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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

« June 2012 | Main | August 2012 »

It could be one of two things

It might be that your audience isn't smart enough, caring enough, attentive enough, with-it enough or generous enough to understand and appreciate you.

Or it might be that you're not good enough (yet).

If you're in the habit of assuming one of these, try out the other one for a while.

The theater of the mind

TheatermindThe most effective marketing story isn't the one you tell to someone in your audience, it's the one the person tells himself.

Consider this no parking sign. Instead of stating the fine, the signmaker states the range of the fine. At this point, it's up to the observer to have a conversation with himself. "Well, maybe I'll just get a $50 fine. Hmmm, why would that happen? With my luck, it'll be the maximum... I'll just park somewhere else."

It's not an announcement, it's an invitation to a little internal drama.

Too often, we don't give people a chance to fill in the blanks.

Improving your condiments

It takes a bold and confident cook to serve a naked hot dog. No roll, no kraut, no mustard.

And a movie shown on a bare wall in an empty room is never going to be received as well as one seen in a crowded theater.

It might be bold to put your work into the world unadorned, but it's probably ineffective.

We know that a placebo works better if it's handed to you by a doctor in a lab coat, and that the little show the sommelier puts on improves the taste of wine.

The packaging, the service, the environment, the hours, the interactions, the way it feels to tell our friends--these are all the free prize.

This bonus, the extra free prize that doesn't seem to be the point of the item itself, is often more important than the thing you think you actually make. The single most effective way to improve your impact is to do a better job of providing it.

Sure, a better hot dog is always appreciated. But when you want to increase user satisfaction, don't forget to offer better mustard.

Unanimous is not an option

When you do important work, work that changes things and work that matters, it's inconceivable that the change you're trying to make will be met with complete approval.

Trying to please everyone will water down your efforts, frustrate your forward motion and ultimately fail.

The balancing act is to work to please precisely the right people, and just enough of them, to get your best work out the door.

Shun the non-believers.

Two kinds of unique

Sui generis—one of a kind, the one that defines the genus.

That's the goal of the best kind of marketing. To be the best in the world, because the world is defined by what you do.

The impossible way to do that is to be unique because you're famous. There's only one Oprah, of course, because the thing she's famous for is being famous. There will never be another. Louis Vuitton is in this category, 50 Shades of Grey is, and so is the next hearthrob teen sensation. There is no substitute because the attraction is that this is the famous one, accept no substitutes.

The smart way to do it is to be unique before you get lucky and become famous. Take a listen to an old Talking Heads record or a house designed by Wright early in his career. They were unique before they were famous. This takes more patience, more guts and a lot more weirdness because the thing you're doing is actually interesting before it (if you're lucky) becomes popular. You might not end up as Oprah, but your uniqueness is yours, and it can pay off long before the masses choose you merely because you're the famous one.

Feet on the street

The complement to the brilliant strategy is the thankless work of lower-leverage detail.

An organization with feet on the street and alert and regular attention to detail can build more trust and develop better relationships than one than hits and runs.

  • Contact every user who stops using your service and find out why.
  • Create a newsletter for every journalist who covers your space, and deliver it every three weeks, even when you're not asking for anything. Just to keep them in the loop.
  • Eagerly pay attention to people who mention you online and engage with them in a way that they prefer to be engaged.
  • Sponsor industry events and actually show up.
  • Write a thank you note every single day, to someone who doesn't expect one.
  • Build your permission asset by 1% every day. Every day, 1% more people are eager and happy to hear from you.
  • Write a blog every day, not to sell, but to teach.
  • Connect people in your industry, because you enjoy it.
  • Host community meetings in your store.
  • Put a lemonade stand in front of your business and let the local kids donate the money to whatever charity they like.
  • Hand out free samples every chance you have.
  • Keep in touch with people who used to work with you and continue to help them get great gigs and new business, even years later.
  • Put together an honest buyer's guide, pointing out in which instances your competitor's products are a better choice.
  • Run classes for your customers.
  • Run classes for your competitors.
  • Build a recruiting pipeline that is in place more than a year before you need to hire someone.

