Don't Miss a Thing
Free Updates by Email

Enter your email address

preview  |  powered by FeedBlitz

RSS Feeds

Share |

Facebook: Seth's Facebook
Twitter: @thisissethsblog






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

Blog powered by TypePad
Member since 08/2003

« January 2006 | Main | March 2006 »

Welcome, Malcolm

My guess is that many of my readers will be delighted to discover

The Easy Button

Easy_1 Greg Ness has a nice riff on Staples easy button.

I think I'd alter it to be the "certain" button. Lots of people are willing to work hard. Not as many are willing to take intellectual or project risk. As a result, they make boring stuff that's quite likely to fail.

If you could embark on a marketing campaign that was certain to work, would it matter how hard it was to do or how much it would cost? Not likely. People hesitate because they're just not sure.

"Yeah, but my other son is a stableboy..."

Two visions of marketing crossed my desk today.

Greg Ludvik writes:

I asked to sign up for a hosted email solution. I received a PDF from a service rep which had a quote for a hosted exchange mailbox “starting at only $4.99 a month!”

However, the service rep I emailed said that it would cost $11.99. When I asked him what the $4.99 option in the PDF was, he said:

From: Eric
Sent: Monday, February 27, 2006 2:27 PM
To: Greg
Subject: RE: Hosted Exchange & Outlook Web Access Account


The $4.99 is the cost if a mailbox only (the pdf is a marketing thing).  You also need to purchase storage at $6.99 per 100MB, and you have to buy a minimum of 100MB.

So, aggressively shading the truth and tricking people is a "marketing thing." Next...

Just got off the phone with a computer at the local sales offices at Verizon... trying to change my service, a big chance, it seems, to make some more money at their end. Hit five or six buttons on the phone tree. Then the voice says, I'm quoting here, "Due to excessive volume" your call cannot be handled. And then the computer hung up on me.

I just treasure the word "excessive." Excessive is a factory word, not a marketing word. If you've got too many people calling into your sales line, you don't have a problem, you've got, I think, an opportunity.

Today Tom Peters quotes from one of my favorite books, The Art of Possibility, "A shoe factory sends two marketing scouts to a region of Africa to study the prospects for expanding business. One sends back a telegram saying, SITUATION HOPELESS STOP NO ONE WEARS SHOES. The other writes back triumphantly, GLORIOUS BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY STOP THEY HAVE NO SHOES."

Edges and clusters

Edges Most organizations have a sweetspot. That's the product or service that leads to highest profit, retention, customer satisfaction and word of mouth. If you walk into a certain bar and order a draft beer, you're more likely in that sweetspot than if you ordered, say, a Coke. A different bar might discover that the customer that orders a top-shelf martini is most likely to lead to the best outcome.

Over time, you'll start to develop slight variations on your sweetspot. If one kind of martini is good, then a few are even better. Pancake houses start selling Swedish, German and even Brazilian pancakes. Insurance companies start selling a dozen different variations on whole life.

Clusters work because people are likely to be drawn to a crowd. They also work because making a good, better, best comparison gives us the confidence to go ahead and buy something. It's not an accident that profitable products like cars come in so many variations--having a choice makes it easier to choose (at least for a while). When Heinz comes in four colors, you don't have to decide whether or not to buy ketchup... you merely have to decide which color, and they win every time.

Clusters have a few problems. The first is that you inevitably leave people out. If your restaurant serves nothing but spicy food, then the odd duck who came with a group and doesn't like spicy food is going to go away unhappy.

Clusters get boring. If all you've got is another variation of the same fundraising tool that's worked so well for you, it's hard to get a meeting with me (again).

And most of all, clusters make it hard to develop new sweetspots. First-class long-haul travel was a great sweetspot for Pan Am, but when the world changed, they got hammered.

So, consider this: not just clusters, but edges, too.

Maybe your bar ought to start selling amazing hot chocolate.

It's hard to make outliers, because it's so tempting to gradualy work your way over, making each new product an extension of your sweetspot. That doesn't work. It just adds skus to your life.

An edge needs to be sharp and abrubt and distinct in order to generate the light it needs to thrive.

It's here, the microsoft ipod packaging parody

Tom O'Leary wants you to see: YouTube - microsoft ipod packaging parody.

If you've ever worked in a place with more than three marketers, this is so accurate, you might cry.

Once more, but slowly

How much of what you're transmitting is actually getting through?

Of course you're listening. You're the one that's sharing such valuable insight with the universe. You're busy talking about your product or your new book or your organization. You walk into a meeting and there are four impatient people sitting around the table, urging you on, faster faster faster don't waste our time.

So you assume that they're getting it the first time.

They're not.

