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

The complete list of online retailers

Bonus stuff!

or click on a title below to see the list


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



All Marketers Tell Stories

Seth's most important book about the art of marketing




Free Prize Inside

The practical sequel to Purple Cow





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




Meatball Sundae

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



Permission Marketing

The classic Named "Best Business Book" by Fortune.



Poke The Box

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




Purple Cow

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



Small is the New Big

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



Survival is Not Enough

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




The Big Moo

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



The Big Red Fez

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




The Dip

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




The Icarus Deception

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





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




Unleashing the Ideavirus

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



V Is For Vulnerable

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




We Are All Weird

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



Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck?

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



THE DIP BLOG by Seth Godin

All Marketers Are Liars Blog

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Member since 08/2003

« March 2006 | Main | May 2006 »

The next battlefield

So, online video is now free. With YouTube or Googlevideo, it costs you nothing to spread your idea... IF the idea spreads.

People aren't going to be in a great hurry to share "Ring around the collar commercials." But it's pretty clear that politics and religion are the next big thing. Like this one about the banana, or The Human Eye is NOT Irreducibly Complex!.

I think we're moments away from a deluge of advocacy shorts.

Thinking about Mother's Day

Mother's Day is not a real holiday, in that it was invented one day out of whole cloth. (side note: it's a day for pacifists--originally a political holiday invented by someone who today would be considered almost unpatriotic by some).

But the current story is close to perfect. It matches the worldview of moms (who rightfully believe that they deserve a little credit) and of families (who feel at least a little guilty.) It was a story that was easy to share, easy to spread and completely viral in nature.

Hallmark, restaurants and others have managed to tell this story over and over again, building a multi-billion industry around a simple idea.

This is an important lesson because it shows how the right story, a story that fits an archetype, can run and grow so fast. The Mother's Day story was a story most of our grandparents already "knew" and "believed" even though they hadn't heard it before.

My mom, who I miss every single day, didn't like Mother's Day at all. She was in the minority, but she felt manipulated by the commercial system and the expectations of everyone who benefitted from the holiday. I bet, though, that she would have liked these mugs:  davistudio: Modern Table Art.

Nintendo forgot to read my post

...on naming: Seth's Blog: The new rules of naming.

Their new multi-billion dollar entry into the hyper-competitive gaming market is called Wii.

Pronounced "we."


I'm sure there are ten good reasons to choose this name. I can't think of one of them.

The thing about picking a name for a product, a building or even a kid is that it's free. The single most important piece of free and fast marketing you'll ever do. You wouldn't name your daughter Elvis and you shouldn't name a device for male teenagers Wii.

PS there are more than a million google matches for "wii". None of them, as far as I can tell, are about video games.

PPS in talking with Fred today, he pointed out that a lot of people confuse "remarkable" with "different." Wii is a very different name. But it's not worth talking about, except in a negative way. Hopefully for Nintendo, the games will be worth talking about. The question: does the name of the device make it easier to talk about the games?

The Customer is Always Right

Stewpolicies Greg writes in and wants to know if that's really true. What if the customer is an amnesiac, a jerk, a difficult blowhard badmouther? What if the customer is the sort that wears his LL Bean khakis for a year and then sends them back?

In our ultracompetitive markets, how can you possibly have a chance in the face of enormous consumer power?

The answer might surprise you. It's the unwritten rule 3 on Stew Leonard's famous granite rock:

If the customer is wrong, they're not your customer any more.

In other words, if it's not worth making the customer right, fire her.

Successful organizations (and I include churches and political parties on the list) fire the 1% of their constituents that cause 95% of the pain.

Fire them?

Fire them. Politely decline to do business with them. Refer them to your arch competitors. Take them off the mailing list. Don't make promises you can't keep, don't be rude, just move on.

If you've got something worth paying for, you gain power when you refuse to offer it to every single person who is willing to pay you.

In 1988, my book packaging company had about six weeks worth of payroll in the bank. Yet we fired our biggest customer, someone who accounted for more than half our revenue. I still believe it was the right thing to do. We ended up happier and more successful, making up the business in a few months time.

If you treat a customer like he's wrong, he's going to leave, and probably tell a bunch of other people. Before you take that route, be direct, straightforward, polite and firm, and decline to sell to them.

So yes, the customer is always right. And if they're not, then one way or the other, they're not your customer any more.

Ode: How to tell a great story

Chris Fralic reminded me of this piece I wrote for Ode.

Great stories succeed because they are able to capture the imagination of large or important audiences.

A great story is true. Not necessarily because it’s factual, but because it’s consistent and authentic. Consumers are too good at sniffing out inconsistencies for a marketer to get away with a story that’s just slapped on.

