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

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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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« September 2006 | Main | November 2006 »

Help Wanted--publicists and designers

For some reason, people think I know who they ought to hire. In the last week, Corey and Will each asked me for a recommendation. I figured it would be neat to build a place where freelancers could find work.

Publicists, here's a group for you.
and Designers, here's one for you.

Go ahead and build a lens about what you do and what you know. Point to your site and your blog and your favorite ideas, books or competitors. The lens will automatically link to the group and people who are looking for you might find you.

Too important to be left to professionals

Robert DeNiro called me today. Or as his friends call him, Bobby.

Of course, I don't call him Bobby because I'm not his friend. We've never met. He was calling to promote a politician. And it wasn't really him, it was a tape. And I don't know which politician because I hung up.

I've gotten dozens of phone calls over the last few weeks, including one just now from an eager fundraiser named Barbara. She explained that she'd even read my books, including Permission Marketing. "Even the part about spam?" I asked. I don't think she got the point.

The point, folks, is that with all these strangers calling me, interrupting my day, giving me unanticipated, impersonal, irrelevant come-ons, not one person I know personally has called me. And not one of the callers has tried to enlist me to call my friends.

One call from a friend is worth 100 calls from an Academy-Award winner on tape.

The mistake politicians, like most marketers, make is that they think that what they are doing is way too important. Too important to leave to citizens. Too important to leave to ordinary people who happen to be big fans with organic, authentic networks of trusted friends. Too important to respect social boundaries.

If you're in too much of a hurry to build a real network, you're probably in too much of a hurry to get elected.

Will you be missed?

Tower Records is gone. I used to go there almost every day when I lived in Greenwich Village. I haven't been in more than five years--pretty much since I started buying just about everything at Amazon. Obviously, I won't miss it.

I haven't been inside a bank in nearly as long. Why would I? The ATM is closer, faster and easier.

I haven't read the classified ads in the paper in five years either.

None of these three activities were ever particularly emotionally heartwarming. And now that they're gone, I don't miss them.

So, here's the question: When you're gone, will they miss what you do? It's not too late to change the answer...

Yes Substitutions

This, of course, is the opposite of "no substitutions".

I had lunch at the Pump in NY today. The Pump is about 350 square feet (total) and it's a money factory. They have nearly 50 ingredients, all healthy stuff, and offer them in precisely 41,000,000 combinations. So, you can have whole wheat pita with egg whites, chicken breast and hot sauce, no onions. Or no pita, double egg whites, double hot sauce and brown rice.

People who care about what they eat go somewhere on purpose. People who don't care, go close or cheap.

There's a line out the door of the Pump every day at lunch. Why? Because people who love substitutions (the picky ones) go blocks out of their way to eat here. Is there anyone clamoring to get into the "no substitutions" place?

Ponzi, Pyramids, MLM, Ads and WOM...

Ponzi There's been a lot of angry mail about my mention of mmmzr the other day. "It's a ponzi scheme!" several people say.

Actually, no, it's not. It's a pyramid scheme. They're different, and it's part of a spectrum, one worth understanding.

A Ponzi scheme is a simple scam in which a bankrolled, charismatic individual persuades some people to invest money in a financial instrument. The investors do nothing but wait for a return. Soon, they get paid off! The buzz is incredible. New investors come in. The scammer now uses the new money to give more returns to the original money. This increasing return further increases buzz, which leads to ever more money coming in, which he uses to pay off newer investors, and so on, until finally there's a lot of money coming in and the scammer leaves town.

Everyone hates a Ponzi scheme. The only people who fall for it are the ones who don't know what's actually happening.

A pyramid scheme is different. That's a scheme where the investors actually have to do something. There was a classic pyramid scheme floating around twenty years ago. You started as a 'passenger' and invested $1,000. Your job was to find five new passengers, which made you a 'flight attendant' and then a 'co pilot' and finally a 'pilot'. I forget the specifics, but I think pilots ended up with $100,000 or so. Obviously, this can't last forever, but if you can recruit diligent passengers, you can make it work (for a while).

Most people shy away from pyramid schemes. They seem too calculated and unfair and risky.

The next kind of pyramid scheme is certain kinds of MLM (vitamins, often) and yes, mmmzr. In this case, in addition to having the attributes of a pyramid scheme (the investors have to work), there's also an attractive side benefit. You get the energy bars or the web traffic or the perfume or the herbs. The product often hides the underlying structure of the business, but in particularly loud versions, it's pretty clear it's just a pyramid scheme.

Once again, most people don't like this. You cringe when your sister-in-law brings it up. You hide in the conference room when your co-worker takes out his sample case. It feels wrong, and it largely is. It is because the motivation of the seller is primarily selfish.