None of this is sufficient. Your product and your strategy have to be brilliant. But a lot of it is necessary. Hearts and minds...

The circles of marketing


Most amateurs and citizens believe that marketing is the outer circle.

Marketing = advertising, it seems. The job of marketing in this circle is to take what the factory/system/boss gives you and hype it, promote it and yell about it. This is what so many charities, politicians, insurance companies, financial advisors, computer makers and well, just about everyone does.

The next circle in has so much more leverage. This is the circle of telling a story that resonates with a tribe. This is the act of creating alignment, of understanding worldviews, of embracing and elevating the weird. Smart marketers in this circle acknowledge that their product or service isn't for everyone, but bend over backwards to be sure that some people will be able to fall in love with it.

The next circle in is easily overlooked. This is the act of changing what surrounds the actual product or service, adding enough usability and support and atmosphere that the perception of the product itself changes. Zappos did this for shoes. Ikea almost willfully goes in the other direction with its furniture assembly and delivery approach. When you go to an expensive restaurant, you're buying far more than what the chef cooked. Products and services are only commodities if you treat them that way.

And the innermost circle is the product or service itself. When the thing you sell has communication built in, when it is remarkable and worth talking about, when it changes the game--marketing seems a lot easier. Of course, that's because you did the marketing when you invented the thing, saving you the expense and trouble of yelling about it.

When in doubt, when your marketing isn't working, the answer is easy: go one circle in.

Jeff sent over this much slicker PDF version: Download Circles of Mktg

Risk, fear and worry

They're not the same.

Risk is all around us. When we encounter potential points of failure, we're face to face with risk. And nothing courts risk more than art, the desire to do something for the first time--to make a difference.

Fear is a natural reaction to risk. While risk is real and external, fear exists only in our imagination. Fear is the workout we give ourselves imagining what will happen if things don't work out.

And worry? Worry is the hard work of actively (and mentally) working against the fear. Worry is our effort to imagine every possible way to avoid the outcome that is causing us fear, and failing that, to survive the thing that we fear if it comes to fruition.

If you've persuaded yourself that risk is sufficient cause for fear, and that fear is sufficient cause for worry, you're in for some long nights and soon you'll abandon your art out of exhaustion. On the other hand, you can choose to see the three as completely separate phenomena, and realize that it's possible to have risk (a good thing) without debilitating fear or its best friend, obsessive worry.

Separate first, eliminate false causation, then go ahead and do your best work.

The school for startups (and an audio)

I love startups. Not only do they bring the promise of rapid growth and real change, but everything is up for grabs. Organizations that start with a clean sheet of paper have the difficult task of paying the bills, but they also have the luxury of ignoring yesterday in order to focus exclusively on tomorrow.

Through the years, I've started a bunch of companies and enjoyed brainstorming with the people who have launched companies big and small, from AOL when they only had a dozen employees to some of the very cool organizations that come through the doors of NY Techstars.

Next month, I'm going to be running a small school--a few days for a few dozen startup founders. You can find details and tickets right here.

If you know someone who might benefit from this, I hope you'll tell them about it.

For those that won't be able to make it, I'll be recording the session and editing it down into something I can share here on the blog for free a few months later.

Coming up: a larger, less expensive session over a weekend this fall (for all sorts of organizations) as well as a no-cost session for non-profit leaders later in the year. Watch this blog for updates. Thanks.

PS coincidentally just saw this new school for coders.

Strategy matters more than ever

When everyone is playing the same game, your execution is critical. Your store is like their store, your bread is like their bread, so we care very much about the care and skill you put into your product or service.

Of course, that still matters, but the revolution of the web means that the way you go to market, the structure of your offering, the model of your business--these are sufficient to cause you to lose, regardless of how you play the game. (And able to give you a huge post if you plan right).

Sam Walton was a huge success, largely because he developed a new retail strategy, not because he was better at running a store than anyone else. Local bookstores are in trouble, not because they don't work hard or care a lot, but because they are saddled with expenses that used to be smart (rent for a local storefront) in a world where they are merely ballast.