Great stories make a promise. They promise fun, safety or a shortcut. The promise needs to be bold and audacious. It’s either exceptional or it’s not worth listening to.

Great stories are trusted. Trust is the scarcest resource we’ve got left. No one trusts anyone. People don’t trust the beautiful women ordering vodka at the corner bar (they’re getting paid by the liquor company). People don’t trust the spokespeople on commercials (who exactly is Rula Lenska?). And they certainly don’t trust the companies that make pharmaceuticals (Vioxx, apparently, can kill you). As a result, no marketer succeeds in telling a story unless he has earned the credibility to tell that story.

Great stories are subtle. Surprisingly, the fewer details a marketer spells out, the more powerful the story becomes. Talented marketers understand that allowing people to draw their own conclusions is far more effective than announcing the punch line.

Great stories happen fast. First impressions are far more powerful than we give them credit for.

Great stories don’t always need eight-page color brochures or a face-to-face meeting. Either you are ready to listen or you aren’t.

Great stories don’t appeal to logic, but they often appeal to our senses. Pheromones aren’t a myth. People decide if they like someone after just a sniff.

Great stories are rarely aimed at everyone. Average people are good at ignoring you. Average people have too many different points of view about life and average people are by and large satisfied. If you need to water down your story to appeal to everyone, it will appeal to no one. The most effective stories match the world view of a tiny audience—and then that tiny audience spreads the story.

Great stories don’t contradict themselves. If your restaurant is in the right location but had the wrong menu, you lose. If your art gallery carries the right artists but your staff is made up of rejects from a used car lot, you lose. Consumers are clever and they’ll see through your deceit at once.

Most of all, great stories agree with our world view. The best stories don’t teach people anything new. Instead, the best stories agree with what the audience already believes and makes the members of the audience feel smart and secure when reminded how right they were in the first place.


Inspired by All Marketers are Liars.

Marketing that matters

From Tim: LeaderNotes: How to Raise $500,000 from Middle Class White Kids (and Why the Red Cross Never Will).

The coming health crisis

A long line at the American Airlines counter. Finally, a particularly well-dressed man gets to the front, loudly announcing that he wants to check in for first class.

The harried agent does her best, but there's no room. He starts getting louder and more angry. He's blathering about his power and authority.

She tries to placate him, but to no avail.

Finally, he yells, "Do you know who I am?"

Without missing a beat, the gate agent grabs the microphone. "Attention in the gate area. We have a medical emergency. The man at gate 11 has just suffered a serious bout of amnesia. If anyone recognizes him, can they please come forward and help him?"

All as a way of telling you that an epidemic of amnesia is sweeping our land. Armed with a blog and a following (I have 2,000 [or 2 million] daily readers... wait till they hear about this!), or with a frequent purchaser card or even just a credit card, millions of customers are now your most powerful customers. And as powerful customers, they want you to know, to recognize and to reward them for their power. If you don't know 'who they are', they're going to hit the road. Angrily.

Watch out for amnesia. It's spreading fast.

Smart marketers are already treating each customer as even more important than she thinks she is (Or aggressively treating all customers the same... well).


What happens when your inbox is empty?

What happens when all the agenda items and all the incoming emails are cleared?

Time to go home.

A job well done. Congratulations, you earned your paycheck.

This is the factory mindset that has been drilled into us since kindergarten. You get assignments, you do your best, and you finish them.

It is at this point that we draw the line between workers and entrepreneurs, between people who work in marketing and marketers.

The challenge is NOT to empty your inbox. The challenge is not to get your boss to tell you what to do.

The challenge is to ask a two part question:

What next? What now?

Asking is the hard part.

Why are you afraid of process?

Is it because it gets in the way of intuition?

I spend a lot of time railing against organizations and teams that fall in love with process at the expense of innovation. This is not a post about that.

It's about the opposite.

Our culture embraces the intuitive craftsman. We don't talk about Harlequin Romances or artists who paint by number. Heroism is about writing a novel or making a sale based on what's deep inside of you... not by following a prescribed pattern.

The plant manager who is proud of his seat-of-the-pants inventory management system, the bizdev guy who cherishes his network, the physician who relies on her diagnostic skills--these are all examples of intuitive craftspeople. Intuition, the sum total of our skill and our training, is the mark of someone to be reckoned with.

Process, on the other hand, appears to be for Dummies.

So we bristle when we're asked for our weekly goals sheets, or when the boss wants us to use a database or when the insurance company requires docs to follow data-driven guidelines. We pass up the tenth novel by a successful author... because the process has become too transparent.

And yet, in many cases, process is underrated.