Selfish because she's trying to build her downline. Selfish because the entire focus of the enterprise is to make the enterprise bigger.

I contrast this to more subtle projects like Tupperware or Avon, or various religions or things like Digg (when it's used right). In those cases, the 'side benefits' are actually the real benefits. The commissions are just a side light. The word of mouth feels a lot more real, because the person you're working with is obviously impassioned for the right reason.

Great real estate brokers already have enough money to retire. They're not selling you a house just to make a few percentage points. They're doing it because it actually gives them joy to get you into a better house.

Human kindness has always been in short supply. For millenia, you needed to worry when someone offered to do something nice for you. You needed to wonder what the ulterior motive was, what's in it for them. As a result, we're innately suspicious whenever we get sold something.

I had an interesting dilemma before I posted on mmmzr. I had a hunch it would work, especially if I pointed to it on my blog. Should I buy a bunch of boxes for some charities I support? After all, it would generate traffic for the charity, and probably pay off with money I could turn around and donate. But if I did, if I did that, then my newer readers would say, "hey, I knew it! You pointed that out because there was something in it for you..." So I didn't.

Word of Mouth is a really fragile entity. Someone asked me at a recent engagement what I thought about various agencies that are paying people to shill for their products. I said something like, "Well, for a long time the oldest profession has taken money for what other people do for free. How do you feel about the difference between the two transactions? Which kind of person did you marry?"

At some level, at a very major level in fact, the way we feel about a transaction is more important than the transaction itself. Some people like a sporting event more if they got the ticket from a scalper, other if they got the ticket for free from their boss. Some people need to feel like they've taken the system (whatever the system is) for everything it's worth. Others need to pay retail (especially on a wedding dress, cemetery plot or flu shot).

Marketers are working hard to corrupt the way we feel about our friends and the people we respect. I think, in the end, it's not going to work. We're hardwired to respect real authenticity, and at some level, that means trusting the motives of the person we're listening to.

Bottom line: just because the net makes it much easier to measure things, share things, create downlines and hierarchies and yes, scams, doesn't mean its the best way to make something that lasts.


If you live in part of the world where people change clocks, today would be a good day to do that.


Iamoeba Allan sends over a riff about iDogs and other oddball addons for the iPod. I write back and tell him I'm waiting for the iAmoeba. He builds one.

It doesn't do anything much. But every once in a while it divides, and then you have two.

"It's just business"

Nope, actually...

"It's just life."

Anyone who is willing to lie to you, cheat you or treat you with disrespect because it's just business is doing more damage to herself than to you.

Work takes too much time and too much emotion for it to be just work. As far as I'm concerned, I don't want to spend time or money with anyone who has this particular attitude disfunction.

The manipulators

Nobody likes being lied to or manipulated. Marketers have done it for generations, and now they're doing it online with more skill than ever before.

Where is Tania?

She just sent me the following note (slightly edited):

I am an intern at ...My boss Laura just asked me to get the word out about our Podcast interview with ... a Sausalito agency that is putting brands like Toyota, American Eagle and Adidas into the virtual world.

Laura told me that if I was cool about it then you might actually check out this Podcast at...

Look, I like this job so any help you can give me would be appreciated.



Is this spam? Of course it is. Targeted spam, but still spam. I wrote back to Talia... her email bounced. Is there really a Tania?

Then I found a blog that had hit high on Digg today. It was a rant about flooding YouTube with spam. The thing is, the rant was sort of dumb and ill-thought through, and the blogger had more than 20 comments, with more than 95% pointing out what a yutz he was. Yet he had hundreds of Diggs. How? He had manipulated the system, pushed himself up to the top of the chart in a successful attempt to get a bunch of traffic to his site (and probably to promote the very videos he was ranting about).

If you only need to influence 500 people (or 10 people pretending to be 50 different people each) in order to show up on the screens of tens of thousands people... that's too tempting for most capitalists to ignore (politicians are next, for sure).

Every day, there are literally hundreds of ad agencies working hard, trying to figure out how to slip corporate ideas into the system under the guise of it being homemade and real. They don't have remarkable products or services, they don't have clients willing to reconsider what it is they actually produce, so they're busy trying to break the community systems online to help them (selfishly) succeed.

When a kid in New Jersey does the Numa Numa song, it's poignant and funny and yes, remarkable. When an ad agency creates 100 variations of a gimmicky video hoping to hit the Digg jackpot, it just feels wrong.

As the 'bestseller' lists on YouTube and Reddit and other places become more and more important, they're also going to become less useful. Less useful because the manipulators are way more focused and earnest than the typical consumer, and they'll figure out a way to get under whatever radar gets installed.