Running a business with the wrong strategy in the wrong place at the wrong time is possible, but it's an uphill battle. The alternative is to think very hard about your model, your costs and the benefits you offer to the people you'd like to serve.

You could change from a product to a service offering, from free to expensive, from low service to high service, from storefront to web, from large to small, from spam to permission, from acquiring new customers to delighting old ones, from wide open to invitiation only, from dirty to green, from secret to transparent, from troll to benefactor, from custom to mass, or for any of these, vice versa.

Not changing your strategy merely because you're used to the one you have now is a lousy strategy.

Commander Obvious chimes in with Tip #3 for effective web marketing...

Hey Kids: Professional web site marketers understand that you should treat different people differently. I'll be really specific—if you run a store in the real world, every single person who walks into that store sees the same windows, the same door, the same aisles and the same prices.

But on the web, the cost of multiple home pages, for example, is close to zero.

Example: I've been a user of Filemaker's Mac database since 1985 (!). I launched the software recently and saw an alert about the ability to upgrade to the new version. Of course, I clicked the link. And it took me... to their homepage. I needed four minutes and a bunch of clicks to actually find the upgrade on their site.

They went from treating me like a trusted customerr, someone who had been buying upgrades for 27 years and went to treating me like the hoi polloi, like a stranger who just stumbled in from a Google search.

Don't do that. Different pages for different people. It's not difficult, and it represents an understanding of how the web works and how valuable your customer's time is.

What's in the box?

We hesitate.

We stall or try for perfect or have meetings or polish or avoid the final 'go' because we're afraid that it might not work, that the art won't be well received, that people will hate it.

Here's the thing: there's a box on the table. And you need to decide whether or not you're going to open it. All the wishing and planning and imagining isn't going to change what's already in the box. The act of opening it doesn't deserve anxiety because the contents of the box were determined a long time ago. What's in the box is in the box, regardless of how much anxiety goes into opening it.

Sure, do a great job, the best job you can do with the resources you've got. But then quit imagining and go ahead and open the box.

"A fire in South Buffalo!"

When I was growing up, there was intense competition for news dominance among the local networks. All evening long, our favorite TV shows would be interrupted by Irv Weinstein, practically shouting about a fire across town. Film at 11!

Friends in Toronto asked us whether there were any buildings at all left standing.

Today's mass media competition makes that battle look quaint. In the relentless search for clicks, profit-focused media companies are racing to the bottom as fast as they can get there.


Can we do anything about this? Should we care?

I think the answer to both questions is yes. We should care about an influential industry that creates and amplifies fear, on deadline, distracts us and festers, like a fast-growing tumor, diminishing the healthy tissue around it.

We get what we click on.

Alas, we also get what others click on. And society does a poor job of marketing productive media to itself. We're consuming more media than ever before, but I'm not sure the mass media is making us much smarter, braver or more willing to take action.

When one million committed people start engaging with a media channel, that channel gains in profit and influence. That's all it takes. The power to change what gets broadcast is in our hands, which might be a good thing. I'm sure that the junk is going to get ever worse. The question is: will people who care click often enough for the good stuff to get even better?

[Irony: a few hours after I posted this, I discovered that the house where journalist Tim Russert grew up  (in South Buffalo) just burned down.]

The importance of going first

The second person to write a story about a young boy and an escaped slave on the Mississippi wasn't a novelist, he was a typist.

"Just like that hot viral video but different/better/more clever," is extremely different from "that hot viral video."

In more and more fields, the originator of the novel idea reaps an outsize share of the benefits. One reason is that it's easier to gain attention quickly. Another is that once you gain attention and reputation, it's easier to lock in permission and turn it into a foundation for your next project. And most of all, when attention is precious, earning that attention with innovation is priceless.

Yes, there are exceptions for those that bring service or price or reliability along to polish an existing idea. And there are certainly businesses that profit from taking over after the innovator, exhausted, gives up and moves on.