Odds are, your very clear, very useful ideas are getting garbled in translation. I'll do a post on a topic, and people will trackback to it, announcing that I've said something quite different. I double check my riff to be sure I said what I meant to say, and yes, I did. But they didn't hear me.

It's so tempting to compress your ideas into the smallest possible space and assume that the text or the images or the design will carry the day. But we know that repetition is essential.

The paradox is that the long stuff gets skipped. The long stuff gets ignored. Short books sell better, short commercials get more viewers. So repetition becomes essential. It'll bore your biggest fans, but you can do that (a little).

Sticking to (and building on) your story works if you do it over time.

The last time

This might be the last time you see me in your hotel.

It might be the last time you get to give me support on the $3,000 a month web hosting I'm buying from you.

It might be my last blog post (unlikely, but possible).

With so many choices, every business lives right on the edge. When you were the only florist in my town, storming off in a huff cost me as much as it cost you. Now, it's sort of trivial to just type a few different letters into my browser.

Yes, switching costs make some people hesitate before moving to Firefox or KPMG or National Rent a Car. But when customers have been trained to no longer tolerate imperfection, they can go (forever) at any moment.

I try to give every speech I do like it might be the last chance I ever get to give one. I still remember the last canoe lesson I gave, the last time I walked out the door at my one real job and the last time I talked to my mom. Sometimes you get advance warning, sometimes you get to cherish the moment or try a bit harder. Other times, though, it just--stops.

If you know that tomorrow is your last chance, is it going to go differently?

Switching costs

Been spending the last 24 hours moving my life from one laptop to another... and I'm not even switching brands.

In some ways, it's easier than ever to switch. Those brands face price pressure and churn. On the other hand, moving my email, my frequent flyer miles or my medical history is such a hassle that I shudder to even consider it.

Hope to be back to normal soon!


Shea Gunther is using a lens to coordinate a fundraising blogathon (I don't think Jerry Lewis is invited, though). Link: Squidoo : The Green Blogathon.

Vegas hotel, San Francisco sushi

Apropos of nothing much:

The Artisan Hotel in Las Vegas is filled with thousands of reproductions of oil paintings... even on the ceilings. Really nice people, no slot machines. There was a pool table in our room.

Zushi Puzzle in San Francisco has the most amazing fish I've ever been privileged to be served. And Roger behind the bar is charming and funny and without pretense. Ask to see the photo of the pencil fish. And it's almost inexpensive enough to be scary.

Both are purple cows. Neither is trying to fit in (Roger's place doesn't look as good as it is) and both are worth talking about.

Neither spends much on real estate. Or advertises. Both do great.

Nice to see remarkable when it works. Tell Roger I sent you.

When Google does it...

Ron  Hogan points us to Google Introduces Web Page Creator.

Sure, this sort of thing exists. But googlified, it's more likely to spread, to be adopted and to add even more clutter! WPC means that the last boundary to having a web page (or even having your cat have a web page) goes away.

Trigger finger

Had conversations over the last 48 hours with not one but three companies that are triumphant victors in viral marketing. All three have lots of success and credibility and leverage in marketing themselves person to person.

and all three want to grow

and all three are very close to spending big bucks on ads and salesforces to force the growth to happen faster.

As soon as they start using the tactics of the other guys, playing the game they play, they become them. As soon as they decide that they can buy (not earn) attention, it all changes.

It's so easy to respond to growth pressure by pulling that trigger. Tempting, but not worth it.

Sell side job marketing

Jeff Clark is right out of school. Rather than making average resumes to send to lots of companies to get past computer screeners so he could get an average job, he built a website. I Hired Jeff Clark! Jeff Clark is looking for a marketing job....

Sign of things to come.

PS Lots of mail criticizing Jeff's grammar, attention to detail, etc. I didn't post his site because it's perfect. I posted it because he's doing something that's easy, probably effective and a sign of things to come. More to come, I'm sure.

Free for now, free forever

Mark Ramsey points out that the new show from the creator of Law and Order will debut on iTunes, for free. (Radio Marketing Nexus)

It's hard to see this is a one-time temporary stunt. As iTunes gets crowded, promotions will increase and prices will drop. Getting people to PAY attention is enough for most media companies.

Organic web growth

for those curious about this post, the answer, of course, is wikipedia.

I hate it when people on the radio say "of course" before they tell you something. If it's obvious, don't bother telling me! So, sorry about the "of course".

Lawyers don't get enough gifts

Watches Here's a watch that marks the time in six minute increments... the way lawyers bill: Lawyer Gift - The Billable Hour™ - Clever Timepieces for Lawyers.

The culture of dissatisfaction

Vegassign Las Vegas is an epicenter of a trend that is accelerating through every market and community on Earth.