At some point, it's going to come down to who we trust. We didn't trust Beechnut after we find out they put water in the apple juice. We didn't trust Audi for a decade, even though there wasn't anything actually wrong with their car. And we won't trust Enron, Worldcom or Adelphia with our money for a long time to come.

It's not just that this sort of deception is morally wrong. It's also stupid. It's stupid because it poisons the water supply for everyone, including the marketers who are busy doing it. Instead of realizing that they have an incredible playground in which to launch things that are truly innovative, they'd rather kill it by bending (or breaking) the rules.

It's too bad, really.

And the upside? The upside is that individuals (and organizations) that don't stoop, that manage to figure out how to have influence without trying to profit from it, those brands are the ones that will last, that will thrive and that will bring the rarest commodity--trust--to the table.

The 249% solution

Usama Fayyad is a genuine rocket scientist. He now runs the Strategic Data Solutions (which includes data mining) division of Yahoo, and he shared some astounding numbers with me today.

There’s one big insight that ought to change everything for anyone who buys clicks online. Here goes:
If you run banner ads, one study for Harris Direct shows that you can increase your brand awareness about 7% after a reasonable buy of banner ads. That’s just fine, though I’m on the record as saying that most banner campaigns are a waste of money. The kicker? In the study, Harris did the banner buy and watched the number of clicks to their contextual ad (you know, the text ads) go up by 249% over the next week.


This means that someone answering the ‘brand awareness’ survey says, “no, I never heard of them,” but then, two days later, is more than twice as likely to click on their text ad.

More than twice.

I think that’s very cool.


Three things to add to recent posts:

1. In Small Is the New Big, I'm not saying that only small companies will thrive moving forward. Instead, I'm saying that any organization that acts small has an advantage over those that insist on acting big, regardless of size.

2. In response to my post on baby bottles, several readers pointed out that the writer has an Amazon affiliate account. So what? She's not recommending Amazon, she's recommending a product sold on Amazon... out of the millions to choose from. Amazon's affiliate deal is brilliant precisely because it enables you to make strong recommendations without feeling like the commission has anything at all to do with it.

3. And finally, just because I note something on my blog (like a marketing program that might be a little scammy for example), it doesn't mean I'm recommending it. Just noting it! Your mileage will certainly vary.

Shadows and Light

So, Bob Dylan's new show on Broadway is getting panned by the critics. Probably because it's terrible.

Terrible because it illuminates Dylan's best work. And light is not always a good thing, especially if you're a storyteller.

A ghost story in a dark cabin in the woods is very different from a ghost story on stage at the United Nations, under the harsh glare of fluorescent lights.

Sometimes, marketers try to tell people everything. Everything implies rational decisions by computers. Human beings don't want to know everything--that's why sausage factories don't give tours. I don't think you can expect to hide your unsavory secrets, but I also know that the shadows are just as important as the light.

The next million dollar home page

The thing to understand is that unlike TV and magazines, sites like this are going to keep changing the rules: mmmzr: double your traffic.

More or less of me?

I called Motorola for some tech help last week.

The first tech person did everything she could to get me off the phone as fast as possible. "You don't have a Moto phone, so we can't help you make it work with a Moto bluetooth headset. Call Nokia!" I persisted, to no avail. The only option seemed to be to return the headset to Amazon.

I called back. The second person spent exactly two minutes more on the phone with me and fixed the problem.

Which strategy is more profitable?

At some point, you need to make a decision about whether or not you want to interact with prospects and customers. Either you do or you don't. If your goal is to reduce the cost, then get me off the phone (and stop advertising too, because advertising only leads to interactions). On the other hand, if your goal is to maximize the benefits, get me in the door and don't let me leave. Play movies in your furniture store for impatient husbands. Hire talkative smart people for the phone. Support competitive products. Talk talk talk, listen listen listen.

Who wins?

Where did it all go?

According to a recent report, more than two-thirds of recent immigrants to the USA send money home regularly. The worst-paid, poorest people in the country manage to save enough to send some back to the old country. The US Ambassador from El Salvador says that the two million Salvadorians in the U.S. sent enough money home to account for 13 percent of the GDP of his country.

At the same time, nearly two-thirds of American households are in debt. Many of them in serious debt. If the housing market falters, all those triple mortgages and home equity loans go under water, which means that people will have to sell their houses to get the money to pay off the loans, and the cycle starts.

Several people have pointed us to the rich calculator, that reminds you just how insanely rich your indebted best customers are. There are millions of Americans who make more than $200,000 a year. That's 2 million dollars a decade, five or ten million dollars over the course of a career. Add it up, then look at the number. All you can do is shake your head and say, "where did it all go..."