Process is your ace in the hole when your intuition stops working.

Process is the system that doubles a plant's efficiency when you've done everything you can think of.

Take your web page (please). The intuitive marketer does her very best, and then conversion and traffic levels are established. That's all.

Replace that with a process that measures and tests and improves and repeats and changes elements hourly. Replace it with a process that's all about split testing and funnels and what works. Will a process like that invent MySpace or Flickr? Of course not. But it might very well turn your metrics from negative to positive. It might reinvent all the dynamics of your business.

What happens when a star salesperson starts tracking her calls, her time spent, her rolodex and her results? Her day isn't intuitive any longer... just the act of selling is. The result: dramatic improvements. Measuring, and measuring in public, is a piece of process that can't help but organize and leverage your intuition.

If process makes you nervous, it's probably because it threatens your reliance on intuition. Get over it. The best processes leverage your intuition and give it room to thrive.

How KitKat became Number 1

Bob explains a subtle, patient, effective marketing campaign: AlphaMale: How KitKat became Number 1.

Re invent an industry

Goal: make it viral. Springwise: Group dating.

The lawyer in the marketing department

Actually, all your lawyers are in your marketing department.

Most lawyers view their job as a defensive one. They use phrases like, "keeping you out of trouble."

Unfortunately, when they interact with the public or with a partner or even a landlord, they are marketing your organization, whether they want to or not.

Consider the case of a drugstore chain that accidentally sent out a second rebate check (for $4) to hundreds or thousands of customers. The lawyer drafted a note telling customers (remember, these are the valuable ones, the ones that take action) to discard the second check. Included this line:

We are informing you of this error so you do not incur returned check fees
from your bank, since the check is not valid. Please destroy the duplicate

So, in other words, if you cash the second check by mistake, you're going to have to pay your bank a $25 bounced check fee on a $4 check because of an error the drugstore made.

One of my favorite lawyers has come to understand that she can do better for her company, negotiate better deals and build better, more profitable customers by acting like a marketer first, a lawyer second.

Scratch that.

Acting like a marketer first is being a good lawyer.

Don't take this advice

Robert Bruce just figured out how to advertise his poetry. The First Official Advertisement On This Site.

It works, of course, because it's obviously authentic. Because it piques your curiousity. Because he's a real person. Because it hasn't been done this way before, or at least not that you've seen.

And then, when everyone does it, it won't work any more.

The paradox of pictures

Sethontherunhires I got busted at the Stop and Shop this morning.

It turns out that there are now even more than 19 flavors of Oreos. So I needed a photo of the new flavor for my presentation. The manager saw the flash and ran over. He made it clear that I needed permission from corporate headquarters to take pictures, and followed me around the store to make sure I didn't take any more illicit photos.

Compare this to the easiest way in the world to attract a crowd at a trade show--hire some folks to film your booth, preferably with bright lights, Bauer battery packs and a big-ass camera. Sure enough, people will show up, like moths to a candle.

The irony of the Stop & Shop approach is that the people who you don't want taking pictures--snoopy journalists or competitors--can easily conceal their cameras and you'll never know. But the raving fans, the bloggers, the folks twisted enough to want to take and flickrize their supermarket experiences are your friends.

Of course, Ahold (owner of S&S) has every right to discourage shoppers from photography. So does Disney. But Disney learned a long time ago that flipping the funnel and letting tourists become your salesforce is a great idea. In an experience economy, where a bear workshop or furniture superstore is a form of tourism, photography is part of the deal. (Thanks to Rob Clark for the illustration).

Dial 300 for Harry

You should go mattress shopping.

I did, today.

I admit, I don't think I've ever been mattress shopping before. What an astonishing experience. If you don't believe the "storytelling" riffs in Liars, this will convert you. It's an entire room filled with virtually identical objects, varying in price by as much as 2,000%. And while you can lie down on any of them, lying down on a mattress is totally different from sleeping on one over a decade.

All you can buy is the story.

However, this isn't a post about the story. It's a post about the phone on the Sleepy's salesman's desk. Our sales guy, who was outstanding by the way, explained that all 400 stores in the chain are owned by one guy, and that the instructions are clear: if there's anything in the store, anything important, that's broken and not fixed within 72 hours (including policies, prices, inventory, whatever), his job is to pick up the phone and dial 300.

And Harry Acker, the owner, the billionaire, answers. "This is Harry." And you tell him and he fixes it.

I love that.

Even better... every once in a while, the phone rings. It's Harry. "What's up?" he asks. And if you tell him good news, he hangs up on you.

I think I'm glad I don't have Harry's job. But I was (amazingly, surprisingly, shockingly) glad I shopped there today.

