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

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All Marketers Tell Stories

Seth's most important book about the art of marketing

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The practical sequel to Purple Cow

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

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

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The classic Named "Best Business Book" by Fortune.

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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.

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Survival is Not Enough

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

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The Big Moo

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

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The Big Red Fez

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

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The Dip

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

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The Icarus Deception

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

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Tribes

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

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Unleashing the Ideavirus

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

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V Is For Vulnerable

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

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We Are All Weird

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

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Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck?

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THE DIP BLOG by Seth Godin




All Marketers Are Liars Blog




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« February 2006 | Main | April 2006 »

The gap

Last week, I had dinner with a senior TV exec. He was not only not nervous about the Net, but he was uninterested in hearing about how it might be a threat. Today, Saul Hansell has a great piece in the New York Times about slivercasts and the rapidly changing landscape.

There's no doubt in my mind that he's right about many of these issues, but the startling thing is the huge gap between the people with the incentive and resources to take advantage of the shift and the what the market is doing.

Been there, seen that.

What should Martin do?

Brad Kozak writes about the dilemma faced by Martin guitars. How to compete against the rising tide of low-cost import guitars without hurting their brand... novel thoughts.

The best presentation...

Ever since my early warning shot about Powerpoint, I've noticed an increasing tide of writing about:
a. how much people hate giving presentations
b. how bad they are at it

I just came across a super new book on the topic, Why Bad Presentations Happen to Good Causes. Even if the content wasn't good (it is) the quality of the printing is so wonderful, it's a pleasure to hold. (found it courtesy of the insight of Richard Pachter).

Part of what Andy points out is that presentations to groups of 50 or more are usually done by people who aren't comfortable doing them, and they're not usually very well received.

Which led to this thought:

The best presentation might be no presentation.

If you're going to bother to do something, you ought to do it very well indeed. Otherwise, don't. Don't show up. Don't waste your time (or mine.)

"But," you say, "I have to." I have to because my boss said I do, or because I can't make the sale without it or, best reason of all, because it's my best chance to be in a position of authority in front of a whole bunch of prospects/influencers/investors/media, etc.

But, if you're going to do a lousy job...

So, here's what I'd like you to consider:

Skip straight to the part that people seem to like the best, and that you're the best at: the Q&A.

Step 1: get a confederate (a helper, not someone from Atlanta) to sit in the audience ready with the first obviously seeded question.

Step 2: Walk onstage. No laptop.

Step 3: "Any questions?"

Step 4: The seeded question is something like: "So, Seth, what have you been up to?"

Answer it. In English. Like the person you are, not the flat, stressed, boring person you become when you have a Powerpoint under your control.

At that point, five minutes into it, you've told me an honest human story about why you came and what you're up to. Now, the audience, sufficiently engaged, will happily pepper you with questions for your entire alloted time.

That's the way the world really works off-stage. Maybe it would work for you on-stage.

Bite sized

What do the Dubai port deal, the numa numa video, Danish cartoons and yellow wristbands have in common?

They all spread because they were easy to spread. At the same time that climate cancer languishes in the background, voters inundate Congress with phone calls about the port deal. And pundits are surprised--shocked!--at how irrational the public is.

Actually, our behavior as people is pretty easy to predict. We like things that are simple, not complex. Issues where we can take action without changing very much. If a marketer brings us a new idea, it's either ignored or it's a problem. A problem because we have to do something with the idea. Buy the new suit, trade in for the new car, install a new IT solution or change the way we feel about an issue.

The best problems, as far as a consumer is concerned, are those that can be solved quickly and easily, with few side effects.

Bite sized doesn't mean small, though. When the stakes are high enough, people are willing to do really big things (like join the Army), if they believe that those big things are in and of themselves sufficient to have an impact on the problem. It's bite sized, but a big bite.

Why are millions of Americans going to die of preventable diabetes and heart disease every year? Because the action needed to avoid the problem isn't bite sized. And why did blogging take three years to really take off? Same reason.

Do you trust marketers?

Do you trust eBay? Of course, eBay isn't one organism... it is a collection of millions of people, some not so nice.

Do a search to buy an LCD monitor. You'll find thousands of them. So sort by price. Wow, here are a whole bunch for $20, Buy it Now. Wow. Then you look and see that it's not really a monitor, it's a list of LCD wholesalers. $20 for a few sheets of paper. Who needs that? And there are more than a few people selling this list. Why?