What it means to be remarkable

It's not about hype. It's about non-compensated third parties writing stuff like this: Cool Tool: Dr. Brown's Baby Bottles. Could (would) someone say this about your stuff?


Neat slide show by the brilliant Rob Walker is here.

The two things that kill marketing creativity

The first is fear.

The fear that you'll have to implement whatever you dream up.
The fear that you will fail.
The fear that you will do something stupid and be ridiculed by your peers for decades.
The fear that you'll get fired.
The fear that there will be an unanticipated backlash associated with your idea.
The fear of change.
The fear of missing out on the thing you won't be able to do if you do this.

The second is a lack of imagination.

I believe that every single person I've met in this profession is capable of astounding creativity. That you, and everyone else for that matter, is able to dream up something radical and viral and yes, remarkable. So why doesn't it happen more often? Sure, fear is a big part, but it's also a lack of imagination.

Basically, most people don't believe something better can occur. They believe that the status quo is also the best they can do. So they don't look. They don't push. They don't ask, "what else?" and "what now?" They settle.

Fear is an emotion and it's impossible to counter an emotion with logic. So you need to mount emotional arguments for why your fear of the new is the thing you truly need to fear.

As for the second issue, just knowing it exists ought to be enough. Once you realize you're settling, it may just be enough to get you wondering... wondering whether maybe, just maybe, something better is behind curtain number 2.

Five common cliches (done wrong)

The early adapters will use it. Actually, they're adopters, not adapters. The mistake in wording represents a fundamental misunderstanding of how most markets work. People don't adapt to what you make, they adopt it. They can't be forced to adapt, so they won't.

Half my advertising works, I just don't know which half. Actually, it's closer to 1% of your advertising that works, at the most. Your billboard reaches 100,000 people and if you're lucky, it gets you a hundred customers...

Let's do a focus group, they'll decide. A focus group is supposed to focus you, not them. It's supposed to lay out ideas and issues that mean little to the group and plenty to you. If you're not prepared to focus, better to not go.

That's a wacky idea. Actually, doing what you're doing now is wacky. Because what you're doing now is certain to become obsolete, possibly sooner rather than later. Just ask my old boss!

We need a bigger marketing department. Probably, you need everyone in the organization to do the marketing... from scratch. More brochures aren't the answer.

22 vs. 66

So, Virgin Records put out a greatest hits record from a band called Cracker. A band they kicked off the label. The group saw it coming and recorded their own greatest hits album (same songs) and released it the same day.

The indie edition is ranked 22,000. That's approximately 30 times the sell rate of the Virgin edition at 66,000. Read the reviews: Greatest Hits Redux: Music: Cracker.

It's hard to be big if you think big. It's easy to beat the big-thinking competition if you focus on your loudest, proudest fans.


Rob points us to: Joel Makower. This is a pretty sophisticated linguistic analysis of eco-marketing. Worldview really is everything.

The silver-grey Japanese car syndrome

I found myself on the Jersey side of the Hudson, riding past a row of new townhouses overlooking New York City. Each townhouse had a single carport facing the road.

As I rode past, I noticed that every single carport, more than forty in all, had a similar car parked in it. Either grey or silver or a mix of the two. Either a lower-model Mercedes or more likely, a Toyota or a Honda. Every single one. It wasn't until the 40th unit that I saw a red car, and a few later that I saw a pickup truck.

This is the power of demographics. This is the power of data mining.

Your choice of car shouldn't tell us anything about what sort of neighborhood you'd like to live in, or who you will vote for in the next election. The kind of clothing you wear should have no influence at all on the kind of wine you prefer. But it does.

I don't know which came first, the car or the townhouse, but the co-incidence of the two is unmistakeable.

This matters. It matters because the marketers at the townhouse ought to seriously consider a co-promotion with certain car dealers, and it matters because it opens a window for marketers. If people who buy novels also buy red wine, marketing your red wine in a bookstore might not be so dumb.

If you're marketing a product or service in a cluttered marketplace, it may cost too much or be too difficult to reach the right person at the right time. Marketing red wine in a bar is intellectually compelling, but awfully expensive. But if you understand the data mining implications of the other habits of your typical prospect, you can reach those people somewhere else or sometime else.

For example, when I do a search on "grey toyota new york", there is plenty of unsold Google inventory, which means you can buy clicks here really cheap. So why not run an ad that says,

This violates some of the precepts of permission marketing. It's not anticipated. But it is likely to be personal and relevant, and even better, you don't pay unless someone clicks.

Will this work for you? I have no idea. The chances that you'll find the perfect match are unlikely. But if you do, the pay off can be significant.

I'm not a doctor, but I play one on TV

Marcuswelby Linda McCartney, beloved dead vegetarian, has a line of frozen entrees at my local market.

