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

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



All Marketers Tell Stories

Seth's most important book about the art of marketing




Free Prize Inside

The practical sequel to Purple Cow





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




Meatball Sundae

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



Permission Marketing

The classic Named "Best Business Book" by Fortune.



Poke The Box

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




Purple Cow

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



Small is the New Big

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



Survival is Not Enough

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




The Big Moo

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



The Big Red Fez

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




The Dip

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




The Icarus Deception

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





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




Unleashing the Ideavirus

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



V Is For Vulnerable

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




We Are All Weird

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



Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck?

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



THE DIP BLOG by Seth Godin

All Marketers Are Liars Blog

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Member since 08/2003

« January 2008 | Main | March 2008 »

Ordinary is cheaper than you

The folks who answer the phone at information and the airlines aren't folks any more. They're computers.

And the person taking your order at the drive-through isn't in the same state as you. They might not even be in the same country.

It's now clear to employers everywhere that they can hire ordinary, perfectly-acceptable staff for a fraction of what they have to pay you to do the job.

In other words, if all the best you can do is 'good enough', then why on earth should I pay you the benefits and wages that it costs to get you to do that work?

Sorting out

Gavin Potter says, “The 20th century was about sorting out supply, the 21st is going to be about sorting out demand.”

Think about that one for a second. Not about maximizing demand, but about sorting it out. When your messages reach the right people at the right time in the right way, magic happens. It's not about forcing or pushing or attacking or targeting or closing.

This is a huge step forward in how you can think about your customers and how they act.

May I have your attention please

or perhaps


Of course, I can't have your attention. I could borrow it or earn it or if I use all caps, offend you and demand it.

The most precious commodity on a momentary basis is attention. Each moment occurs only once, and if a marketer just takes it, we're understandably annoyed. There is no refund window for misused attention...

Which leads to the idea of free. In case you've been living under a rock, Chris Anderson has just unveiled the outline of the key arguments in his brilliant new book about FREE.

This is well worth a read. I've written about free on this blog about 600 times, so I think it's a pretty important topic.

One reason is the cost side, which Chris writes about so eloquently, but another reason has to do with attention. If you want someone's attention, I'm afraid you're going to have to earn it. To pay for it. To do something that makes the person who just gave you this attention feel like a fair bargain was struck.

You can do that by creating a remarkable service or product. You can do it by paying them with cash. Or you can do it with free. Free undermines the typical human's proclivity to ignore every offer. Even if it's a penny, we'll ignore it. Free changes that. In other words, buying attention is a marketing expense, and one way to budget for that is to deduct it from the cost of your product. As Tim O'Reilly says, piracy is not the enemy, obscurity is.

The interesting thing about most products and services is that we won't buy them until we know what they are and what they do. And often the best and only way to do that is to use them. For some products (like music) using them once and owning them are very close to the same thing. Hence, free. You can view that as a problem or you can see it as an opportunity. Up to you.

Marketing is not advertising, not any more. It is often found in the way you make something, talk about it and yes, price it.

Thinking about Dustin Hoffman

I’m sitting here on the plane watching The Graduate, a movie I’m surprised I’ve never seen before. There, on the big (little) screen up front is Mr. Magorium’s Emporium, a movie I’m glad I’ve never seen before. Same Dustin Hoffman, of course, separated by forty years or so.

It’s unusual to be able to watch someone’s career develop over that long a period of time.

But now, in the age of blogs and a million channels and the social graph, I wonder how unusual that really is. I had coffee at a party with Soledad O’Brien ten years ago and now I see her on TV announcing election results. I started reading Rich’s startup blog a few years ago, reading Tom Peters twenty five (!) years ago and emailing with some of my colleagues almost as long ago. (I think my first email with Guy Kawasaki was in 1987).

You’re going to be on people’s radar a lot longer than you think, longer than you’re going to be at your current job and longer than you might want. The web doesn’t forget.

That guy who saved my life

I was talking today in a teleconference about how 'friends' aren't really friends, at least not in most social graphs. I'm not much inclined to do a heroic favor for a friend of a friend of a friend. As a result, because it feels icky to say 'no', I don't hang out in the networking sites.

On the other hand, that guy who saved my life once, he can ask for just about anything and not only will I oblige, it will delight me to do so.

Two ends of the spectrum, with lots in between.

I don't think a large volume at the easy end of the spectrum is a replacement for a few at the hard-earned end. Not at all.

Video presentation about the future of the music business

I've taken down the video, sorry. I'm just not happy with the way I was able to get it to look online.

I'll try to do a transcript soon. My apologies.

