew from Web Marketing & Design writes in:

Hello Seth,

I just read the letter from Acland Brierty on your blog. As a
successful website-publisher (as well as someone who sells-paid
content) I'd like to share my opinions.

Because I never saw her "free" site I don't know exactly how they
approached using Adsense. Was a sales letter offered? Was the entire
book converted to HTML and split up on many different pages? How much
search engine traffic where they receiving?

From reading the post, it sounds to me like she was making people
sign up to read the free e-book -- and then supporting it with
Adsense. That is a very counter-productive way to run a
advertising-supported website (and yes, a lot of newspapers are doing
-- and losing out on a boatload of revenue.)

I think its a huge mistake if any of your readers dismiss the Adsense
model -- and here is why:

This is a direct quote from MarketingSherpa

"Tim Carter of actually made the move from a
subscription site to an ad-supported business. Although he made over
$9,000 in the first nine months as a subscription site, he ended up
with a deficit of $8,800. “Then, I started the AdSense program with
Google. Suffice it to say I can average $1.35 per page per day and
I’ve got something like 1,400 pages,” he said."

There is a good reason his advertising pays off -- he has a lot of
"free" how-to articles which will require the reader to purchases
products and services which make the advertisers big money. That, and
he correctly implemented Adsense onto his site.

When running an advertising-supported website the technical aspects
are critical. A good clickthrough rate easily can mean the difference
between losing money and being very profitable. This Adsense Webinar
transcript describes changes Tim made that increased his clickthrough
rates dramatically (it's near the bottom): link

"Free" advertising-supported sites work because there is a profitable
product paying for the advertising (or an advertiser who isn't
calculating his ROI.)

If you really want to make a lot of money then you need to tactically
use free content to sell your own premium content/product/service.

That is *the* key to successfully using free and paid content.

Viral Marketing ... in the details

Neat post from Ken. Viral Marketing - Saw The Viral, Bought The T-shirt.

Is "free" all it's cracked up to be?

Acland Brierty writes:

Hi Seth,
I saw your last blog post; 'forty to one' and wanted to share with you some interesting things we found when we made everything on our site FREE. We brought all our job-winning tools under one roof and gave them away... that's over $250 or more in value for free. The idea was that we would use a TV model and let google adsense become our income stream. Now here's what we found: the sign up rate went up only fractionally more than when we used to charge for the individual components (and that is based on our most popular item, an ebook called job secrets revealed).

Now here's the best bit... revenues fell through the floor. People just weren't clicking the ads... and I'm going to share with you a stunning lesson we learned from adsense in a minute.

Anyhow, I saw your blog and I was thinking about all of this and then I thought to myself, here is what Seth is going to say:

"you guys just don't have a good relationship with your clients etc etc"

The difference for us is that we were trying to give away something that already exists, for free, to people that knew us and already had it... OR ... to people that had no idea what or who we were. In 'forty to one', on the other hand, you are giving away a NEW idea and book to people who like what you do and want more and they don't have a copy of 'knock knock'.

So we abandoned the FREE model and started to charge for it again and our sign-up rate increased... I guess that in some cases FREE means that it has no value. We did get a few comments from people saying that they were always waiting for a 'catch' on our free site. You know, sign up for free but if you want the really good stuff it will cost you $$$... so they were amazed when this never came.

Just thought I'd share the experience.

Thanks for the note... my take is actually this:
1. if it costs money, many people value it more highly.
2. if it costs money, many more of the 'buyers' pay an increased amount of attention.
3. if it costs money, you get a better shot at future interactions, because the stakes are higher

That's one reason why college degrees are worth more than reading a lot of books in the library, say, or even work experience.

The real question here is order of magnitude. If charging for something online only cuts your volume in half, it's almost certainly worth it. But as more and more outlets are training people that good stuff can be free, it's going to get harder to sell digital information.

As for ads, clearly there are some topics and some audiences that are far more likely to click on ads than others. More on this soon. (PS Acland (he's a he) adds some more here. )

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