Robert Ludlum, well-known dead thriller writer, now has a new novel out. (the fine print on the copyright page says that someone else wrote it, but not who--I'm not sure if the McCartney entree mentions whether or not Linda cooked it from beyond...)

If you're a famous chef, that means you're not really a chef any more. You're a TV personality/entrepreneur.

Walking down the supermarket it's easy to feel like you're in a bookstore. Bookstores always used to be about people--individuals who wrote the books. Now, we've got Steve and Jeremy making ice cream, Emeril and Rao making sauce and, of course, Ben, Jerry and Paul making various snacks and treats.

It's no longer about celebrity as endorser. Now, it's about celebrity as provider. You don't just get their face... it's as if they made it for you.

We don't need another Lexus or Accelant or Verizon. Apparently, we need Frank to do our accounting and Tom to crack our backs... if you've got a skill, you've got a shot at building a brand. Possibly a lot farther afield than you ever imagined. And not necessarily for the massest of mass markets. There are already medical practices in New York where patients never meet the famous doc.

Obvious doesn't mean common

Robert's new book is worth a look if you design just about anything for just about anyone.Designing the Obvious: A Common Sense Approach to Web Application Design.

Top 10 Secrets of the Marketing Process

If my previous post confused you, it's because of the difference between tactics and innovation. Try these 10 ideas to get you started down the path of scientific marketing tactics:

1. Don’t run out of money. It always takes longer and costs more than you expect to spread your idea. You can budget for it or you can fail.

2. You won’t get it right the first time.
Your campaign will need to be reinvented, adjusted or scrapped. Count on it.

3. Convenient choices are not often the best choices. Just because an agency, an asset or a bizdev deal are easy to do doesn’t mean that they are your best choice.

4. Irrational, strongly held beliefs of close advisors should be ignored.
It doesn’t matter if they don’t like your logo.

5. If it makes you nervous, it’s probably a good idea.
If you’re sure you’re right, you probably aren’t.

6. Focusing obsessively on one niche, one feature and one market is almost always a better idea than trying to satisfy everyone.

7. At some point, you’re either going to have to stick to your convictions or do what the market tells you. It’s hard to do both.

8. Compromise in marketing is almost always a bad idea.
Extreme A could work. Extreme B could work. The average of A and B will almost never work.

9. Test, measure and optimize. Figure out what's working and do it more.

10. Read and learn.
There are a million clues, case studies, books and proven tactics out there. You can't profitably ignore them until you know them, and you don't have the time or the money to make the same mistake someone else made last week. It's cheaper and faster to read about it than it is to do it.

Nobody Knows Anything

There are two kinds of marketing analysis, both pretty useless.

The first kind is done before the fact. This is when you and your team (and your advisors and your mother in law) weigh in about whether your ad, your product, your uniforms and your logo are any good. Call it ‘analyzing tomorrow’.

Analyzing tomorrow is a sort of analysis is filled with superstition, unsupported opinion, half-truths and most of all, fear. Fear of being wrong, fear of challenging the status quo, fear of going out on a limb. Fear of wasting money, fear of criticism and fear of the market.

Analyzing tomorrow is the province of consultants and pundits. People who predict what will work and what won’t, and are eager to tell you what you must do (and not do).

The other kind, of course, is called ‘analyzing yesterday.’ Analyzing yesterday is 20/20 hindsight. It involves finding threads of ‘tomorrow’ analysis and hooking them up to things that appear to have worked. Using yesterday analysis, I can easily explain the success of Starbucks and Apple and Nike and Google, and of course make it really clear why Friendster didn’t become Myspace.

Except, of course, I’d be lying.

The great thing about science, about proven fields like physics and evolution and chemistry, is that science works. A physicist is never going to be wrong about her prediction of what a spaceship on the other side of the moon is going to do. And when ten chemists analyze why a formula failed, all of them will give you the same (correct) answer.

Marketing, then, is not science.

Sure, there are principles. Trends, even. That’s why reading my stuff isn’t a total waste of time (I hope). The idea, though, that you can accurately analyze tomorrow just because some marketer did a good of describing yesterday is nonsense.

A nice side effect of the gurucomplex is that sometimes reading a marketing tract can give you the confidence to do what you knew was the right thing anyway. And sometimes listening to a marketing pundit can spark an idea that leads to a real breakthrough.

Here’s the really good news: in addition to analysis, marketing today offers something that actually works: a process.

The successful marketing process will always get you better results than the alternatives. The successful marketing process is not dependent on an historical analysis of what your competition did that worked, but is a truly powerful way to figure out what to do next. I think most marketing breakthroughs come down, sooner or later, to luck. But just as a gambler in Vegas can improve his luck, so can you.