The Boss

Theboss Here's the thing: every single one of these policies is something that you'd be willing to do for a good customer anyway.

So, rather than taking the posture of "I hate you and I don't trust you," why not start with this one?

LL Bean has been doing it for a hundred years. It works.

Just down the street, the proprietor yelled at us for taking a photo. At a t-shirt store. Sheesh. Wanna guess where we bought our overpriced souvenirs?

Marketing in a recession

When times are good, buying things is a sport. It's a reward. The story we tell ourselves is that we deserve it, that we want it and why not?

When the mass psychology changes and times are seen as not so good, the story we tell ourselves changes as well. Now, we buy out of defense, to avoid trouble. Or we buy because something will never be as cheap again. Or we buy smaller items for the same sense of reward.

Of course, the two different extremes can lead you to buy the very same thing. It's not the thing so much as it's the story.

Starbucks was the indulgence of a confident person happy to blow $4 on a cup of coffee. Starbucks can become the small indulgence for the person who just traded down to a small rented apartment.

The challenge for marketers is to figure out how to change the story they are living so that their customers can change the story they tell themselves. What you make, where you make it, who makes it, how it's priced and sold and ... it all adds up to a perception. If you change these elements the story will change too.

Advice for real estate agents (quit now!)

I had the good fortune to speak to a large gathering of real estate agents last week. Here’s my best advice (everyone knows an agent or two, so feel free to forward this along).

Plan A: You should quit selling real estate.

I’m serious.

Quit being an agent. Get a job doing something else.

Some of you have been waiting to hear that. My pleasure.


Now, if you’re still with me, you’ll be glad to know that the competition for attention just got smaller. The agents who built their business on low interest rates, easy money and speculation (the order takers) have left the building.

The ones that are left, that’s you, can consider Plan B:

If you’re not going to be able to make a living by taking orders, by selling houses the way everyone else does, by using the never-ending rise in real estate prices to make sales, then what are you going to do? Whining is not an option.

In fact, I think this is an extraordinary opportunity for you.

Without a frenzy, without short-term competition, you can actually build assets that will pay off for the long run. I have two in mind:

The first is to become the expert in what you do. Which means micro-specialization. Who is the single-best agent for condos in your zip code? Or for single family homes for large families? Who is the one and the only best person to turn to if you’re looking for investment property in this part of town?

As I wrote in The Dip, you’re either the best in the world (where ‘world’ can be a tiny slice of the environment) or you’re invisible.

This means being Draconian in your choices. No, you can’t also do a little of this or a little of that. Best in your world means burning your other bridges and obsessing.

"I have no time!"

Of course you have that time available. Remember nine months ago when you were three times as busy with incoming calls as you are now? Invest that time in building up your expertise and becoming the person people who don't even like you turn to for insight.

Or, consider this: Take half your office (the half made vacant by the people following Plan A) and turn it over to local groups. Let the active (and nascent) clubs and organizations meet in your office. Not once in a while. Regularly. All the time. Become the hub. Because, after all, you’re the mayor.

The second asset to build is permission. It turns out (according to the NAR) that 91% of all Realtors never contact the buyer or the seller of a home after the closing. Not once. Wow. Someone just spent a million dollars with you and you don’t bother to call or write?

The opportunity during the current pause (and yes, it's a pause) is to find, one by one, the people who would benefit from hearing from you and then earn the right to talk to them. Earn the right to send them a newsletter or a regular update or a subscription to your blog. NOT to talk about what matters to you, but to give them information (real information, not just data) that matters to them. Visit to see an example of what people like to hear.

The opportunity is to reinvent the way you interact with citizens, with prospects, with the mildly interested and with your past clients. The opportunity, in other words, is to stop waiting around for the phone to ring and instead figure out how to do what you do best... connect buyers and sellers in a way that makes them both confident.

Some of you will stick with the standard business card with the standard photo, the standard office and the standard ad strategy and the standard approach to making the phone ring. It's going to be a long haul if that's your route.

I'm betting, though, that the best of you will end up with a business model that will survive, thrive and prosper. Best time to start is right now.

It's too easy to criticize hope

And in the end, cynicism is a lousy strategy.

Marketing HR

Hepburn Yesterday's post led to some good email about Human Resources.

Understand that in days of yore, factories consisted of people and machines. The goal was to use more machines, fewer people, and to design processes so that the people were interchangeable, low cost and easily replaced. The more leverage the factory-owner had, the better. Hence Personnel or the even more cruel term: HR. It views people as a natural resource, like lumber.