But given the choice, I'd say first is a better use of your talent.

Marketers with power

I know that I have to fill out this form before the doctor will see me, but the way you behave when you design the form and the way you ask me to fill it out will change the way I think about everything else you'd like me to do.

I know that I have to go to that meeting or pay that tax or listen to this lecture, but, right here, in this moment when you have power, you are going to to establish the way I feel about your entire organization.

If a marketer works hard to provide a positive experience when the customer has no choice, the benefit of the doubt that's earned is worth far more than it costs.

Redesign that form, change your attitude, adjust your fees and bend over backwards to be grateful. It'll be rewarded.

Who let this guy in the building?

Are you letting other people talk to your customers?

At the big box pet store they have a vet's office in the back. Ask the lonely woman at the counter, "Excuse me, do you know where the leashes are?" and she'll say, "No, I don't work here."


She sits there every day, day after day, and she doesn't know or doesn't care where the leashes are? Who let her in this building, and why?

The tourist bureau of your town is spending a fortune to attract visitors, but when the security officer at the taxi stand sneers at a tourist, all of that goes down the drain.

The band worked hard to sell you a ticket, but when the opening act gets too loud and goes too long, all that goodwill disappears fast.

You may not have the authority or the control to decide who gets to talk to your customer before you do. Doesn't really matter, though, because the customer thinks you do.

Competition as a crutch

We often point to competition as a tool to bring out the best in people. You will run faster or work harder or fight more ferociously if there's someone breathing down your neck or a record to be broken.

The problem with competition is that it takes away the requirement to set your own path, to invent your own method, to find a new way. When you have competition, it's the pack that decides what's going to happen next, you're merely trying to get (or stay) in front.

Competing with yourself is more difficult, requires more bravery and leads to more insight.

It's easier to love a brand when the brand loves you back

Worth thinking about that the next time you're annoyed at a customer.

Or when you're dreaming up a policy designed to punish a few outlier customers while it actually annoys all of them.

Tell me again why the gift certificates you sell have an expiration date?

What do you do when they don't understand?

In science, an academic paper leaves the understanding to the reader. The author of the paper plows ahead and assumes that the motivated reader will do the necessary work to catch up, fill in and understand what's going on.

In some popular magazines, when the going gets tough, the writer glosses over the difficult parts. She dumbs it down or leaves out the bits the editors assume will confuse readers.

And what about the CFO, writing a memo? Or the engineer, writing out the instructions?

Many sources, from textbooks to websites, take the position that if you don't understand a concept or a nuance, it's your loss. I think that's an strategic failure on the part of the writer. (I'll give scientists and other professional writers a pass.)

Just recently (a decade or so) we opened two doors that change the way we communicate: we can link now, which means that any time you're worried you've hit something too complex, you can easily link to more data and more explanation, and second, you can keep writing. Length (given appropriate organization) is no longer an issue.

At the same time, there's an onus on the reader to look up words and references that are easily found in a search engine before giving up.

Ikea, then, should quit trying to jam nonsense instructions with no words on tiny sheets of paper and should instead post videos or detailed instructions in native languages online. Annual reports should get significantly longer (with better hyperlinked indexes), not shorter.

No one is going to read the whole thing, ever again. But we need to make it much easier to read the part of the thing that someone really cares about.

Monetizing digital attention

The most effective way to make a living from attention paid online is to earn trust, connect a tribe and then sell something that isn't online. The Ironman triathalon, say, or Louis CK's concert tickets. Attention is precious and trust even more so.

Many folks, though, would like to be able to deliver a digital 'product', an ebook or video or some other online good that they can produce at low cost and sell in volume. There's a long history of brilliant writers and directors finding markets for their work using movies, books and other media that used to be new, and it would be gratifying if it could work here.

Unfortunately, most people do it wrong. They use a long sales pitch letter with highlighted boxes and fake testimonials. They make grandiose promises of secret riches or long-hidden techniques. And most disappointing to those that would build trust, they enlist a legion of affiliate salespeople, linking to one another and gaming search results or buying fake search ads.