Okay, let's try a different category. Here's one, 19 inches, new in the box, a Dell, only $50 Buy it Now. Wow! Wait, the shipping is $230...

It took me years to realize why people looked at me funny when I told them I was a marketer.

They don't like us or trust us. No surprise, really.

Most people don't really care about price

Of course, you've heard the objection. "It just costs too much."

Today's Times reports that 411 accounts for more than a billion calls a year--at just one provider. That's more than a billion dollars a year being spent for a service that is truly a commodity--you want the number, here it is, bye.

And yet, Easy411 provides precisely the same service to callers for half the price. Why doesn't everyone use them? Because it's not just the price. It's the hassle and the set up and the "I didn't get around to it" nature of saving a few bucks.

Example 2: check out the parking lot at Costco. Lots of $40,000 or more cars and SUVs in the lot, people who wasted a few shekels worth of gas to drive out of their way to invest an hour of time to save a dollar on a big jar of pickles. These are the same people who will spend an extra $100 on an airplane ticket to save a few minutes in getting home after a meeting.

My point, and I do have one, is that price is a signal, a story, a situational decision that is never absolute. It's just part of what goes into making a decision, no matter what we're buying.

The slush pile

Robin Benson points us to The $39 Experiment: Asking Random Companies for Free Stuff.

The gimmick is that someone asked 100 companies for free samples and chronicled the response.

Here's the surprise: most companies took no action at all.

And a few companies wrote back and said "no."

What does it cost for Del Monte to get someone to notice one of their products, to get someone to think about a product or to even buy one? Now, compare this to the cost of sending someone (who took the time to write) a coupon or two and a letter.

The first takes money. The second takes a little thought and a tiny bit of time.

Marketers shouldn't fall for every scammer that comes along. But if someone chooses to pay attention, there are countless ways you can invite them to spread the word on your behalf.

Sometimes marketers are so busy yelling at people they don't even notice inviduals who take the time to raise their hands.

Purple does not mean grape-flavored

The Grapple is a fuji apple filled with artificial grape flavoring (or maybe real grape designed to taste artificial.) It is remarkable only in the sense that it is such a bad idea and tastes so awful that people cannot help but comment on its stupidty.  CiN Weekly - Grape apple=grapple.

"It can't be helped"

Peter Payne writes in his newsletter from Japan:

Time and time again I've noticed the power the
opinions of gaijin have to effect change in Japan, whether it's asking to have
a non-smoking section added to a restaurant or pointing out that the restroom
was not as clean as it could be (things Japanese would say "it can't be
helped" about). Just today, while going to lunch, we spotted a young woman
driving with her 4-year-old daughter who was standing up in the front seat.
The idea of child carseats are still somewhat alien to Japan, a country that
only passed its first carseat law in 1999, and children playing inside moving
cars is something I've seen all to often. When we stopped at a light I went
into "seigi no mikata" (champion of justice) mode, got out of the car, and
publicly reprimanded the mother, telling to put her damn child in a seat belt,
at the very least. She immediately complied, embarrassed at being lectured
while people in the surrounding cars looked on.

###

Of course, it's not just Japan and it's not just car seats. There are countless things in your products and services that are there because it can't be helped. As soon as you open yourself to interactions with the market (real interactions, not deniable forms) you discover that a lot of stuff can be helped.

The future is in serials

CapnNo, not that kind.

Apple is now starting to sell 16 tv shows for one low low price. You get the fresh one, and the rest are delivered as they become available.

A long time ago, I called this the milkman's return. Home delivery of milk was a great idea because it spread the cost of making a sale over many, many items.

It's too easy to focus on the one-shot. Instead, someone in the serial business understands that once you've got subscribers, you can spend all your time finding products for your customers instead of searching for customers for your products.

Armadillo Marketing

Gary Dietz coins a new phrase: Armadillo Marketing.

Hard shell on the outside, gooey inside. Marketing you do for yourself or your client, not because it works in spreading your message to the outside world.

Not our fault

NewhallBrett Newhall points us to this photo.

Yes, Sony tried to run this ad in a subway station.

A spokesman for JC Decaux said, "We leave it to Metrolink and the Advertising Standards Agency to decide whether something is appropriate, that isn't our role." 

Could be a great way to start the eulogy at a funeral.