Like it or not, in most organizations HR has grown up with a forms/clerical/factory focus. Which was fine, I guess, unless your goal was to do something amazing, something that had nothing to do with a factory, something that required amazing programmers, remarkable marketers or insanely talented strategy people.

So, here's my small suggestion, one that will make some uncomfortable.

Change the department name to Talent.

The reason this makes some people uncomfortable is that it seems like spin, like gratuitous double speak. And, if you don't change what you do, that would be true.


What if you started acting like the VP of Talent? Understanding that talent is hard to find and not obvious to manage. The VP of Talent would have to reorganize the department and do things differently all day long (small example: talent shouldn't have to fill out reams of forms and argue with the insurance company... talent is too busy for that... talent has people to help with that.)

Microsoft and Google both have a very healthy focus on finding and recruiting Talent. McDonald's recently announced that they want to hire people who smile more. The first strategy works, the second won't. Talent is too smart to stay long at a company that wants it to be a cog in a machine. Great companies want and need talent, but they have to work for it.

No user servicable parts inside

That's what it says on countless electronic and mechanical devices. "Don't touch this," it says, "you're way too dumb to open it... you'll get hurt"

The problem, of course, is that pretty soon you start looking at the entire world that way. Whether it's web design or Google analytics or backing up your hard drive or just talking to the guys in the plant about your new ideas, it's really easy to see the world as a black box.

Here's a simple secret of success: ignore the sticker.

Figure out how to use the tools that the most successful people in your field understand innately.


What do you call the people that marketers interact with? The ones who aren't customers yet...

I was talking with Dan Pink on a conference call earlier and we realized that "prospect" or "target market" are very marketing-centric terms. The person is defined by the marketer, not the other way around.

Isn't it interesting that there isn't even a name for someone who doesn't yet have a relationship with the marketer?

We settled on citizen. (Jackie and Ben used a variant on this in their latest book.)

Citizen recognized the power of this individual. Citizens are no longer the weak, isolated pre-consumers in front of a TV set in 1971, with few options. Now, citizens appear to be holding all the cards. It sounds a bit pretentious, but then, so do most terms marketers use.

When you stop calling people 'targets' or 'prospects' and start calling them 'guests' or 'citizens', you can't help but become a little more humble and a little more respectful. Try it, it works.

The mp3 of the conversation is here.


Like most creatures, people are stressed out. Almost all the time. And when we're not, we seek out adventures and interactions to make us stressed. We get stressed about money, reputation, safety, relationships and whether we have to move our seat on the plane after we get on.

Stress is an essential part of the human condition. It rises when we're about to buy something or sell something or interact with someone. We spend money to avoid it and we spend money to embrace it. And we almost never talk about it.

That thing you're marketing... Does it add to stress or take it away? Is it stressful to talk about it? Buy it? Get rid of it? Is it more stressful not to buy it than it is to go ahead and buy one? Does it promise to reduce stress, but end up causing more?

Worth thinking about.

The posture of a communicator

If you buy my product but don't read the instructions, that's not your fault, it's mine.
If you read a blog post and misinterpret what I said, that's my choice, not your error.
If you attend my presentation and you're bored, that's my failure.
If you are a student in my class and you don't learn what I'm teaching, I've let you down.

It's really easy to insist that people read the friggin manual. It's really easy to blame the user/student/prospect/customer for not trying hard, for being too stupid to get it or for not caring enough to pay attention. Sometimes (often) that might even be a valid complaint. But it's not helpful.

What's helpful is to realize that you have a choice when you communicate. You can design your products to be easy to use. You can write so your audience hears you. You can present in a place and in a way that guarantees that the people you want to listen will hear you. Most of all, you get to choose who will understand (and who won't).

You just know

Glenn sent me to the dieline blog.

Glenn's site is filled with examples of work that a non-designer couldn't say why it worked, but just knows that the hotel or product or whatever they're looking at is professional and first rate and trustworthy. Great stuff.

The dieline blog is a wonderful collection of packaging insights. Once again, you might not have thought of it, but you'll almost certainly get it, whatever 'it' is.

Gmaillogo The funny thing is that design on the web is almost the opposite. Winning sites on the web almost always have terrible design and terrible logos. Unless I define terrible as 'not working'. In which case the design is not terrible. In fact, it works so well it now seems to be clear that clunky, engineering-built design might just be the secret to success online.

Color matters

Especially online, where there are so few cues and so few choices.

This page of color choices will change your life. A lot. For the better.

[PS Michael recommends this page from Adobe. And finally, this and this came in as well... who knew?]