There's a better way. Consider two counter-examples: Paul Wolfe's site about how to learn the bass, and Susan Piver's Open Heart project on meditation. I'm lucky enough to know both Susan and Paul, and I've seen how they've used the power of digital media to build successful businesses.

In both cases, the model is the same: it's free to get started. So free, in fact, that most people who engage discover that all they need is the free stuff. Since the marginal cost of sharing these samples is free, it costs them nothing to add one more person to the ever-growing list of those that trust, that pay attention and that gladly give permission to their teacher.

The magic comes in because of the inevitable movement of the most motivated students from free to paid. Not because the teacher has to hold anything back to sell out of panic or greed, but because the committed student is happy and eager to pay.

It's almost impossible to hold information hostage online. People are unlikely to sit still as you dangle something valuable but not share what's inside the box. The approach that Paul and Susan take is to eagerly share, and then to clearly delineate between what's free and what's not.

Two deadlines (and a read)

The application deadline for my free college student summer seminar is Friday morning. Please remind any college students you know that they're almost out of time...

The Kickstarter project I launched last month is almost over. The thing to get that's not yet sold out is the behemoth oversized best-of book, which is turning out to be really special, and this is going to be your best chance to get a copy.

I'm really enjoying Kurt Andersen's new book. It's always a treat when he publishes something.

Yesterday's over

This is bad news for market leaders, incumbents and those in favor of the status quo, and great news for everyone else.

And it happens again, fresh, every day.

The puzzle joint

Nick Schade makes beautiful handmade kayaks. One model is 18 feet long and it's built from plywood. The problem, of course, is that plywood comes in 8 foot long sheets.

Most people would work to hide the joint, to minimize it, to make it as invisible as possible. "Hey, if we have to do this, let's pretend we don't."

Nick stains the two pieces different colors and makes it into a feature. If you have a limit, perhaps it's worth embracing.

Happy birthday, Mr. Tesla

SimonbarsinisterHe invented the foundational science that led to radio, the AC motor and dozens of other concepts that enable us to live modern lives. He foresaw the energy shortage and global warming. He was also the model for the mad scientist in every bad movie ever made.

He was ridiculed, marginalized and ignored. When the media or the experts or the public didn't know what to do with the progress he pointed to, they shunned the messenger.

Tunis Craven, head of the FCC, said, "There is practically no chance that communications space satellites will be used to provide better telephone, telegraph, television or radio service inside the United States." Craven said this three years before satellites were used to bring the Olympics to the US from Japan.

Craven or Tesla? I think it's pretty easy to pick a role model.

Announcing a small-group college seminar (and a quick survey)

If you have ever considered coming to one of my events, I'd appreciate it if you would take this quick two-question survey.

And, if you're a full-time college student, or you know someone who might benefit from an intensive three-day seminar in my office (it's a gift from me, there's no charge to attend), please share this with them. The deadline for applications is in just a few days, so hurry and apply if you're interested.


The false choice of mediocrity

Too often, we're presented with choices that don't please us. We can pick one lousy alternative or the other. And too often, we pick one.

I was struck by Apple's choice to put a glass screen on the original iPhone. Just six weeks before it was announced, Steve Jobs decided he wanted a scratchproof glass screen. The thing is, this wasn't an option. It wasn't possible, reliable, feasible or appropriately priced. It couldn't be done with certainty, and almost any other organization would have taken it off the list of appropriate choices.

It was unreasonable.

And that's the key. Remarkable work is always not on the list, because if it was, it would be commonplace, not remarkable.

Art fears business fears art

The artist says, "that sounds like business, and I want nothing to do with it. It will corrupt me and make me think small."

The businessperson says, "art is frightening, unpredictable and won't pay."

Because the artist fears business, she hesitates to think as big as she could, to imagine the impact she might be able to make, to envision the leverage that's available to her.

And because the businessperson fears art, she holds back, looks for a map, follows the existing path and works hard to fit in, never understanding just how vivid her new ideas might be and how powerful her art could make her.