Up in the air, it's a bird...

Dogcostume I bought a Halloween costume for my dog today.

Of course, it's not really for Woody. Woody doesn't celebrate Halloween. In fact, it's quite likely she doesn't even know who Superman is. The costume is for me and the people around me.

There are more gatekeepers involved in purchasing than you might realize.

Lazy people in a hurry...

I just had an interesting email exchange with John, and we concluded that this is often the target market.

You're busy trying to sell a service or a product or an idea to lazy people in a hurry.

Lazy, as in not willing to do the work to create long term benefits. Lazy as in not willing to read the instructions, follow the manual, do all the steps, invest the time in the research. Lazy as in willing to buy the first choice that's 'good enough' as opposed to finding the best choice. These are people who will spend five minutes to find a parking space one minute closer to the mall.

And in a hurry.

In a hurry because they jump to conclusions, don't read to the end, and most of all, most of the time, search for a shortcut.

Lazy, in a hurry and in search of better are often contradictory ideas. Doesn't matter. We don't have to like it, we just have to acknowledge it.

The great news is that in every market, there's a subset of geeks and nerds that are neither lazy nor in a hurry. Start with them.

YEP is here

Seven years ago at Yoyodyne, we started work on the Yoyodyne Engine for Pages, a free program that would automatically optimize landing pages. I've wished for something like that out loud more than a few times since.

Here it is, from, who else, Google: Website Optimizer - Adwords - Google. Thanks, Corey, for the tip.

A few cool sites

Just waiting to be discovered:

Small Marvel Shop



Oldest remaining... a copywriting tip

People hate weasel words. We can smell em from a mile away. So don't use them.

Construct your claims so that they are true without them.
Delete extra words that don't make your claim more true.

"Oldest remaining building...
" is just another way to say, "Oldest building". A building that no longer remains isn't a building any longer, right?

"Only Brand X gives you Termintops®." Well, of course that's true, because Termintops is a registered trademark and you'd sue anyone else who used the word!

Be vivid. Tell a story. Don't be bland.

But [most of the time] avoid using [carefully selected] weasel words that [sort of] dull your story.

The accidental marketer

Marketers and designers will be quick to tell you that marketing and design are critical to the success of any venture.

That's why it's so sad/disturbing/surprising/wonderful to discover that so many successful ventures were created by amateurs. Yes, they were professionals at something (coding, perhaps, or raising money or managing or even selling) but the marketing and design was not created by a 'professional'.

The list is long, and runs from the Boy Scouts to Google, from Nike to the New York Yankees.

One possible lesson is that marketing is easy.

The other, more likely lesson is that marketing is way too important to be left to professionals. Every person is a marketer, and anyone crazy enough and passionate enough to start something is definitely a marketer. It's not great programming that turns one Net company into a success while another flounders. More often than not, it's about how good a job the amateur running the marketing and design did.

Travel tip

I never bothered to print out boarding passes in advance... after all, the machine at the airport takes about ten seconds.

Here's the thing: at some airlines, the machine stops working 30 minutes before your flight. Leaving you at security to watch through the window as your flight takes twenty more minutes to board and leaves without you.

Tip 1: print your boarding pass out ahead of time.
Tip 2: if you forget, have them switch you to a later flight, then run to the gate of your original flight. Ignore them when they tell you that you'll never get on. I did.

We shouldn't need to share travel tips. "Have a good flight," he says sardonically.

Don't they know?

Howard Yermish reports:
This evening, my 4-year old daughter came downstairs for some ice cream.
When the commercial for the Little Mermaid DVD came on, she said, "We don't
need to see that commercial. Don't they know we already bought that movie?"

And she was right.

Shuffling the Deck

Google took a bunch of apps that were already done and turned them into a "suite" for campuses: Google Apps for Education.

Sometimes roll your own isn't as popular as the blue plate special. Thanks, Imal, for the link.

What's your theme song?

Kelly writes to let me know that every entrepreneur needs a theme song. I'll take it a lot further... every organization needs one, especially ones where marketing matters. So does every job seeker. Theme songs are the black holes of marketing--supercondensed memes under enormous pressure, putting a whole bunch of ideas and emotion into a tiny space. Right now, there's a lot of Sly and the Family Stone going on with the Squidteam. Do you have one?

While we're at it, you probably need a scent as well. Kurt Anderson reports that the New York Times now has a perfume critic... and then recommends Christopher Brosius, who has even figured out how to put to the scent of snow into a bottle.

Why do people look like their dogs?

ThreedogsIt's more than just a few silly pictures. It's a big insight that helps you understand why people (and businesses) buy what they buy.

They do it because it validates them.