A rapid increase in dissatisfaction.

If you don't have enough money, you can fix it by gambling. It's okay to be dissatisfied with your job and your boss and your income, because someone in Vegas has more, and they got it the easy way. I don't think it's an accident that we've got record PowerBall prizes and record PowerBall sales.

If you don't have a beautiful, thin, buxom wife with flaxen hair (or an intelligent, tall, dark-haired husband with washboard abs), it's obvious that you can find someone better at the strip clubs and revues in town.

Porn and its variants (tech-porn included) often trains people to be dissatisfied. Apple hasn't even shipped my MacBook yet, and they already upgraded it for free--but I'm still dissatisfied (now there's an even faster option!).

We're using electronic media to spread this benchmarking message far and wide. Because there's always a company offering a better or cheaper or faster product, or a person who's more clever than Oprah or cuter than Tyra, it's easy to shop around, to demand more, to be constantly dissatisfied.

Every day I get angry email (not angry with me, fortunately, but angry nonetheless) from consumers of all kinds complaining about perceived slights in customer service. Looked at with a clear eye, most of these complaints don't make a lot of sense. Yes, the correspondence could have been a lot more thoughtful, but these are organizations that are largely doing a great job, at a great price. Doesn't matter. Someone else is often more, faster, better, now.

The problem with this emerging culture, aside from the fact that we're unhappy all the time, is that it doesn't give marketers a chance to build products for the long haul, to invest in the processes and products and even operating systems that pay off over time. The problem is that when brands fizz out so fast, it's hard to invest in anything except building the next hot brand.

Is there an answer?

Talk to people who live in Vegas and you'll discover that most of the hard-working folks who have been here more than a decade (the cab drivers and the doctors and the rest) aren't so swayed by the billboards and the promises. Instead, they embrace the qualities that come from relationships. A relationship with a front-line worker (ask for "Bob")  or a relationship with a provider or an organization that has come through for them.

It seems to me that insulation from discontent comes from building a relationship. From real people. Relationships that make us feel counted upon, respected, trusted and valued cut through the ennui of dissatisfaction. We got ourselves into this mess by acting like smart marketers, and as marketers we can get out of it by acting like people.

The John Barleycorn Treatment

From the folk song:

They wasted o'er a scorching flame
The marrow of his bones;
But a miller us'd him worst of all,
For he crush'd him between two stones.

Apparently, the prospect of a computer logging in is so, so terribly horrible that Ticketmaster (and others) have made it so that only a computer could possibly read the code words.

I tried to do a parody, below:
... but I failed to do something as broken and bleeding as the actual test that Ticketmaster wanted me to pass. It's as if they took the John Barleycorn torture process and applied it to a made-up word.

Other than the fact that they have a monopoly, is there anything at all about their site that keeps them in business? If you sell something online, go to Ticketmaster... then do the opposite.

Here's the "real" test. If you didn't already feel stupid on their site, now you do:


Middlemen, radio and sharks

JACK FM, it turns out, will email you about your favorite songs. Thanks to all who wrote in.

But it got me thinking about shark.

Had shark for dinner last night. $10 a pound and totally worth it. Really fresh and delicious.

The fisherman, of course, was lucky to make a buck a pound. And all those middlemen added little in terms of value (they cut it, of course, and kept it cool, and allowed me to buy it midday, but they also added several days to the process of getting it from the dock to me).

What if the fisherman had my preferences and just let me know when he had a good haul? I could meet his truck at Union Square and buy direct, fresh, for $5.

Twice as efficient, twice as fresh.

No, of course it's not going to happen soon, because fishermen like being fishermen and don't want to deal with all of these hassles.

But the new middlemen are going to be a lot more efficient than the old ones! And the key asset that will allow them to wipe out the status quo is permission.

Bits are free

It doesn't cost anything more to deliver a thoughtful, powerful, profitable note. It just takes guts to write one.

Jonathan Cruce shares this (edited, a bit, by me):

He wrote this note to a company, via online form:

Product Model: 2461 Serial : Comments: I have a Gigaphone 2461. After my
1 year old son pressed some of the buttons on the handset and base, I
find that the phone is dialing in pulse mode.  The manual shows a
tone/pulse switch on the bottom of the base unit.  My base unit has no
tone/pulse switch.  How can I switch the phone back to tone dialing
mode??  Thanks!

Company's response via email

Dear Jonathan,
Thank you for your recent inquiry to our Consumer Sales and Service
Keep the original email attached with our response in case further
assistance is needed.
The Tone/Pulse switch is located at the bottom of the base unit.
However, if there is no switch, you may try this short procedure on your
base unit:
1.) Press and hold the [SELECT] button.
2.) The display on the base unit will display TN (Tone) or PU (Pulse).
3.) If you see PU on the display, press and hold [SELECT] again.
We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.
VTech Communications
Consumer Sales and Service Center

* Click the following link to visit our online store for
all of your telephone and accessory needs!