When I walked into my hotel room the other night, I was amazed to discover that no less than 18 lights were on (all traditional bulbs) and that the heat was set on three different thermostats to a toasty 75 degrees in honor of winter.

Then, when I got home, the $125 watch I had ordered from Amazon was waiting for me. The box for the watch contained four pamphlets, a small velvet bag, a cleaning cloth and was more than 10 inches by 3 inches by 3 inches in size. It weighed well over a pound--just the presentation box, not the watch.

In both cases, I don’t think I would have noticed or cared just a few years ago. Today, both feel wrong. Not all of your customers will feel this way. Many will embrace willful waste as a sign of confidence or luxury. But as more customers change their worldview about waste, you need to consider who you’re talking to and what you’re saying.

Obvious hotel tip

The other night I stayed on the 67th floor of the very tall Westin hotel in Atlanta.

At 5 a.m., the power went out. With a speech to give, I did the only thing a dedicated speaker could do: I put on my coat, grabbed my suitcase and walked down 67 flights of stairs. (The power was still out at 8 a.m. No one got stuck in the one working elevator, but I still made the right choice).

Next time, I'll sleep closer to the ground. Trading the view for safety and convenience is now a no-brainer.

The Placebo Affect*

[*spelled wrong on purpose. This post is from three years ago, and I thought it was worth another look:]

Everybody already knows how powerful the brain is. Take a sugar pill that’s supposed to be a powerful medicine and watch your symptoms disappear. Have a surgeon not perform bypass surgery on your heart (link.) and discover that the angina that has been crippling you vanishes.

The placebo effect is not just for sick people anymore.

Why do some ideas have more currency than others? Because we believe they should. When Chris Anderson or Malcolm Gladwell writes about something, it’s a better idea because they wrote about it.

Even as your culture of ideas and marketing enters its long-tail, open-source, low-barrier, everyone-has-a-blog era of mass publication, we still need filters. Would your iPod sound as sweet if everyone else had a Rio? Would your Manolo Blahniks be as cool if everyone else were wearing Keds?

Arthur Anderson audited thousands of companies, and those audits gave us confidence in those companies, made them appear more solid, which, not surprisingly, made them more solid. Then, post Enron, the placebo effect disappeared. Same companies, same auditors, but suddenly those companies appeared LESS solid, which made them less solid.

The magic of the placebo effect lies in the fact that you can’t do it to yourself. You need an accomplice. Someone in authority who will voluntarily tell you a story.

That’s what marketers do. We have the  “placebo affect.” (* The knack for creating placebos.) Of course, we need to persuade ourselves that it’s morally and ethically and financially okay to participate in something as unmeasurable as the placebo effect. The effect is controversial and it goes largely unspoken. Very rarely do we come to meetings and say, “well, here’s our cool new PBX for Fortune 1000 companies. It’s exactly the same as the last model, except the phones are designed by frog design so they’re cooler and more approachable and people are more likely to invest a few minutes in learning how to use them, so customer satisfaction will go up and we’ll sell more, even though it’s precisely the same technology we were selling yesterday.”

Very rarely do vodka marketers tell the truth and say, “here’s our new vodka, which we buy in bulk from the same distillery that produces vodka for $8 a bottle. Ours is going to cost $35 a bottle and come in a really, really nice bottle and our ads will persuade laddies that this will help them in the dating department… nudge, nudge, know what I mean, nudge, nudge…”

It would be surprising to meet a monk or a talmudic scholar or a minister who would say, “yes, we burn the incense or turn down the lights or ring these bells or light these candles as a way of creating a room where people are more likely to believe in their prayers,” but of course that’s exactly what they’re doing. (and you know what? there's nothing wrong with that.)

It’s easier to get people to come to a meeting about clock speed and warranty failure analysis than it is to have a session about storytelling.

We don’t like to admit that we tell stories, that we’re in the placebo business. Instead, we tell ourselves about features and benefits as a way to rationalize our desire to to help our customers by allowing them to lie to themselves.

The design of your blog or your package or your outfit is nothing but an affect designed to create the placebo effect. The sound Dasani water makes when you open the bottle is more of the same. It’s all storytelling. It’s all lies.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

In fact, your marketplace insists on it.

Take that, ferret face!

Squidoo today launched

Digg covers it here.

New interactions, not just moved interactions

eBay is basically an auction online. It's a great idea, I wish I'd had it, but it's still an auction, same kind we've had for a million years.

Jeff Jarvis points us to a new feature in Google Docs. Think this through for a moment:
You send an email to your permission list. It points to a spreadsheet online. People can fill it out without logging in. You get the summarized data back, and can present it as a chart, a graph or just run with the numbers themselves. The depth of analysis you can generate is far deeper than a simple poll. My guess is that 99% of the people who use it will do a simple one dimensional poll. It's more powerful than that.