There's often a route, a way to combine the original, human and connected work you want to do with a market-based solution that will enable it to scale. Once you see it, it's easier to call your bluff and make what you're capable of.

Thinking about your shoes

I woke up early to give a speech a few weeks ago and got dressed in the dark. Bad idea. I ended up wearing two slightly different brown shoes on stage, and I was sure that it was the first and only thing that anyone in the audience would notice. I was wrong.

People spend almost no time thinking about what you wear on your feet. A few hours after the meeting, we have no recollection at all about what tie you wore or how your hair was done.

On the other hand, we'll long be impacted by your big idea, the project you didn't launch and the gift you didn't give.

It's easy to obsess about trivia, mostly because the stakes are so small. What happens if we wonder about what we could do that might change everything instead?

The declining problem of (Groucho) Marxism

"I don't want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member..." That's the (Groucho) Marxist credo.

You're invited to speak your mind online. To post thoughtful comments and tweets and posts. You're given a place where you can post your music, or your art or your photography or your take on the state of your industry...

Most of us refuse. We don't want to be part of a community that would have us, apparently. So we sit quietly and watch and take notes and absorb instead of joining the club of contributors.

Retweets are more common than tweets, and listeners are more common than singers.

Because we believe we don't belong. That we're not qualified. That someone with a louder microphone is better than we are.

Past tense perhaps.

Here's the thing: the number of people contributing is going up, and fast. The number of folks that are happy to speak up, to be a member of the contributing group, is as high as it's ever been.

Yes, we'd like to have even you as a member. Really.

Entering sync markets

How does a painting end up selling for $5 million?

Why do some songs end up being listened to by legions of teenagers?

Which companies end up with investors swarming all over them, eager to put in cash?

Hint: in each case, it has little to do with the verifiable, rational analysis of the product. In some markets, things are popular merely because they are popular. John Legend's version of Compared to What is a pale imitation of the original, but don't tell the local teenager that. Jeff Koons is no longer a visionary, but he's a safe bet for gallery owners, investors and people looking for bragging rights...

Whining about what's good is a silly way to do business with people who seek to be in sync. What sync markets care about is, "who else is into this?" Markets like textbooks, surgical devices and nightclubs are all sync markets.

In every one of these markets are people who spot trends, who go first, who set the pace. This group (which doesn't have a defined membership... there's a lot of churn) cares a lot about being seen as right, about going first and being followed. The early trendsetters are not the mass market, but they are acutely aware of what the mass market is going to be willing to do next. (Sadly for marketers in search of a reliable shortcut, these trendsetters are often wrong. That doesn't mean that they don't matter).

Marketing to those that want to be in sync is a fundamentally different project than treating your audience as a horizontal mass of isolated people, all to be approached with the same story at the same time, all making independent decisions. The connections between people are always important, but in sync markets, they're the primary driver.

Superman, Batman and worldviews

Everyone sees the world differently, but our worldviews vary in clumps. Some people are focused on today, some on tomorrow. Some people see an innovation as an opportunity, others see a risk. Some people want strength while others seek obedience. Some want facts, others prefer fables.

Smart marketers understand that these biases and expectations are shared across particular groups (sometimes connected groups--tribes). When speaking to the market, you will always do better if your story resonates with the worldview of the collective you're trying to reach. Yes, this grouping is a gross generalization, perhaps one that will lead to errors. On the other hand, it's far more effective than assuming that everyone sees and hears the same (or different).

Consider two common worldviews: Superman's and Batman's.

Batman comes to the world angry. His origin story is filled with vengeance and revenge, and in his iconic (non Adam West) backstory, he is the merciless enforcer of right and wrong. Batman-types see the world as a zero sum game, and battles are either won or lost.

Superman, on the other hand, comes to our world with his gifts and sees his life as an opportunity and an obligation, one that he embraces. Superman could easily kill all the bad guys in a heartbeat, but he never does. For him, every challenge is an opportunity for healing. He believes in redemption and finds pleasure in using his gifts to help others.