More on stories

Zahor sends us to: Tribewanted: Adventure Island - Chief's Blog.

It may be a gimmick, but it is very definitely a story.

"No" to average

One of my favorite conversations goes like this.

"Oh, by the way, I read your book Purple Cow. I liked it a lot. I even underlined some paragraphs."

"Thanks!" I say. Underlining is the goal of people in my line of work.

"I can imagine that it's really helpful to a lot of people. Unfortunately, in my [business/organization/line of work], most of what you write about doesn't really work."

The reason it's such a good conversation is that people in every possible line of work have managed to tell me that the ideas don't apply to them... and that gives me a chance to ask them more details about what they do--and within a minute or two, we're both jumping up and down, excited with the possibilities of how it does work in their line of work. Ministers, freelance photographers, real estate agents, middle managers, web site marketers--doesn't matter, it always seems to come down to one thing:

Say no to being average.

This morning, Bradley was explaining to me that it couldn't work in his profession as a freelance writer. It seems that almost all the clients want average stuff. Which no surprise, since average is, by definition, the stuff most people want. I asked, "Are there any writers in your field who you hate because they get paid way too much compared to your perception of the effort they put in and the talent they have?"

"Sure," he said, feeling a little sheepish about being annoyed by their success.

"And how do they get those gigs?"

It's because they stand for something. Because they are at the edges. Because if an editor wants a 'Bob-Jones-type' article, she has to call Bob Jones for it... and pay Bob's fees. Bob would fail if he did average work for average editors just to make a living. But by turning down the average stuff and insisting on standing for something on the edge, he profits. By challenging his clients to run stuff that makes them nervous (and then having them discover that it's great), he profits.

This is scary. It's really scary to turn down most (the average) of what comes your way and hold out for the remarkable opportunities. Scary to quit your job at an average company doing average work just because you know that if you stay, you'll end up just like them. Scary to go way out on an edge and intentionally make what you do unattractive to some.

Which is why it's such a great opportunity.

Creativity and Fear

Cynthia reminds me of something I said to her at a seminar a while ago:

"The enemy of creativity is fear...In the long run, the enemy of fear is creativity. I'm sure of it."

Very straightforward thinking about landing pages

The Winery Web Site Report: Google AdWords for Wineries


Razors and blades

If you buy an inkjet printer, odds are the manufacturer lost money on your purchase. HP sells the deskjets for as cheap as they can... because they know they'll make a killing on the cartridges.

So, if you were HP, it would seem like the best thing to do is to be sure that people are using your printers, and keep using them for as long as possible.

Not so. I just called HP for help with a driver for my 18 month old printer. They won't help me on the phone... it's out of warranty.

Of course, if I buy a new one, the driver will still need help, and they will have lost money on my purchase of the machine that replaces the perfectly good machine on my desk.

Lesson 1: careful with those policies.
Lesson 2: razors should last a long time and be extremely well supported if you hope to sell more blades.

Easter egg

Brian Barton alerts me to this corporate easter egg.

First, go to JetBlue:Travel Info:Route Map.

Then, hold down the shift key while hitting Buffalo (where I'm from). Then, without letting go, type PBJ.

Stupid video awaits. Play it loud. Pass it on.

Who says corporate sites have to be boring?

[PS we broke the site. The egg is now gone.]

Archetype: The Magic Stick

Seinfeld All you need to do is watch some boys--any boys, anywhere, any age--playing on a vacant lot and you will see the magic stick archetype at work.

This is a handheld device that is a weapon or wand, something capable of magically influencing the world around the holder.

A cell phone is a magic stick. So is the microphone that Jerry Seinfeld holds on stage (the reason he doesn't use a clip-on wireless lavalier is... hmmm...). The iPod has succeeded largely because Steve Jobs unintentionally created a magical device that fit the archetype perfectly. And then, of course, there are guns.

The remote control changed the way we watch TV. We don't use headsets at work, even though it would save a lot of wear and tear on the neck... it's all the same thing. It's about using your hands to change your world.


Megan is on a tear: More on Recommendation. The five elements:

1. First-person experience.

2. Enthusiasm.

3. Specificity.

4. Sincerity.

5. Clarity.


And from her previous post: "Of course, the best recommendations are authentic and personal and trusted, which makes it easy for you to take action on them."


All the marketing theory, insight and blather that I've read fails to explain some obvious phenonema. For example, why do some products seem to market themselves while others struggle? Why are some consumer behaviors so ingrained, while others disappear almost overnight?

So I think it's time to talk about Carl Jung.