Proof of what you already knew

One of the most popular lenses on Squidoo is about a pro wrestler named Rey Mysterio. It happens to be a really good lens, but hey, it's about a guy in a mask.

So why is it getting so much traffic?

It turns out that a Google search ("reymysterio" no spaces) turns up this lens as the second match.

This economy of spelling leads to thousands of organic visits. Most of those visitors leave happy, because the lens tells you just about everything you'd ever want to know about Mr. Mysterio.

The good news for Google investors is that the efficiency of using google.com means that many people (perhaps most people) start their online journey on Google, even if they know the url. (www.reymysterio.com is a site about the wrestler). That's one reason why ads on a search page are worth so much more than ads in most other places online... you reach people on their way to somewhere else. But you already knew that.

When we were developing Squidoo, I can assure you that no time whatsoever was spent discussing how we might attract the pro wrestler community. But the long tail is once again at work, and if Squidoo succeeds, it will be because of the proximity of tens of thousands of topics just like this one.

Is this your daughter?

Brian Baute points us to the most amazing Spelling Bee clip in history. Wouldn't it be great to be friends with her? Or to be her mom and dad?

Facts that feel right

For a fact to spread, it needs to have the right structure and match our worldview. This hysterically funny site makes it obvious: Gullible.info.

Competition

In the early 1980s, these are the words you would have needed to spell in order to win the national spelling bee:

sarcophagus

psoriasis

Purim

luge

milieu

(I thought there were two "l"s in milieu, but I would have gotten the rest right.)

Here are the words that won the last five years:

succedaneum

prospicience

pococurante

autochthonous

appoggiatura

Sometimes, I think, the value of winning is dwarfed by the chances of doing so. As a market gets more competitive, winning by the traditional rules gets more and more difficult. Some choose to try even harder. Some just make up new rules or invent new markets.

Not rights, but smart stuff

Tim Baxter points me to a riff from Howard Mann, which he got from Wunderman: Consumers Communications Bill Of Rights // Dig Tank. Unlike some of the other "Bill of Rights" type riffs I've seen, what's neat about this one is that morality has nothing to do with it. Here are five rules that will make you more money and increase effectiveness... by treating people with respect:

1. Tell me clearly who you are, and why you are contacting me.

2. Tell me clearly what you are, or are not, going to do with the information I give you.

3. Don't pretend that you know me personally. You don't know me; you know some things about me.

4. Don't assume that we have a relationship.

5. Don't assume that I want to have a relationship with you.

First time?

The viral nature of my talk at Google has astounded me. TV really is the influenza of idea spreading. If I had a million dollars for every single person who downloaded the video, I'd have almost as much money as Google. If you're here for the first time, can I commend you to the RSS and MyYahoo links to your left, as well as this lens, which features some of my most notorious past posts and such. Thanks for reading.

The painless dentist

A friend complains, "I'm going to switch dentists."

Always inquisitive (on your behalf) and eager to share his tale of woe, I asked why.

Well, it turns out that the dentist was running five minutes early, only kept him in the chair for twenty minutes and had him out and on the road ahead of schedule.

Steve, it seems, doesn't think he's done his dental duty. He doesn't think his teeth are as clean as they were at the old dentist. It wasn't enough work.

Dentists are working like crazy to remarket themselves. They don't use words like 'drill' or 'pain'. They put tvs in the waiting room. They try to be on time and less painful.

Worldview matters. Steve's worldview is that a visit to the dentist should have all that dental overhead stuff in order to count.

Is there a first mover advantage?

Some conventional wisdom says that you need to be first to win. People will point to eBay and Microsoft and Starbucks and the William Morris Agency and say, "if it's a natural monopoly or a market where switching costs are high, the first person in, wins."

This argument has been amplified lately by the high cost of building a name for yourself (it would cost just too much to build a brand bigger than Starbucks in a post-TV world) as well as the network effects of things like eBay and Hotmail.

Skeptics scream foul. They point out that not one of the examples I gave above was actually the first mover. There were plenty of others that came first, and, they argue, the fast follower won by learning from the mistakes of the innovator. They argue that innovation is overrated and low costs and good service are the key.

I think both sides are wrong (and right) and the mistake is caused by the erroneous belief that there's a market.

There isn't a market.

There are a million markets. Markets of one, or markets of small groups, or markets of cohorts that communicate.