* Your product may qualify for the VTech Product Protection Plan.
Click the link below for more information.

But what, Jonathan wants to know, if the letter had said:

Dear Jonathan,

I really appreciate that you purchased a VTech phone, and I'm truly sorry
that you're having this problem.  You indicated that there is no
tone/pulse switch on the bottom of your base unit as shown in the owner's

You're right! This isn't the first time we've run into this issue; it appears
that when we updated the phone model we didn't update the owner's manual.

We try hard to catch these errors, but every once in a while one gets
through.  You can switch your base between pulse and tone mode by holding
down the "Select" button for a couple of seconds.  The display on the base
unit will read "TN" if you're in tone dialing mode, and "PU" if you're in
pulse dialing mode. Just press and hold "Select" again if you need to
change between modes.

Once again, I'm sorry that our owner's manual was not updated to reflect
this change.  If there's anything else I can do for you, just let me know!

Joan Smith, VTech Customer Service Guru

By the way Jonathan, I noticed that you're using an older model 2.4 GHz
phone system.  If this is working for you, that's great!  We expect these
phones to be around for a while.  But with more and more wireless devices
using the 2.4 GHz spectrum, you may begin experiencing interference on
your line.  Unfortunately we can't do anything about that on a 2.4 GHz
system, but we have a sale coming up on the newer 5.8 GHz digital spread
spectrum phones, that will let you talk clearly up to 1/2 mile from your
house!  Go to to see what's available.  Put in the code
JSVT234 and I'll give you 20% off any phone we offer!

Same amount of time to send, same incremental cost. It's easier to write if you you imagine that you are writing to a person, not a screen, I think.

The easiest way

Just got a bulk mailing from an acquaintance. First line:

First, my apologies for sending this "form letter," I'm trying to reach a lot of people at the same time, and this is the easiest way to do it.

a. is it an accident that "acquaintance" and "acquire" have similar roots? Hint, I don't belong to you.

b. if it's easier for you but a pain for me, why should you do it?

c. if you have to start a call or letter by apologizing for making the call or letter, accept the fact that the communication is going to cost you relationship points.

Clever radio riff

Paul Adams wonders why radio stations can't ping you by sms or even phone (skype?) when they play a song you request. When was the last time a radio station cared about you? Or contacted you in a way you wanted to be contacted?

What consumers want

Perhaps it's


that's what they say, anyway.

I don't think that's what it is. I think we want:

expectations exceeded

What makes an idea spread?

Ed Burtynsky is a world-acclaimed artist. Working with some folks from Ted and the Sapling Foundation, he's put together an effort to spread his work on the environment: Worldchanging Campaign.

Will this be as popular as the Numa Numa song? Hard to imagine, but if impact matters, then it should.

Important publishing news

How you know there's too much clutter:

Babybutts Hylas, the publisher down the road from my office, is about to publish a book of baby animal butts. Not to be outdone, Georgetown University Press, with just a few books released each season, is featuring a Dictionary of Turkish Verbs.

If it succeeds, I expect a book on Turkish nouns any minute.

Taking responsibility

One of the best ways to enrage a customer is to duck responsibility.

Airlines do it, accountants do it, lawyers do it. Doctors, too. Frontline service workers are always in the awkward position of having to deal with angry customers about something that's not their fault.

Often, the very act of evasion is what the customer is angry about. All we want is someone to look us in the eye and take responsibility.

Here's a note someone sent, enraged about a Valentine's Day order gone wrong:

Here is an email that I received when I came home on Tuesday Feb 14th.  It
is from a company named Shari's Berries.  I saw their product on Good
Morning America last week and decided to order some chocolate covered
strawberries for a gift.  Their web-site guaranteed Valentine's Day
delivery.  I must tell you the price was not cheap.  I ordered a gift
selection and with delivery it was over $65.00.



We are writing to inform you that your order for delivery February 14th was
not shipped yesterday as requested. 

We are prepared to ship your order on February 14th for arrival on the 15th
..  Alternatively, you do have the option of canceling your order, but we'd
rather you did not.

We regret that your order did not ship as requested and in consideration of
this delay, if you wish us to still ship the order, we will provide a
discount of 40% off the normal product price.

Please choose which course of action you wish that we take by replying to
this email or by sending an email to  <> .


Shari's Berries Customer Service Team


Obviously, he's upset. The whole point of the stupidity of Valentine's Day is that you have to have the goods, on time, or it doesn't count.