Imagine giving a talk to a conference full of Batman types. It's going to be very different than one filled with people who share Superman's privileged and generous worldview, no?

There are dozens of other worldview-types out there. Consider the nerd (who prides himself on knowing the details), the jester (who seeks to cause mischief) and the too-busy monkey, who just wants to know what to do next (and his cousin, the parrot, who wants to do what he's told).

It's virtually impossible to sell a product or an idea or a vote to all of these groups at once. One story just isn't going to do it, which is why there are many kinds of cars, political persuasions and vacation spots. Instead of trying to delight everyone in Gotham City, it pays to find people who already resonate with the story you want to tell.

Usually, a lot is insufficient

People don't care how much you offer them.

They care about whether you exceeded their expectations.

If you want to delight, if you want to create a remarkable experience, if you want people to talk about you or buy your stock, the secret is simple: give them more than they expected.

If I walk into your store and it looks and feels like stores I've been into before, my expectations are locked in. Now what? But if I walk into your showroom and it's like nothing I've ever experienced before, you get a chance to set my expectations, right? Marketing isn't merely bragging. Marketing creates a culture, tells a story and puts on a show.

In our rush to get picked or get noticed or build buzz, the instinct is to promise more. Perhaps it pays to promise less instead, to radically change expectations and to reset what it means to deliver on the promise of delight.

Patina vs. shine

Shine is fresh and new and it sparkles. Shiny catches the eye and it appeals to the neophiliac, to the person in search of polish.

Patina, on the other hand, can only be earned. Patina communicates trust (because the untrusted don't last long enough to earn a patina) and it appeals to a very different audience.

The old guy at the gym in spandex, taking steroids and brutalizing himself on the big machine--he's trying to be both and accomplishing neither.

Brands and organizations face the same choice. A book like Permission Marketing could be updated weekly, in a vain attempt on my part to keep it shiny. But that makes no sense, as the ideas in it are important because they've been right for a decade, not because they're new. That's what a new title is for.

The challenge, then, is to let your classics thrive precisely because they've earned the right, because they have a patina of quality--but not to rest on those laurels, but to get busy inventing the new shiny thing for those that demand it.

"All we need is 250 votes..."

This is cruel marketing.

If you're like me, you've gotten dozens of emails over the last week about a promotion that Chase and Living Social are running in which they're promising local businesses that work within their community a chance to win a grant for $250,000. The emails almost always have the line,

All we need is a vote from 250 kind friends and supporters like you.

Here's why it's doubly dangerous. First, clearly the organization doesn't actually get a grant in exchange for only getting 250 online votes. Hey, 250 online votes won't even get you a pack of chewing gum these days. No, all the votes do is make you eligible to apply for the grant. And yet the organization, perhaps a worthy one, is now spamming thousands of people offering this sliver of hope, all in rush to get 250 votes, even though the chances that anything will happen are perilously close to zero. There are only 12 grants available in total. That's pitiful. Hopes raised, hopes dashed.

And then, for the small businesses, the ones who get through this hurdle and then get through the hurdle of the application, once again, hopes raised, hopes dashed.

There's nothing wrong with competitions and difficult to achieve goals. Nothing wrong with making it hard to get into Brown or get a Gates Foundation grant. The dangerous mistake is making the organizations (and then their core supporters) think it's likely, or easy. You end up not only burning the brand of Living Social and Chase (who probably had good intentions) but by extension, hurting the brand and permission relationships of the very organizations you're trying to help. Peter and the wolf... the villagers aren't going to come next time.

Pepsi did the same thing with charities last year, and my concern is the same: when you activate your supporters, you need a clear path to victory, not a wild goose chase.

One significant way around this: have the outbound messages of the tribe be about more than the grant. Figure out how putting in the effort to help your local organization actually strengthens ties, instead of weakening them. The pursuit could be even better than the prize if you establish the right groundwork.

To be really clear: it's harder to cut through the clutter than ever before, but just because a gimmick is going to cut through the clutter doesn't mean you should use it. It doesn't pay to make a lot of noise if that noise ends up hurting you in the long run.

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