Here's what the wikipedia says about Jung's theory of archetypes:
...the collective unconscious is composed of archetypes. In contrast to the objective material world, the subjective realm of archetypes can not be adequately understood through quantitative modes of research. Instead it can only begin to be revealed through an examination of the symbolic communications of the human psyche—in art, dreams, religion, myth, and the themes of human relational/behavioral patterns. Devoting his life to the task of exploring and understanding the collective unconscious, Jung discovered that certain symbolic themes exist across all cultures, all epochs, and in every individual.

Let me try out an example on you:

Food = Love

Parts of the world wrestle with hunger, famine and even starvation. Yet in many of these cultures, it is unthinkable to eat brown rice. Think about that.. for thousands of years, people ate brown rice, which is easier to prepare, more nutritious and far more efficient than white rice (more food per bushel harvested). And yet, there's something so powerful about the symbol of white rice that it is embraced by people who should (and probably do) know better.

Or take it closer to home. Four obese people in a restaurant, eating far more than they should, because they can.

Or a parent sending a child to school with a white bread bagel, even though she knows that it's not healthy--just because it's what she grew up with.

These are all irrational acts, things that we can't chalk up to ignorance or lack of access to alternatives. Instead, they play into a very complex set of beliefs that seem to cross cultures.

Why so much Spam (the luncheon meat, not the email) in Hawaii and other Pacific cultures? I don't think we can chalk it up to distribution, coupons or tv ads. Instead, I think there's a complicated relationship between an archetype and the symbols that the food represents.

I think it's interesting to explore some fundamental consumer archetypes and how marketers have tapped into them (usually accidentally). The goal isn't to explain the origins of these often irrational needs, but to realize that they are there. Gravity's causes are unknown, but we still need to factor it in to our lives. Same with archetypes. We don't have to understand them to leverage them.

That's the end of that...

Mary_tyler_moore Every single time I look at the price of a box of food and then throw the item in the shopping cart at the supermarket, I shake my head the way Mary Richards did in the opening credits of the Mary Tyler Moore show. I can't help it.

And lately, every time I hear Aretha Franklin's R-E-S-P-E-C-T, I shake my head the way Kelly does in her googleidol video.

These are touchstone moments. The way you can say "cheezbugah cheezbugah" to any 45 year old and know that they'll get the joke.

Over. Gone. Finished.

Blogs and the web are killing magazines on a daily basis. The shakeout is happening before our eyes.

It will be a small-time event compared to what's about to happen to both TV and our culture.

Everyone will have a network. Not just a show, but, if you want it, an entire network of shows. Lots of channels, with not so many viewers per channel. A network for each religious group, and variants for each sect. Every church, community group, local theatre and art gallery gets a network. Every classroom and every division of every company.

YES, human beings have a need to do what others are doing. We have a desire for mass and for fashion. And for those lucky enough to be anointed, there will be power and leverage and profits. But the idea that Mary Richard's little shake of the head would be known and automatically mimicked by millions in the future is crazy.

It was fun while it lasted.

What's going to be on your network?

Vocabulary: "Landing page"

I first started talking about landing pages in <gasp> 1991, but there's probably someone out there who can pre-date me. Sometimes when you've been riffing on an idea for so long, it's easy to believe that everyone gets it, but my mail says otherwise.

A landing page is the first page a visitor to your site sees.

Landing pages were important back in the day of email marketing, because if you included a link in your email, that was the page the permission marketee would land on if he clicked through.

Landing pages are even more important today because they are the page that someone clicking on a Google Adwords ad sees.

A landing page (in fact, every page) can only cause one of five actions:

  • Get a visitor to click (to go to another page, on your site or someone else's)
  • Get a visitor to buy
  • Get a visitor to give permission for you to follow up (by email, phone, etc.). This includes registration of course.
  • Get a visitor to tell a friend
  • (and the more subtle) Get a visitor to learn something, which could even include posting a comment or giving you some sort of feedback

I think that's the entire list of options

So, if you build a landing page, and you're going to invest time and money to get people to visit it, it makes sense to optimize that page to accomplish just one of the things above. Perhaps two, but no more.

When you review a landing page, the thing to ask yourself is, "What does the person who built this page want me to do?" If you can optimize for that, you should. If there are two versions of a landing page and one performs better than the other, use that one! This sounds obvious, but how often are you doing the test? How long does a landing page last in your shop before it gets toppled by a better one? And do you have a different landing page for every single ad, every single offer? Why not?

Landing pages are not wandering generalities. They are specific, measurable offers. You can tell if they're working or not. You can improve the metrics and make them work better. Landing pages are the new direct marketing, and everyone with a website is a direct marketer.