Now, what else do we need?

How about a simple system that lets you run a new kind of auction for an event with limited seating? Say you want 200 people to come to a networking event, the sort of thing that's no fun if only a dozen or two show up... Instead of charging $50 a ticket, why not charge $1 for the first five tickets, $2 for the next five, and on to $500 for the last ten? You'll earn just as much (if not more) but reward the brave who sign up early. (The folks who like to wait until the last minute 'to be sure' end up paying for the privilege). It's easy to imagine a simple interface to set up whatever graduated pricing model you'd like.

Or, how about a geography-based system for pricing? Many services are sold by a flat fee, but add a zip code and a map and it could completely change the pricing model.

Why don't airlines have tools in place to make it easy to integrate charter flights with conventions so flights run when (and where) people are going? Flights for passengers instead of passengers for flights...

There was a lot of this discussed 9 years ago. The world wasn't ready. It is now.

I guess my point is that this is just the beginning of using internet tools to change the world we interact with, as opposed to trying to make it easy to interact with the standard world using the Internet.

Food = Fun

Bugles Many of us want fun and respect and love and success and kindness and hope. What brilliant marketers do is add the =.

A hundred years ago, food wasn't much of an industry. Today, packaged, profitable, processed food has transformed every element of our culture.

The Super Bowl is a food holiday. Visit (if you must) the local supermarket on a Sunday morning before the big game. That's the primary function of the event... to eat processed foods and beverages while hanging out with a group of people. Bonding via shared junk.

Same with a typical birthday party. Kids get validation from their friends (you came) and from their parents (yay, we get to eat junk.)

It's not an accident that fried corn, sugared beverages, semi-trans fats and white flour have become essential parts of our culture. You can't get elected in Iowa without pigging out at the Fair and you can't host a party without stocking up on the chips. Somehow, food marketing became a story about respect. Few people say, "it'll be fun... I'll make a big bowl of brown rice and serve oatmeal cookies I made from scratch." Too weird. Too risky. People might not like you if you challenge the food dynamic.

There's always been a cultural desire to conform. The difference is that now there's money at stake, so marketers push us to conform in ways that turn a profit.

Marketers, brilliant, profit-oriented marketers, have had a century to teach us to associate respect and kindness and love with certain kinds of food.

And that's why this post isn't just a screed, it's a lesson for marketers everywhere.

...Just as the jewelry and floral people have taught us that flowers and diamonds = love and that a respectable gentleman spends two months salary (!) on an engagement ring. Not an accident, of course. It's too risky, marketers teach us, to send a handmade card or skip the jewelry and buy a research grant or pay for part of a school.

...Just as the car you drive somehow says something about who you are.

...Just as the college-industrial complex has taught us that the best colleges are the ones that are the most expensive (making them the hardest to get into, furthering the cycle), have the opportunity to start down this road with what you make.

So I'm hoping that what you make is worthy. Marketing is a powerful tool especially when it associates a product with a desire and instinct we already have.

Marketing, when it works, transcends any discussion of the benefits of the product or the service.

Marketing, instead, is about the equal sign.

Many of us want fun and respect and love and success and kindness and hope. What brilliant marketers do is add the =.

Have to vs. Get to

Someone asked me the other day if posting a blog post every day is intimidating or a grind.

I view it as something I get to do. I spend most of my blogging time deciding what not to post.

The best work, at least for me, is the stuff you get to do. If you are really good at that, you're lucky enough to have very little of the have to stuff left.

Smart advice from Pamela Slim

Escape from Cubicle Nation:

Before rejecting any model, you must learn it.


New organizations and new projects are so crisp.

Things happen with alacrity. Decisions get made. Stuff gets done.

Then, over time, things get soggy. They slow down. Decisions aren't so black and white any more.


Here are some things that happen:
1. Every initiative, post launch, still has a tail of activity associated with it. Launch enough things and over time, that tail gets bigger and bigger.

2. Most projects either succeed or fail. Successful projects raise the stakes, because the team doesn't want to blow it. There are more people watching, more dollars at stake, things matter more. So things inevitably get more review, more analysis and slow down. Projects that fail sap the confidence of the group. They want to be extra sure that they're right this time, so, ironically, they slow down and end up sabotaging the new work.

3. The paper isn't blank any more. Which means that new decisions often mean overturning old decisions, which means you need to acknowledge that it didn't used to be as good as it was.