But what's enraging about this note is that it's not from a real person. That they don't explain why or how they screwed up. That they didn't learn anything. And that they don't accept responsibility.

What if Shari herself had written? What if she had explained what had happened, how it wouldn't happen again, and what she had learned?

The problem with accepting responsibility, though, is that you can be too glib about it. A lot of responsibility taking in today's newspaper for example,

"It was not Harry's fault," Cheney said Wednesday on Fox News. "You can't blame anybody else. I'm the guy who pulled the trigger and shot my friend."

"I am responsible for the Department of Homeland Security," said Michael Chertoff before Congress, explaining away the loss of life and property. "I'm accountable and accept responsibility for the performance of the entire department."

David J. Edmondson, CEO of Radio Shack, after being caught faking his academic background, "I clearly misstated my academic record and the responsibility for these misstatements is mine alone."

Is "I accept responsibility" the new "Your call is very important to us"? Probably.

The Reason

The reason they teach biology before they teach chemistry in high school is that biology was invented first. Even though you need chemistry to do biology, but not vice versa.

The reason that you have a water bubbler in your office is that it used to be difficult to filter water effectively.

The reason that Blockbuster exists is that VCR tapes used to cost more than $100.

The reason that SUVs have a truck chassis is that the government regulates vehicles with a truck chassis differently.

The reason you have a front lawn is to demonstrate to your friends and neighbors how much time and energy you're prepared to waste.

The reason the typewriter keyboard is in a weird order is that original typewriters jammed, and they needed to rearrange the letters to keep common letters far apart.

The reason we don't have school in the summer is so our kids can help with farmwork. Or because it's too hot and there's no air conditioning...

The reason there's a toll on that bridge but not on that road is that there used to be a ferry on that river, and the ferryman needed to make a living.

The reason you go to a building to go to work every day is that steam or water power used to turn a giant winch-like structure that went right through the factory building. Every workman used that power to do his work. As factories got more sophisticated, it remained efficient to move the workers, not the stuff.

What's your reason?

Juicy new google feature

Maybe you've seen it, I hadn't. This is a new feature inside of Google AdWords. Do a search, in this case for the Artisan Hotel, and a string of ads pop up. But one ad has a green phone.

Callnow Click on the green phone and an ajax window opens up. Type in your phone number (remembered after the first time) and the sponsor calls you!

Too bad it didn't work. It probably will. When it does, it changes the game, again.


More superstition

Joanna Ossinger, a Journal copyeditor, writes in the - The Problem With Parody.

It's difficult to tell how such cases would fare in a courtroom. Copyright law doesn't specifically address Internet parodies, so they would fall under "fair use" doctrine, which covers newly developed technologies and situations.

This, of course, is nonsense. That's not what fair use is, and an Internet parody is no different from any other kind of parody.

So many decisions we make every day are about stuff we know almost nothing about. We believe our tech guys or the writers at the Wall Street Journal. We believe the car dealer or the talking head on Fox. We make decisions about website design, product quality, environmental impact and yes, copyright law, all without understanding the basic principles involved.

No, you can't learn everything--they keep making more info every day, and you'll never keep up. But being a polymath is underrated. Today, it's almost essential that you dig deep enough, that when you're making a high-leverage decision, it's essential to know if it's based on superstion or fact.

Don't tell me you don't have any good ideas

Well, maybe it's because you don't have the Ideabook yet.

Not easily available in the US. Worth the hassle: (tip, press on the "English" button in the bottom right hand corner).

Categories and the short head

Shorthead Zipf's Law tells us that something that ranks #1 in a category often sells 100 times as well as the item ranked #100. Human nature makes that likely--we want to read the most popular book, hire the most successful speaker, travel to the most desired place.

Which means that the category you're in matters.

The New York Times doesn't have one bestseller list, it has many. Hardcover and paperback, sure, but also non-fiction, fiction and "advice, how to and miscellaneous." When one book threatens to dominate a category (as Harry Potter did) they invent a new one just for that book.

This week's Times reports that James Frey's controversial book is still "non-fiction" (with a disclaimer) and that Malcolm Gladwell's fine books continue to be non-fiction as well (though mine are considered advice, how-to or miscellaneous, not sure which, not sure why). Dave Barry, surprisingly, doesn't write humor (which is miscellaneous, right?) or even advice (his new book parodies money books) but is, in fact, non-fiction.

It matters at the Times because the advice category is the most competitive and also the shortest.

The reason you should care about all this: you are in a category too. So is your organization.

And you have a lot of influence over what category you're going to be placed in.

For example, there are a lot of software products (fireclick, hitbox, etc.) that measure analytics. Unfortunately for these guys, in the very same category is Google analytics, which is free. Google is now the official short head of analytics, and as long as you are in the same category as they are, you're in trouble.