Couldn't have said it better

Yesterday, a friend wanted to tell me about an idea her sister was building. But she couldn't, because it was a secret.

This is (sort of) what I said: Being Copied (Paul Graham).

Q: How do we do flip?

Lots of mail from people who want to flip the funnel. The obvious beneficiaries of this sort of strategy are organizations that need traffic, that make a wide range of products or have new ones all the time, that want to grow, that doing something newsworthy and that have an idea worth spreading.

And I'll respond with seven questions right back:

  • 1. How many bloggers do you have honest conversations with? (not press releases or email blasts).
  • 2. How many bloggers get your new stuff for free?
  • 3. When you send out news, is it really news? Or just fluff because you had nothing new to say?
  • 4. Are you making it easy for your happiest customers to have a blog or a podcast or a lens?
  • 5. Does your product or service work better for a user if other people start using it? (fax machines, for example, don't work so well if you're the only one who has one!)
  • 6. Do you ever intentionally launch products or services that are adored by part of your audience--and not liked one bit by the rest?
  • 7. Is there a way you can separate the idea from the thing that people actually pay for? Free ideas spread farther and faster...

If most of your answers are "no," then the problem might not be with the specifics of your tactics, but might be at the strategy you're bringing to the table. More and more, organizations are discovering that making something virusworthy is the single most important step in the work they do.

It's good to be king

The Times and other outlets have been running a spate of stories about executive pay. CEOs who walked away with $100,000 a day paychecks, CEOs making millions of dollars at companies in trouble, CEOs with jets and houses and limos... It's like being a king, instead of having a job.

Marketing used to be like that (and for a few lucky brands, it still is). The folks at the Apple iTunes store are like kings, deigning to receive a long line of supplicants who want to do business with them. I would imagine that the producers at Oprah feel the same way... People in the lobby, their backs bowed from carrying a sack from a land far away, traveling miles by donkey...

Kings receive payments all out of proportion to their incremental contributions. Mass markets pay their leaders handsomely. So marketers often set out to be kings, and often act that way from the start.

The thing is, if you market like a king, you're no longer likely to see results. Kings like to bark orders, wear crowns, eat at banquets and behead their critics.

The thing is, marketers are now peasants.

If you market like a peasant, always a supplicant, always aware of your low station in life, you're more likely to earn attention. Yes, you need the confidence and perhaps the bearing of a king. But the best marketers today appear to be those that accept the fact that they have no birthright, they weren't awarded the right to attention. And, who knows, over time, they might earn their way up the ladder--to king.

Guess the airline

Performance statistics as measured by the department of transportation. (DOT):

America’s Most On-Time Airline 27 Consecutive Months Running
America's Fewest Cancellations in 2005
America’s Best Baggage Handling in 2005
America’s Third Fewest Oversales in 2005
Other remarkable facts
Free, hot and delicious food in coach on all trans-pacific flights. They even give you the whole can of soda.
Over 76 years of continuous operation without a fatal accident.

Some of the highest paid (and friendliest) in the industry
At least one more flight attendant per flight than some competitors
Average fleet age is about 5 years old, one of the youngest fleets in the nation.
Fares are usually the lowest in the market or at least a very close second.

And last but not least!... One of only three airlines in the nation to actually make a profit last year.

So how come we don't talk about this airline the way we do about the other two profitable ones?

I have two and a half theories. The half theory is that Hawaii is really far away from most of us. Also:
You're on vacation when you fly Hawaii Airlines, so your expectations are greater.
A lot of people who fly with them rarely do it again, because Hawaii is a rare trip, so it's harder to incubate the word of mouth.

I hope they start flying NY to Orlando! With free leis and everything.

Fans only

Blogs that toot their own horns can get a little tiresome. But this article in American Way was so flattering (and you might be flying on the wrong airline this week) that I thought you'd want a pointer. Sorry. Thanks. Whatever.

Marketing in the car business

Ford's North American marketing chief, Cisco Codina, quoted in today's Times, "There will always be early adapters..."

Actually, Cisco, the folks you mean to be talking about are "early adopters." And the distinction is critical and demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of what's happening. An adapter is someone who is able to deal with changing conditions. This sort of person isn't ruffled by a new policy or an environmental change. Let's hope that penguins are good adapters.

Adopters, on the other hand, seek out change, want the new stuff. They like it. Big companies with power are used to a person adapting when they exercise their will. Small, nimble companies look for adopters.

On to BMW. Helmut Panke, CEO of BMW, said this week, "We should not try to educate or teach the customer about what he or she wants." Oh.

"We wish Google didn't exist"

That was the phrase that got my attention.