If you're an eBay user, my guess is that eBay was the first auction site you used. If you use Windows, my guess is that you never used CPM. And if you are a Starbucks junkie, my guess is that you don't live near a Peets.

What happens: the market often belongs to the first person who brings you the right story on the right day.

Yes, you must be first (and right) in that market or this market.
But that doesn't mean you have to be first (and right) in the universe.

The market is splintering more than even some pundits predicted in 1998 (that would be me). Which means that the idea of monolithic marketing messages to monolithic markets makes no sense. The race is now to be the first mover in the micromarkets where attention matters.

Of course, those micromarkets are leaky. People don't cooperate. They talk to each other. So pretty quickly, that splintered market coalesces into something bigger.

Thanks for supporting the Big Moo

A quick update on The Big Moo by The Group of 33. Regular readers know that all royalties go to charity. Well, we've just sold rights in several countries around the world, the publisher has gone back to press (!) on the US version and the folks at remarkabalize.com have sold thousands of customized copies as well.

This means that nearly $200,000 has been donated to JDRF, Room to Read and the Acumen Fund. Thanks for all your support.

Live at Google

Enjoy (hey, it's free):  "All Marketers are Liars" - Seth Godin speaks at Google - Google Video.

The regular kind

I'm told that in Ethiopia, even the littlest kids eat Ethiopian food.

Hard to tell if you've ever tried to feed a six-year-old. All she wants is the regular kind. "Why is this bread brown? I want the regular kind!"

Take a walk through Boca Raton, Florida, and you'll see countless retired folks, all driving the regular kind of car.

And the ketchup aisle of your grocery store sells plenty of Heinz, thanks very much.

There's a huge demand for the regular kind in industry as well. The regular kind of bizdev deal and the regular kind of ad buy. The regular kind of accounting treatment and of course, the regular annual conference.

It's not surprising that people in search of stability demand what they're used to. It is surprising that those in search of growth or value or even just delight are so quick to abandon that search on settle for regular whenever there is stress in their environment.

Needed a little Japanese help

If there's a reader out there who can visit a website I've found and send a note in Japanese to the webmaster (I'm trying to license an image), I'd much appreciate it. Drop me an email today (it's Friday). I'll delete this post once I've got someone. Thanks!

PS Got not one but two volunteers within minutes. Many thanks. I'll update you if we succeed.

Why wouldn't they?

In a post about the lens of day, Megan Casey asks:

What would happen if every publicist or marketer at every imprint made a lens for every book he or she was publishing? Or the better question is, why wouldn’t they?

If you're hungry and there's a piece of toast on the table, you'll eat it. Why wouldn't you?

So, if you're a business looking to grow, and there's a cheap or free way to do that, why wouldn't you? Why does Google traffic keep growing--it's the same search engine it was a year ago, what were people waiting for?

Most of the things people market are about "going up." Getting more of what you're funking for.

The "go up" equation is complicated by the fact that every go up comes with a hint of "fall down." There's a risk to doing anything new. What if that new search engine gives my computer a (mythical) virus and it crashes and I lose my job? What if that toast was put there by a KGB agent and it's covered with evil truth serum?

It's really easy to underestimate how afraid people are of even the tiniest changes--especially in areas where they're already a little uncomfortable.

The best response may not be to reiterate the "go up" benefits. It might be to amplify the risks of doing nothing.

Can't, Won't, Try

Jill Barringer points out that she's now saying, "I'll try" instead of "you can't."

Better for the customer (even when she fails to give them what she set out to give them) and better, she says, for her.

90% of the time, that's all the prospect wanted anyway.

There's always a story

You would think that choosing the provider of electricity for the Statue of Liberty would be straightforward. I mean, watts sure are a commodity.

Of course, they're not. The statue is now wind powered. Nation's Landmarks Adopt 100% Renewable Energy.

Minor geek note

I'm using the new MacBook (the product is just a little better than the name). If you get one, be sure to get the beta Firefox to go with it: Mac:Intel - wiki.mozilla.org. It changes everything for the better. No one tells you these things anymore.

Careful with that mailmerge!

Just got a note from Ben. Ben is writing to several authors, asking them to be his mentor. The first sentence of the note indicates that my book is even better than book X by another author.

Notes like this always make me sad, partly because I don't have time to take on a project like that, and partly because I wish Ben and others would find mentors closer to home.