Corporations prefer to buy from other organizations that make them feel safe and secure and important. That means a big bank has an advantage writing a loan to a company that thinks of itself as big. It means that a fashionable laptop is easier to sell to someone who sees herself as fashionable.

"Duh," you say.

Sure, it's obvious, but it's not easy. It's not easy because more often than not, marketers are busy marketing things that they would want to buy, not that their customers would prefer. Simple dog example: animal shelters are run by volunteers who hate the idea of dog shelters and having to kill strays. So that's the way they market. "Adopt this dog or it might get killed! It might happen Monday! Hurry!"

But dog buyers aren't always motivated that way. They like the idea of cute puppies and warm, comforting, fashionable environments. When the North Shore Animal League tells someone that this pupply is a "golden retreiver mix", they are breaking the typical shelter marketing mantra and instead telling that dog buyer exactly what they want to hear. And if it's true, it works.

Make something happen

If I had to pick one piece of marketing advice to give you, that would be it.


Make something happen today, before you go home, before the end of the week. Launch that idea, post that post, run that ad, call that customer. Go the edge, that edge you've been holding back from... and do it today. Without waiting for the committee or your boss or the market. Just go.

Times change

Nelson Hoyt reports:
16,000 fans attempting to coax Eric Clapton & Band back for an encore. In a darkened arena, perhaps 100 people holding lit cigarette lighters aloft. Several thousand holding backlit cell phones aloft!

"why do they call it dialing a phone, dad?"

The last seminar of the year (we need you)

I'll be doing one of my rare all-day seminars in New York City on December 12. Here are the details:

1. You can find the complete write up, directions, fee information and more right here.
2. You can skip that and go straight to registration here.
3. Or you can read this quick summary first:

Two or three times a year, I run a seminar in New York. They always sell out, they're always filled with amazing people (that would be you) and they create a huge wave of energy for everyone who attends. People have come from as far away as South Africa and Korea, and a few folks have even come twice.

Since I don't do any consulting, it's your chance to get some insight on your particular issues. Even better, though, is the insight you get from seeing your peers working their way through their issues. Which is why I'm pretty picky about who comes and why all registrations are subject to approval.

If you can't come, I hope you'll forward the link to some people you think might enjoy it.

NB there are a handful or two of free seats for worthy non-profits (see the lens for details) and just one or two cheap seats for nascent entrepreneurs for who can't scrape up the full fee. I don't confirm these to the last minute, so please don't count on one.

I don't do this often, and I won't promise miracles, but so far it's been pretty fun. I hope you can come.

To [or] For

Here at the White Plains airport, I'm noticing all these people doing things to me. Enforcing irrational rules. Intentionally putting the seats far from the electrical outlets so people like me won't steal electricity. Yelling over the PA system. Scolding people for not standing in the right place.

The key difference between marketing for growth and acting like a monopolistic utility is one of posture. Do you spend time doing things to your customers or for your customers? When someone calls tech support, are you viewing it as a chance to do something for them, or to get rid of them to cut costs?

One of the reasons small is so much more important than big is that people who think small have the power and flexibility to do things for their customers.

How powerful are you?

Very. Brian Wansink, a professor at Cornell, has discovered that changing the size of a serving container for food increases consumption as much as 74 percent. A bigger bowl of stale popcorn: 53%. Want to double the number of potato chips someone eats? Make it hard for them to count how many they've had.

We still misunderestimate how irrational people are. Even students who had just been taught the facts in the paragraph above ate more than 50% more Chex mix when it was served from a bigger bowl.

1 in 10

I almost always want to link to Scott, but I resist, figuring you must have already read what he's written. This time, I can't resist. He fails 9 times out of 10, he says. That's a great average if your goals are high! The Dilbert Blog: In Over My Head.


Picture_19_1 I wonder whether people realize that they are crossing the line.

I mean, when I'm driving at 72 miles an hour, I don't feel like a criminal. But what do the spammers feel? When they hit a button and send out 6,000,000 emails to sell a drug that doesn't work to people who didn't ask for it... and they're violating a host of laws. Do they think of themselves as criminals?

What about the accountants at Worldcom or Enron who were 'just doing their job' at the same time they knew they were defrauding thousands of investors?

I just got this phishing note from a con artist. It's a new tactic, a little more sophisticated. Is the person doing this any different from someone robbing a bank? Just wondering.


I just got an angry note from Anna in the Midwest. She read one of my books, got the coupon for unlimited free consulting by email and decided to cash it in. She sent me a note asking me to persuade her bosses that the best way to grow their resort was to lower prices.

When I responded that perhaps she ought to consider raising prices and using the extra money to create a remarkable experience, she got really angry with me. Of course, I refunded her consulting fee. Actually gave her three times back what she paid...