I was talking to an exec at a 1999 new media company... one of those anchor tenants on the web, a big content website. She said something that, in retrospect was obvious, but so shocking it made me sit up straight.

"Google doesn't help us at all. It would be great if they went away."

It's so easy to count on search, depend on search and assume for search that most people don't realize how the dynamic has changed. If you've got a portal or a big store of content, Google is, probably, not built into your DNA.

If there's no search engine and you need a recipe or a pot, you visit and they find you the best match on their site. And it goes beyond web companies. If there's no search engine and you need to buy coffee, you go to, right? Leaders in every field had no reason to invent for search... it's not good for them.

In fact, most market leaders still have web sites, not web pages. A website is a place, a sticky collection/connection of web pages with a search field. A website is a place you want people to "check back often and see what's new" and where people are either in or out.

I've gotten a bunch of invitations to feature my RSS feed on other people's sites lately. At first, it feels a little weird... my content on your site. But then, once I get past issues re endorsement etc., it makes perfect sense. Because search and RSS have exploded the web. (Tip to David Weinberger, twice in one day).

It's no longer an organic web filled with organisms or even a molecular one. It's atomic. Each page on its own, each RSS drip its own entity.

The punchline is that you can wish all you want, it's not going to make search go away.

Wishing is not much of a business strategy, and the realists among us will probably focus on three things:

  1. turn your website inside out as fast as you can. That means RSS everywhere--in and out. And it means encouraging your readers to flip the funnel.
  2. continue integrating your pages into your site, but prepared to do a better job of integrating your pages into the web.
  3. remember that every single page is now a landing page. "First time here?" is going to be answered  yes more often than not in an atomic world.

What hasn't changed is an imperative to get active, explicit permission from one-time visitors to have an ongoing dialogue. A dialogue that is anticipated, personal and relevant, and that leads to turning those strangers into friends... so that one day, they become customers.

Another blog for your list

John Dodds has been sending me interesting emails forever. Now he's got a blog, here's a post: Make Marketing History: Who needs storecards?. John points out to me that eye tracking is nothing new and that Jacob Nielsen and others have been talking about it for a while. Duly noted. My post below was more of a poke for those that have missed out than an aha!

The butt brush

Paco Underhill, who is the world's greatest expert on shopping, made millions for Macy's and other stores by videotaping how people shop. Reviewing the tapes, he discovered, for example, that women will stop shopping for ties if the racks are too close to the aisle and people bump into them. Moving the racks made sales skyrocket.

Now, Etre is doing the same thing with websites. Watch the video here: Eye Tracking - Etre.

One very cool site

Even if Springwise hadn't volunteered to run Big Moo ads as a public service, I'd be telling you about how many neat ideas are sprinkled around this site. Almost too good to share: Springwise: Fresh, fast, food.

The world as it is

Two things marketers do:
1. Do the work necessary to be sure that your perception of the world is similar to the world as it is.
2. Create the stories (and the experiences to back them up) that change the world as it is.

Most marketers fail at #1. By focusing on what they want, or by having a selfish view of things, they miss the reality of what the world believes.

And that can cause us to miss #2. Your story has to be grounded in the worldview of your intended audience.

Tips that may come in handy one day

Here's one from: How To Be A Successful Evil Overlord.

I will not fly into a rage and kill a messenger who brings me bad news just to illustrate how evil I really am. Good messengers are hard to come by.

One smart kid

A precocious 11 year old down the street was talking fashion and marketing with me today.

First quote, "Why does anyone worry about what fashion their pajamas are? I mean, it's not like anyone else sees them?"

Second, "Everyone is buying one of those new minivans, because they come with a DVD player. It's not a car, it's a moving home home theatre."

Couldn't have said it better. Real insight about the human condition and what makes marketing work.

The Latest in Advertising Technology - Gizmodo

Santiago Velásquez Martínez sends us to this new ad technology approach: The Latest in Advertising Technology - Gizmodo.

My question is: who are the ads for? The other sheep?

Just a few words...

Kim Klaver's blog on writing copy: A blind man's new words get new results.

Their mileage may vary

A nice Squidoo piece in the New York Times yesterday gave us a chance to learn a lot about perception and demographics.

Our analytics data shows that a visitor who came via the link in the article viewed 300% as many pages as a typical first timer.

That's a huge difference.

One explanation is that a Times reader is just different. More inquisitive, maybe, or slower on the uptake...

Another explanation, and the one that makes more sense to me, is that when you are reading the Times, it changes your posture. Makes you--anyone--more interested in poking around. That good writing can pique the curiousity and push the reader to do more.

All of which goes to make the point that where you run your online ads and where you focus your PR matters. Because different venues generate different actions, even among the same audiences.