4. And the biggest thing is that there is a status quo. Something to compare everything to.

I'm not sure you can eliminate any of these issues. But, you can realize that they're there. And you can be really strict about priorities and deadlines... it's so easy to let things slip, rather than confronting the fact that you're stuck and probably afraid. Speak up, call it out... and ship!

Internal primaries

How do you decide what to make next?

Over the last few decades, I've probably launched 500 products and services. And I don't think I've ever seen anyone talk about how organizations go about deciding what to make and what to shelve. How do you decide where to invest your scarce people and promotional resources?

If there’s anything that can have a significant impact on you and your team, it’s this decision. If marketing is the product, then choosing which product to market is your most important moment. Here are some of the reasons I’ve used (and have seen others use) to make this decision:

  • It’s something a major customer wants
  • It’s something our technology can do easily
  • Someone with a lot of power and authority in the organization really wants it
  • It’ll be fun
  • If we don’t do it, our competition will
  • It’s important to our community or society
  • It's cheap
  • It's easy
  • It will increase our margins
  • It appeals to our competition’s base, thus growing our market share
  • It's Bob's turn
  • It locks in our base, making it less likely they'll be stolen by the competition
  • We didn’t launch this one last time, so its turn has come around
  • It will make us look smart
  • It’s the next logical item
  • I love it
  • It responds to an RFP
  • It will burnish our reputation
  • It adds a feature that our CEO really, really wants
  • We have a salesforce to support, and this fills in their grid
  • Our investors tell us that this is a must-have
  • It will increase traffic to our site
  • I can sell it to customer X
  • It’s a copy/improvement over something our competition is doing
  • Our current stuff doesn’t meet regulations and this does
  • The critics will respect us
  • We've come this far and quitting now costs too much
  • A huge market dominator promises to promote it if we build it
  • A big retailer says they'll carry it
  • A key employee is bored and this will keep them busy
  • We have unused capacity in the plant

There are legendary stories about how Lorne Michaels made decisions about this on Saturday Night Live, about how Microsoft and AOL picked their future by doing (and not doing) certain launches and of course, how our political parties do it. It's almost always done poorly and it's almost always important. Feel free to add your own on my lens.



John has a good post about soft skills and selling in rural India. Scroll down on the site, it's below this picture.

The Fellows blog is a great example of how blogging changes things. Not just for the outreach, but because it changes how the writer expresses himself, it creates a record and a diary and a useful version of ground truth, all at the same time.

What if everyone had a blog? And used it to tell their truth?

People with passion

Neat Japanese magazine...

Lessons from voting

A few (marketing) things to think about on Galactic Interstellar Tuesday:

  • Voting is free.
  • Some people really like to vote. It builds a connection for them.
  • A big part of voting are the senior citizens who sit at the desk when you walk in to vote. Surely we could figure out how to vote without so many paid poll workers, but it makes it better.
  • Other people have a real problem with voting, probably involving the act of taking responsibility.
  • Voting makes some people feel as good as if they just gave blood, but you don't get cookies or a pin.
  • Many, many people feel uncomfortable voting for someone they think might lose.
  • Other people think there's no such thing as a wasted vote.
  • The layout of almost every voting machine I have ever seen is just terrible. Inspired by a cross between a fusebox and a prison.
  • Most people I see voting go to the polls alone.
  • Very few people have voting parties.
  • If you voted with your parents, I bet you're more likely to vote now.
  • People rarely dress up when they go out to vote.
  • There are no prizes or other promotions associated with voting (vote once, get another vote free).
  • ATM machines never screw up, voting machines do. A lot.
  • If you vote when you're young, you'll probably vote when you're old.
  • If a person votes for you, they feel a lot more connected to the work you do.
  • Elections are quite close more than you would imagine. Which means that votes surely matter. Yet a majority of people don't bother. I wonder which reason above matters most?

Perhaps you don't have to take yourself so seriously...

Puma doesn't. Thanks, Gabe.


Fear, hope and love: the three marketing levers

Where does love come from? Brand love?

The TSA is in the fear business. Every time they get you take off your shoes, they're using fear (of the unknown or perhaps of missing your plane) to get you take action.

Chanel is in the hope business. How else to get you to spend $5,000 a gallon for perfume?

Hope can be something as trivial as convenience. I hope that this smaller size of yogurt will save me time or get a smile out of my teenager...

And love? Love gets you to support a candidate even when he screws up or changes his mind on a position or disagrees with you on another one. Love incites you to protest when they change the formula for Coke, or to cry out in delight when you see someone at the market wearing a Google t-shirt.