Here's what I think: Cheaper is the last refuge of the person who's not a very good marketer. Cheaper is easy and cheaper is fast and cheaper is linear and cheaper is easy to do properly, at least at first. But cheaper doesn't spread the word (unless you are much cheaper, but to be much cheaper, you need to be organized from the ground up, like Walmart or JetBlue, to be cheaper). They are, you're not.

Cheaper is a short term hit, not a long term advantage. Cheaper doesn't create loyalty, because the other guy can always figure out how to be cheaper still, at least in the short run.

Even free isn't cheap enough to win in the long run. Not if other people can figure out how to match what you've got.

So, if you can't be cheaper, be better.

An engineer, an economist and a marketer...

Eirik has a neat riff: When will a new technology break through?.

Lessons learned from Columbus

Cristóbal Colón, marketer.

Columbus failed early and often.
He failed when he joined in the attempt to conqure the Kingdom of Naples. Later, he was captured by Portuguese ships as he escorted an armed convoy. He was wounded. And he never did get to India. The fact that he didn't give up and become a shopkeeper after this rough start was critical to his success.

Columbus was a thief. He didn't invent the idea that the world was round. In fact, Ertosthenes, Aristotle and Ptolemy pretty much made it an established fact among educated people long before Columbus was born. Just because he didn't invent the idea doesn't mean he couldn't use it.

Columbus didn't do his research carefully, reinforcing his optimism. He thought that calculations of the size of the Earth were in Italian miles, not in the longer Arabic miles. The correct calculations would have 'proven' he should never have left.

Columbus took advantage of human nature. The rulers of Spain were desperate to find an edge and Columbus offered them a quest that could address their state of emergency.

Columbus was persistent. It took him seven years at court in order to get funding.

No one really believed that Columbus would change everything
. His contract with the king included huge bonuses for success, largely because they were pretty sure that he would fail.

Columbus didn't consider side affects until it was too late. In order to help repay his investors, Columbus took slaves (the first person to do so in the New World) and in one notorious case, arranged to cut the hands off of each Haitian adult male who failed to bring a minimum amount of gold to his ships.

Ultimately, in death, Columbus became a brand, a story bigger than his own facts. Buried in Spain, moved to Santo Domingo, then to Havana and then back to Spain. Namesake of the Knights of Columbus. Honored by statues and streets and even cities. In many ways considered the "first American," demonstrating vision, persistence, insight, brilliance, bravery and world changing paradigm shifting... almost none of it true, of course.

I think the lesson of Columbus Day is a marketing lesson. Successful marketers allow people to tell themselves a story they want to hear. Columbus did that his entire life, and especially in death. Great marketers then do work that they're proud of, using their leverage to create things that people might not want in the short run, but are delighted in later on. I think Columbus was certainly successful. I wonder what would have happened if he had been great.

Running out of vegan lunches...

This is a great post about risk and anxiety and what happens when you ignore the second and take the first: User Conferences Worth the Risk.


Every month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks "mass layoffs." That's the term for more than 50 people losing their jobs at once. In August of this year, the total number of people hit by a mass layoff was 127,944. The number has been more than 100,000 every month except for one in the last decade.

And that doesn't count small companies, smaller lay offs, non-profits and other ventures that don't show up on the radar. The actual number has to be at least ten times as big--at least a million a month is my guess .

Compare that to the tiny number of people who get fired for attempting to do something great.

Sure, Carly got fired. But thousands at HP got laid off. She lost her job for challenging the status quo. They got canned for embracing it.

Sure, that crazy copywriter on the 11th floor got fired for attempting a viral blog-based campaign that backfired, but it's nothing compared to the entire department that lost their jobs because there just wasn't enough business.

At least once a day, I get mail from people worrying that if they are too remarkable, too edgy, too willing to cause change and growth... they're risking getting fired. I almost never get mail from people who figure that if they keep doing the same boring thing day in and day out at their fading company that they're going to lose their jobs in a layoff.

50 ad agencies lose accounts for being boring, static and unprofitable for every one that gets fired for being remarkable.

50 churchgoers switch to a new congregation because of a boring or uncaring leader for every one that leaves because she was offended by a new way of thinking.

50 employees lose their jobs because the business just faded away for every one who is singled out and fired for violating a silly policy and taking care of a customer first.

50 readers stop visiting your blog (or your site or your magazine or your TV show) because you're stuck in a rut and scared for every one who leaves because you have the guts to change the format or challenge the conventional wisdom.


How did we live without it

Dvdrewinder Alin points us to the DVD Rewinder.

Think of the time you'll save. I bet the guys at YouTube need a bunch of these, so they can rewind all those clips people watch online.

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