Which is why they cancelled the Beverly Hillbillies TV show when it was still in the top 10, and why network TV might not be the very best place to run your next ad campaign.

Banging down the doors

Finally, a sunny day. Did some errands, walked around the West Village and realized what a phenomenal cue queues provide. In other words, there must be a reason for that line.

Stew Leonard's, a mere shell of its former glory as a groundbreaking supermarket, was so crowded that it was literally impossible to push the cart. After two aisles, I actually fled the store. Not such great prices, not such amazing selection, but thousands of people in the store. And the main reason, the best I could tell, was precisely because of how crowded it was. I know that I fell for it--I needed some fish for a party and told myself the story that it would be fresher there because of Stew's volume. The person in front of me grabbing strawberries like they were scarce certainly agreed--even though they were precisely the same price as the market down the street.

Later, watching the party people lining up for a 2 pm brunch in New York... I don't think it was an accident that people chose the source for their eggs benedict largely on how crowded the cafe was. A few places had huge lines. Some places had none. The menus seems awfully similar... and how different could the pancakes be? Those that wanted to feel the energy of community and scarcity knew just where to find it.

Remember when kids were willing to pay $200 for a Magic card or their parents $200 for an Elmo doll? Being popular can be its own marketing tactic. And no, I don't think it's a Catch-22. By carefully choosing pricing and scale, any organization can manipulate, at least for a while, how "crowded" it feels.


For thousands of years, practioners of acupuncture would burn mugwort on a patient's skin, believing that the heat would penetrate and help heal the patient.

Superstition is a funny thing.

Often expensive, time-consuming and even dangerous, a superstition can stick around for a long time, even when there's no evidence that it really works.

Everywhere I look, I see organizations practicing moxabustion. With a vengeance.

Purple Cows in Seoul

Denis Papathanasiou points out that a leading candidate in the race to be mayor of Seoul calls herself a Purple Cow. Digital Chosunilbo (English Edition) : Daily News in English About Korea.

I had no idea it might lead to this.

Trial and error

Most learning, especially most organizational learning, occurs through trial and error.

Error occurs whether you want it to or not. Error is difficult to avoid. It's not clear that research or preparation have an enormous impact on error, especially marketing error. Error is clearly not in short supply.

Trial, on the other hand, is quite scarce, especially in some organizations. People mistakenly believe that one way to successfully avoid error is to avoid trial.

We need more trial.

The Personal MBA

Josh Kaufman, who needs a new haircut, may just be on to something: The Personal MBA. Worth a look.

Does BoingBoing matter?

Boingboing is one of the most popular blogs in the world... it's read by more people than most magazines. Day to day, though, it's easy to assume that most of the posts are not particularly earthshattering--particular the ones about earwax.

Enter the Squidoo boingboing contest. Heath just sent me to: Squidoo : How BoingBoing is Changing the World. This lens from Erin Banister will probably change the way you read the site, and if you've never read it, will probably cause you to give it a shot.

If you want to put together a totally different point of view about boingboing, enter the contest.

But don't measure THIS

John Dodds responded to my post about measurement. So here's some more: There's no doubt that you should measure things that are both important and measurable. When you do, it's inevitable that what you measure improves.

Caveat #1 is not to measure things that aren't important, just because they're measurable. Business lore is rife with stories about companies that started measuring something... like defects to the last sigma... only to discover that people figured out that the best way to improve the measurement was to not make anything at all. Start measuring how long your operators stay on the phone, for example, and you'll discover plenty of operators that just hang up on long-winded callers. Measuring the right thing is essential.

But caveat #2 is even more important: the art of business and organization is in realizing that there are important things you can't measure. These ephemeral, soft things are the ones that often differentiate one organization from another, that lead to one company winning when all the metrics appear to be the same.

True story: I have a gig coming up, one that was planned a month or two ago. I went to book the tickets. First I went to Travelocity. Then, halfway through the process, decided to go straight to American to do it. Not sure why. Finished the reservation. Went to pay. Got a popup: can't do that because the ticket has already been booked.


I had forgotten I had already booked the ticket (That part isn't amazing. that happens all the time). No, what was amazing is that six weeks ago, I had gone through the same process, picked the same airline, the same flight times... exactly the same. Because of something you can't measure, but is important nonetheless. And smart managers know how to invest in that too.

New direct marketing tactic

Jim Logan, who I've never had the privilege of meeting, lives in California. Capital One just sent him a piece of junk mail, soliciting credit card sign up... with my name on it.

This could be a trend... putting the names of bloggers or authors or famous accountants on junk mail addressed to others, just to get them to open the mail.

See the picture here: Jim Logan

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