That said, this one made me extra sad. Because a few seconds later I got another note from Ben, this one just like the other, except it said that he liked book X way more than other books, including one of mine. It was obviously meant for the other author.

Mailmerge is a scary powerful tool that is a little like skiing. If you do it long enough, you're going to get hurt.

Can't vs. Won't

Sometimes, precise language can change an organization.

How many times has a broker, or a clerk or a salesperson or some other intermediary (who was just a moment ago being quite helpful) turned to you and said, "I'm sorry, we can't do that."

We can't comp your room.
We can't let you use the showers.
We can't reduce the fee on a very large transaction.
We can't take this car in trade.
We can't give you a raise.

In fact, the correct contraction in each case is "won't."

And once you say "won't" you realize exactly what you're doing.

You're telling a prospect (the most important person in your life, at least in this moment) that your organization doesn't want to accomodate them. Want being the key word.

You're telling a repeat customer (the person most likely to start spreading good word about you) that your organization doesn't want to create an impression worth repeating.

Now, the clerk may believe that she can't change the rules, so for her, it really is "can't." But of course, she started by saying "we." By permitting her to absolve herself of responsibility, the manager is encouraging her front line people to act like cogs, not like thinking, caring people.

There are a thousand reasons you should say no to people. But be honest with yourself, and don't quote the laws of physics or some mythical federal regulation. The same way that just-in-time Kanban inventory systems saved the Japanese car industry, forcing every person in your organization to tell the truth about their decisions will push your organization to do what it should, not just what it feels like.

Why you need an MBA

Rajesh Setty has just published a free ebook inspired by a column of mine from a long time ago: "When you can't earn an MBA...".

The reason people need an MBA? (or at least the reason most people do): it's hard to follow through and stick with a self-improvement program when you don't have the financial commitment and social pressure.

You could be the exception... it's shorter and cheaper than two years, but not so easy!

Six of one...

Usair

John Cronin writes: I thought you would get a kick out of this.  I was in the Detroit airport
today flying US Air and they had two signs at the entrance.  "If you are
going to Phoenix or Las Vegas check in HERE at Line A".  Second sign said

"If you are going to Charlotte, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, or Washington check in HERE at Line A".  Below this text is said if you are going to any other destination go to Line B.

They gave you two choices, both said Line A.  Now there are many people going to destinations other than what they listed.  Luckily I was going to DC and could figure it out, but I sat back and watched and people were walking around looking for Line B.  There is no line B. People either gave up and got into one of the lines or walked around the line to interrupt someone who had waited in line which line they belonged in.

My purple hat

Michael Gibbons just sent me a hat from  :: HOSSHATS ::.

All proceeds go to charity, and the story the hat tells is a powerful one.

The problem with "global warming"

We are facing what might be the greatest threat ever to the future of mankind.

And yet no one is marching in the streets, the outrage is largely intellectual and action is slow. (If you want to argue about the science, please visit the link above, this is a post about the marketing!)

Is the lack of outrage because of the population's decision that this is bad science or perhaps a thoughtful reading of the existing data?

Actually, the vast majority of the population hasn't even thought about the issue. The muted reaction to our impending disaster comes down to two things:

1. the name.

Global is good.
Warm is good.
Even greenhouses are good places.

How can "global warming" be bad?

I'm not being facetious. If the problem were called "Atmosphere cancer" or "Pollution death" the entire conversation would be framed in a different way.

2. the pace and the images.

One degree every few years doesn't make good TV. Because activists have been unable to tell their story with vivid images about immediate actions, it's just human nature to avoid the issue. Why give up something we enjoy now to make an infintesimal change in something that is going to happen far in the future?

Lady Bird Johnson understood this when she invested her efforts into a campaign against litter and pollution. The problem was easy to see. The messaging was emotional and immediate. You could see how your contribution (or efforts) mattered.

Because you don't see your coal being burned (it accounts for more than 50% of US electricity) and because the stuff coming out of your car is invisible, and because you don't live near a glacier, it's all invisible.

Doesn't matter what you market. Human beings want:
totems and icons
meters (put a real-time mpg or co2 meter in every car and watch what happens)
fashion
stories
and
pictures

95% of the new ideas that don't spread--even though their founders and fans believe they should--fail because of the list above.

« February 2006 | Main | April 2006 »