People take action (mostly) based on one of three emotions:


Every successful marketer (including politicians) takes advantage of at least one of these basic needs.

Forbes Magazine, for example, is for people who hope to make more money.

Rudy Giuliani was the fear candidate. He tried to turn fear into love, but failed.

Few products or services succeed out of love. People are too selfish for an emotion that selfless, most of the time.

It's interesting to think about the way certain categories gravitate to various emotions. Doctors selling check ups, of course, are in the fear business (while oncologists certainly sell hope). Restaurants have had a hard time selling fear (healthy places don't do so well). Singles bars certainly thrive on selling hope.

Google, amazingly quickly, became a beloved brand, something many people see as bigger than themselves, something bigger than hope. Apple lives in this arena as well. I think if you deliver hope for a long time (and deliver on it sometimes) you can graduate to love. Ronald Reagan was beloved, even when he was making significant long-term errors. So was JFK. Hillary may be respected, but Obama is loved.

I don't think love is often a one way street, either. Brands that are loved usually start the process by loving their customers in advance.

The easiest way to build a brand is to sell fear. The best way, though, may be to deliver on hope while aiming for love...

Not Seth Godin

Every once in a while, someone sends me an email saying, "Is this really you?"

Of course, it's a silly question, since if an admin were secretly responding to my mail, a question like this certainly doesn't end the subterfuge. You'd need to do something like ask in Navajo or some secret code.

Anyway, I don't have a staff. It's just me. (Though having a staff seems to work really well for Tim.)

Which leads to this post. I don't use Twitter. It's not really me. I also don't actively use FaceBook, and I'm not adding any friends, though I still have an account for the day when I no doubt will. I also don't use Flickr or MySpace or Meebo.

My reasoning is simple, and it has two parts. First, I don't want to use a tool unless I'm going to use it really well. Doing any of these things halfway is worse than not at all. People don't want a mediocre interaction. Second, I don't want to add a layer of staff between me and the tools I use and the people I interact with. I think both of these ideas go together, and unfortunately, they're also a paradox. If you want to be in multiple social media and also have a day job, you're going to need a staff. Scoble is the poster child for being everywhere, all the time, but it's all he does.

In 1993, we installed a primitive form of chat on our network at work. I think it was called SnapMail. I discovered pretty quickly that I was spending three or four hours a day using it. I was really good at it. And I also didn't get as much done as I needed to. So we ripped it out. Just because it was stimulating doesn't meant it helped with our goal.

So, please don't worry if it's really me. If it's me, I'll tell you here.

Better than Free

Kevin Kelly has a fantastic (no surprise) riff about free. Highly recommended.

His point: when there are infinite copies of something, charging for one is almost impossible.

Here are his eight ways of making something worth charging for:

Immediacy -- Sooner or later you can find a free copy of whatever you want, but getting a copy delivered to your inbox the moment it is released -- or even better, produced -- by its creators is a generative asset. Many people go to movie theaters to see films on the opening night, where they will pay a hefty price to see a film that later will be available for free, or almost free, via rental or download. Hardcover books command a premium for their immediacy, disguised as a harder cover. First in line often commands an extra price for the same good. As a sellable quality, immediacy has many levels, including access to beta versions. Fans are brought into the generative process itself. Beta versions are often de-valued because they are incomplete, but they also possess generative qualities that can be sold. Immediacy is a relative term, which is why it is generative. It has to fit with the product and the audience. A blog has a different sense of time than a movie, or a car. But immediacy can be found in any media.

Personalization -- A generic version of a concert recording may be free, but if you want a copy that has been tweaked to sound perfect in your particular living room -- as if it were preformed in your room -- you may be willing to pay a lot.  The free copy of a book can be custom edited by the publishers to reflect your own previous reading background. A free movie you buy may be cut to reflect the rating you desire (no violence, dirty language okay). Aspirin is free, but aspirin tailored to your DNA is very expensive. As many have noted, personalization requires an ongoing conversation between the creator and consumer, artist and fan, producer and user. It is deeply generative because it is iterative and time consuming. You can't copy the personalization that a relationship represents. Marketers call that "stickiness" because it means both sides of the relationship are stuck (invested) in this generative asset, and will be reluctant to switch and start over.

Interpretation -- As the old joke goes: software, free. The manual, $10,000. But it's no joke. A couple of high profile companies, like Red Hat, Apache, and others make their living doing exactly that. They provide paid support for free software. The copy of code, being mere bits, is free -- and becomes valuable to you only through the support and guidance. I suspect a lot of genetic information will go this route. Right now getting your copy of your DNA is very expensive, but soon it won't be. In fact, soon pharmaceutical companies will PAY you to get your genes sequence. So the copy of your sequence will be free, but the interpretation of what it means, what you can do about it, and how to use it -- the manual for your genes so to speak -- will be expensive.