For example, there are a lot of software engineers looking for jobs. And some of those engineers have absolutely stellar backgrounds and great skills. As long as you are in the same category as they are (and there's only one slot available) then they get the short head advantage.

For example, there are a lot of blogs. Blogs that invent brand-new categories grow far faster than those that just live in an existing category.

Sometimes you want to be in a category unto yourself. This works with blogs or (sometimes) with blockbuster movies (ask Mel Gibson).

Squidoo was most intentionally placed in the Web 2.0 category. Not because it changed what the service does, but because the attributes and attention of that category were both a good fit and moving in the right direction (up). If you can join a category that is already generating conversations, you're more likely to get talked about.

Other times, you want to be in a category with a lot of churn that is proven popular. Like non-fiction books or cosmetics for teenagers. Here, the current short head leader won't last long, and if you're in the right line, you might be next.

What you don't want to do, it seems to me, is not pay attention to which category you are in. Pick your category and live and breathe and act appropriately for that category. Choose wrong (the way Pringles potato chips did) it might take years or longer for people to notice and embrace what you've built.

That doesn't look like a chocolate bar

PyramideMy friend Brian sent me a stack of chocolate he picked up in London. Besides being amazing (and I don't use the term lightly), the packaging is brilliant.

It communicates all the right messages, tells a story and is easy to share--the story and the chocolate! Thanks, Brian.

Flipping the newspaper funnel

Darren Devitt points us to (warning, gratuitous bathing suits in February alert): Heidi Klum's Search for Top Models: When Super Skinny Is "Too Fat" - International - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News.

Scroll down to the bottom and you'll notice a technorati link.

One of the most popular newspapers in Europe is now pointing its readers to what people all over the world are saying about the subjects of their stories. For each and every story.

PS I picked the racy example, not Darren

Organic web growth

Organicgrowth Here's what person to person organic growth looks like (from This is one of the most popular sites on the web. No giant promotions, no SuperBowl ads. It's so classic, it could be in a textbook.

I'll let you know which site next week.

Hearing, part II

So, of course, the Eata Pita parable below is part of a bigger story.

How many organizations don't hear?

I don't mean the counterpeople and the customer service reps. I mean, how many organizations are organized to actually allow customers and prospects to share their insights and feedback?

Second, how many of those organizations have management that bother to listen to the feedback? Or employees that are empowered to do something with it?

And finally, once an organization listens, does it actually do something about what it comes across?

Insert [political party, relgious order, non-profit, for profit, teacher, school board, insurance company] here. Do they Hear, Listen and then Act?

Hearing, Listening, Action

Lunch today was supposed to be at Eata Pita in the basement of Grand Central Station. I was there early, there was no line.

"I'd like some hummus and a whole wheat pita, please. With hot sauce and some lettuce if you can. Thanks."

The guy just looked at me.

No surprise. I mean, it's like Grand Central Station in there sometimes. He couldn't hear me.

So, I repeated myself. He smiled, scooped up some hummus, added some lettuce and started to close up the container.

"Could I have some hot sauce, please?... and a whole wheat pita?"

He hadn't been listening.

He smiled and put the hot sauce on the hummus, sealed it up and gave it to the cashier, and then walked away. He obviously heard my repeated request for a whole wheat pita, but didn't take action.

The cashier looked at me with the universal, "I was standing here but didn't listen or hear and have no idea what you just ordered" expression. "A hummus with whole wheat pita," I said, helpfully.

She rang me up. No pita.

"Can I have a whole wheat pita please?"

She turned around, grabbed a wrapped pita from the top shelf, smiled, and put it in the bag. I went to the train. Opened my lunch as we pulled away. Not a whole wheat pita. A poisoned white bread pita, food of the oppressors!


The folks at Eata Pita don't get the Hearing, Listening, Action scenario.

You get it, it's obvious. So why don't they?

Squidoo update

Nice piece on CNN yesterday.

And a new lens designed to make it easy to buy stuff you were going to buy anyway (and some stuff you didn't imagine you'd ever want), with all royalties going straight to JDRF. Squidoo : Helping the fight against diabetes. One lens that does that won't make much difference, but what if every person reading this built one supporting a favorite charity (more charities coming soon, by the way).

PS check out this lens on the church burnings. I had no idea people would use Squidoo to work on problems like this one. Breathtaking.

Not a stunt

Dave Balter invited an author inside of his company to blog about what's happening. No filters (okay, a few filters, but not many): 90 Days of BzzAgent.

I've known Dave a while, and I can tell you that he's more interested in reading the blog than in having you read it. Like Jay Chiat, Dave is really interested in the process, not just the results.

How can I get more traffic?

That's the number one request (other than, "pass the salad dressing") of most of the people I meet.

The problem, of course, is in the "get." The request has at its foundation the assumption that what you've built has somehow earned attention. "Our business model is working great--we just need more traffic..."

People never say, "how can I earn more traffic?" or "How can I rethink the core of what I'm offering so that it organically attracts people who want to see it?"

Getting traffic is a little like getting a date. You can probably manipulate the system for a little while (I had a roommate in college who was great at it) but self-reinvention is a markedly better long-term strategy.

"I don't believe it"

That was one of two reactions to a study published in JAMA yesterday. The study, which tracked 50,000 women for decades, found no connection between a low fat diet and cancer or heart disease. (pop summary)

If you're like me and you run screaming from a donut, you couldn't help but take the position that Dean Ornish took. The study was "deeply flawed" from the outset because the fat-content reduction was too low, he said. "It didn't ask participants to do much to begin with.''

And the other reaction? "Let's go to Krispy Kreme!"

If a $415 million study, one sponsored by National Heart Lung and Blood Institute and featured in the Journal of the American Medical Association isn't sufficient to change the minds of people who care about their health...

...what chance is there that a banner ad or direct mail letter or TV commercial is going to change anyone's preconceptions about what you sell?

It's a lot easier to leverage a worldview than it is to change one.

The video to show your boss

Robert Scoble gave a talk at LIFT. He makes a great case for flipping the funnel.

Thanks to Garr for the link.

More on stamps

I've gotten a lot of pushback on my post about stamps and friction and metrics.

Let me clarify, because I was making a different point (about measuring) so I glossed over the stamps idea:

1. we all agree spam is a pox.
2. spam exists because of the free rider problem. Without friction, without responsibility (it's anonymous) and with the cost absorbed by the ISP and the recipient, bad actors cause a problem.
3. also a problem: even permission email gets used up when senders take short term gains because it's free. I probably don't need all those emails from Amazon every time a book ships.

So, the answer I've agitating for is to add friction.

Stamps are great because you have to buy them. And buying them requires you to acknowledge who you are. Anonymity goes away.

Imagine a few big ISPs get together and say:

a. everyone gets an RSS reader that's easy to use. If you want to have frequent permission-based contact with organizations, put their RSS feed here.

b. there are other organizations you give permission to email you. But you don't want to hassle with RSS. No problem. Those organizations will pony up a quarter of a cent and that email ends up in your inbox. With a special flag indicating that the (non-anonymous) sender indicated you had signed up for it.

If you didn't sign up for it, let us know. If more than a tiny number of people call it spam, then that sender is busted. They forfeit a bond and we blacklist them. Just because they paid doesn't mean they can spam.

c. the old rules of email remain. BUT, if you get an email from someone who is not on your address list OR they're not paying a quarter of a cent, we assume that this is mail you don't really want and we put it in your suspect folder. Of course, you're always welcome to take it out of that folder, add the sender to your favorites list (with one click) and that's that.

So, what would happen:

a. the ebays and the amazons of the world would be in your rss reader, where they belong
b. the amount of spam in your goodbox would be tiny
c. people with legitimate reasons to reach you who don't want to pay the quarter of a cent would be in your otherbox, waiting for you to find them.

Who wins:

a. ISPs. They save processing power, they make a few million bucks in stamp sales, they have happier users.

b. users. Less hassle getting through their inbox.

c. marketers with real permission who have an RSS relationship.

d. marketers with real permission who get more than a quarter of a cent of value out of bothering you (and again, if it's not worth a quarter of a cent to you, it's hardly worth three seconds of my time.

Who loses:
1. spammers. They default to the spam box.
2. marketers who measure tonnage.

Fashion breaks

Should we be angry when an iPod breaks after two years? Joe Nocera sent Apple a Nastygram in the Times yesterday (reveries).

I think it's misguided.

"Hey, I bought this suit from Brooks Brothers two years ago! And I just spilled chicken soup all over it, and now they won't fix it or take it back." Even worse, Brooks Brothers doesn't even offer an extended warranty...

There's still a business called the Fountain Pen Hospital. When you buy a pen for $100, you expect that maybe you can get it fixed. But pens are now disposable fashion items, not tools that last a lifetime.

What Steve Jobs has done, brilliantly, is turned the iPod into a fashion item. The very first iPods, the ones you can buy on eBay for $30, those still function fine. If you want a tool, buy one of those. But if you want to show off how cool you are, you need a fashionable one. When you buy a fashion, Joe, realize that this is what you bought... the fashion. Or spring for the $60 and buy the warranty!

First time?