Authenticity -- You might be able to grab a key software application for free, but even if you don't need a manual, you might like to be sure it is bug free, reliable, and warranted. You'll pay for authenticity. There are nearly an infinite number of variations of the Grateful Dead jams around; buying an authentic version from the band itself will ensure you get the one you wanted. Or that it was indeed actually performed by the Dead. Artists have dealt with this problem for a long time. Graphic reproductions such as photographs and lithographs often come with the artist's stamp of authenticity -- a signature -- to raise the price of the copy. Digital watermarks and other signature technology will not work as copy-protection schemes (copies are super-conducting liquids, remember?) but they can serve up the generative quality of authenticity for those who care.

Accessibility -- Ownership often sucks. You have to keep your things tidy, up-to-date, and in the case of digital material, backed up. And in this mobile world, you have to carry it along with you. Many people, me included, will be happy to have others tend our "possessions" by subscribing to them. We'll pay Acme Digital Warehouse to serve us any musical tune in the world, when and where we want it, as well as any movie, photo (ours or other photographers). Ditto for books and blogs.  Acme backs everything up, pays the creators, and delivers us our desires. We can sip it from our phones, PDAs, laptops, big screens from where-ever. The fact that most of this material will be available free, if we want to tend it, back it up, keep adding to it, and organize it, will be less and less appealing as time goes on.

Embodiment -- At its core the digital copy is without a body. You can take a free copy of a work and throw it on a screen. But perhaps you'd like to see it in hi-res on a huge screen? Maybe in 3D? PDFs are fine, but sometimes it is delicious to have the same words printed on bright white cottony paper, bound in leather. Feels so good. What about dwelling in your favorite (free) game with 35 others in the same room? There is no end to greater embodiment. Sure, the hi-res of today -- which may draw ticket holders to a big theater -- may migrate to your home theater tomorrow, but there will always be new insanely great display technology that consumers won't have. Laser projection, holographic display, the holodeck itself! And nothing gets embodied as much as music in a live performance, with real bodies. The music is free; the bodily performance expensive. This formula is quickly becoming a common one for not only musicians, but even authors. The book is free; the bodily talk is expensive.

Patronage -- It is my belief that audiences WANT to pay creators. Fans like to reward artists, musicians, authors and the like with the tokens of their appreciation, because it allows them to connect. But they will only pay if it is very easy to do, a reasonable amount, and they feel certain the money will directly benefit the creators. Radiohead's recent high-profile experiment in letting fans pay them whatever they wished for a free copy is an excellent illustration of the power of patronage. The elusive, intangible connection that flows between appreciative fans and the artist is worth something. In Radiohead's case it was about $5 per download. There are many other examples of the audience paying simply because it feels good.

Findability -- Where as the previous generative qualities reside within creative digital works, findability is an asset that occurs at a higher level in the aggregate of many works. A zero price does not help direct attention to a work, and in fact may sometimes hinder it. But no matter what its price, a work has no value unless it is seen; unfound masterpieces are worthless. When there are millions of books, millions of songs, millions of films, millions of applications, millions of everything requesting our attention -- and most of it free -- being found is valuable. 

The giant aggregators such as Amazon and Netflix make their living in part by helping the audience find works they love. They bring out the good news of the "long tail" phenomenon, which we all know, connects niche audiences with niche productions. But sadly, the long tail is only good news for the giant aggregators, and larger mid-level aggregators such as publishers, studios, and labels. The "long tail" is only lukewarm news to creators themselves. But since findability can really only happen at the systems level, creators need aggregators. This is why publishers, studios, and labels (PSL)will never disappear. They are not needed for distribution of the copies (the internet machine does that). Rather the PSL are needed for the distribution of the users' attention back to the works. From an ocean of possibilities the PSL find, nurture and refine the work of creators that they believe fans will connect with. Other intermediates such as critics and reviewers also channel attention. Fans rely on this multi-level apparatus of findability to discover the works of worth out of the zillions produced. There is money to be made (indirectly for the creatives) by finding talent. For many years the paper publication TV Guide made more money than all of the 3 major TV networks it "guided" combined. The magazine guided and pointed viewers to the good stuff on the tube that week. Stuff, it is worth noting, that was free to the viewers.  There is little doubt that besides the mega-aggregators, in the world of the free many PDLs will make money selling findability -- in addition to the other generative qualities.

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