I was mentioned in an AP story today, and the reach of the wire services remain incredible. So, if you're here for the first time, here's a summary lens: Squidoo:  Seth Godin.

Making your numbers

Stairmaster See the woman on your right? She's cheating.

When you use a Stairmaster, you can score higher numbers by using your arms for support. This technique allows you to work out at a higher number.


Ridiculous because the number has nothing to do with her fitness. She is actually hurting her arms and back, just so she can work out at 12 instead of 11.

It's human nature to want to beat your metrics.

The challenge comes in setting metrics that make sense.

In this article, Saul Hansell writes about a long overdue innovation that I've been lobbying for since 1996: stamps. Stamps for email add friction and will eliminate spam if applied properly. Bulk mailers pay a quarter of a cent per email to get their permission-based email handled properly. The rest gets treated as junk. (The new program isn't just like my concept, but very close).

Matthew Moog of Coolsavings doesn't like this idea. "No one wants Goodmail or any other provider to set up a tollbooth that makes it cost-prohibitive for legitimate mailers to reach the in-box," he says.

I say that the right metric isn't how much it costs to send a mail. It's how much sending a mail is worth! In other words, if an industry-wide .25 cent stamp eliminates spam, it's likely to double or triple the response rate to permission mail. A boon! If you send me 100 emails with stamps, and I read them all, you've spent a quarter. If you can't cost-justify that, you shouldn't be writing to me. If I were an email permission marketer, I'd love this... the same way the DMA should have embraced the do not call list.

The same metric mistake comes up when we see sites that do whatever they can to artificially boost traffic. Saw a blog post today in which the author mentioned the name of ten or fifteen bloggers, ostensibly in context, with links to each, all in an attempt to game the system. But what's his real goal? When increasing the metric doesn't increase the benefit, then you have the wrong metric.

In non-small companies, you need to invent placeholders so that everyone on the team is on the same page. But careful when pursuit of the placeholder doesn't get you closer to the thing you were seeking in the first place. (Hint: Super Bowl viewers don't necessarily equal car buyers).

Found it

Outlet Once I used the flash on my camera, I was able to find the port.

It is not located in the lamp.
It is not located in the big phone.
It is not located in the small phone.

It is, of course, located on the leg of the table.

I'm humiliated to report that I needed to call the front desk (twice) at midnight. Both times, the operator had no clue where it might be. When someone finally came up, and we found it (together, because she didn't know either), I asked why they hadn't made a sign. And she said, and I'm not making this up: "Because it's in a different spot in every room."

Thanks to all who hazarded a guess.

Find the ethernet port

Findtheport This photo, taken with room lighting conditions at the Intercontinental hotel in Toronto.

Where's the ethernet jack? (note to hotels: wifi hubs are cheap.)

Answer tomorrow. First person to post the right answer on his or her blog gets an autographed book (I'll even sign a book by someone else if you want).


Potato Fashion is all about shared attention and the converstations it provokes.

Erin Crowe caught a fashion wave when TV noticed her Alan Greenspan portraits. She sold the last one on Ebay for a bazillion dollars (for charity) and along the way sold enough other paintings to make Alex Tew look like the owner of a lemonade stand.

The really interesting part is this:

Link: eBay - greenspan, greenspan Art, Paintings, Prints items on

Apparently, anyone with a crayon is now busy selling Greenspan paintings. At least they're better looking than grilled cheese sandwiches with the Virgin Mary embedded.

Yes, this is a picture of a Mr. Potato-head of Mr. Greenspud. You too can bid for it online.

The other interesting thing: how much inside baseball talk I can put into just one blog post. Explained:

"fashion" and "conversation" are riffs from books like Unleashing the Ideavirus and The Cluetrain Manifesto.

Alex Tew is the guy who did the Million Dollar Homepage.

The grilled cheese on eBay reference comes from a woman who sold a years-old grilled cheese sandwich on eBay last year. For more than $20,000. She said it looked like the Virgin Mary.

And "inside baseball" is an expression for jargon and shorthand that leaves outsiders clueless.

Where big companies come from

From small companies, naturally!

It's the seventieth anniversary of the Oscar Weinermobile. This history of Kraft is absolutely fascinating:  Kraft Foods Story.

What customer surveys measure

They don't measure how good your service is. Or how optimal your product is.

They measure how well you did compared to expectations. They measure how well people rank you in the survey.

They're not the same.

Doing things right is important. Setting expectations is even more important--if your goal is to spread the word.

The Conference Board of Canada just released a detaled study that showed that British Columbia has the best (by objective measures) health care system in Canada. It also reported that BC ranks among the lowest in customer satisfaction.

Not impossible, when you think about it.

« January 2006 | Main | March 2006 »