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SETH'S BOOKS

Seth Godin has written 12 bestsellers that have been translated into 33 languages

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all.marketers.tell.stories

All Marketers Tell Stories

Seth's most important book about the art of marketing

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free.prize.inside

Free Prize Inside

The practical sequel to Purple Cow

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linchpin

Linchpin

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

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IN STORES:

meatball.sundae

Meatball Sundae

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

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permission.marketing

Permission Marketing

The classic Named "Best Business Book" by Fortune.

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poke.the.box

Poke The Box

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

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purple.cow

Purple Cow

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

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small.is.the.new.big

Small is the New Big

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

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survival.is.not.enough

Survival is Not Enough

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

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the.big.moo

The Big Moo

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

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the.big.red.fez

The Big Red Fez

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

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IN STORES:

the.dip

The Dip

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

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the.icarus.deception

The Icarus Deception

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

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tribes

Tribes

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

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unleashing.the.ideavirus

Unleashing the Ideavirus

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

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v.is.for.vulnerable

V Is For Vulnerable

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

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we.are.all.weird

We Are All Weird

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

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whatcha.gonna.do.with.that.duck

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.

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THE DIP BLOG by Seth Godin




All Marketers Are Liars Blog




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« August 2013 | Main | October 2013 »

Your alphabet

The only reason that typesetting works is that a small collection of letters can be re-used again and again to print millions of different words. This seems obvious, but it was actually the conceptual breakthrough that led to the long path that brought us to Gutenberg etc.

Your work is based on a similar insight.

Our skills, resources and assets are like letters in the alphabet and we can re-use and recombine them in many different ways. It might be the real estate you own, the skills you've learned, the permission base you've built over time, but all of those assets can be leveraged in different ways.

To grow, then, we only need to address two questions:

  • Do I need more letters?
  • How do I recombine the letters I've already got to create new value?

Chasing new letters is expensive. For most of us, a better first resort is to cherish the letters we've already got and be brave enough to recombine them into new forms, new approaches, new ways to add value. But yes, by all means, now that you've extracted maximum value, go get some new letters.

Edgecraft instead of brainstorming

One of the challenges of brainstorming a new idea is that there's too much freedom. With too many possibilities, we can seize up, unable to think of much of anything.

In established organizations, this is particularly difficult, because the first thing the lizard brain says to you is, “don't say that, because if they like it, you're going to be the one who has to build it.”

Instead, consider the notion of edgecraft:

1. Find an edge… a free prize that has been shown to make a product or service remarkable.
2. Go all the way to that edge—as far from the center as the consumers you are trying to reach dare you to go.

You must go all the way to the edge… accepting compromise doesn’t make sense. Running a restaurant where the free prize is your slightly attractive waitstaff won’t work--they’ve got to be supermodels or weightlifters or identical twins. You only create a free prize when you go all the way to the edge and create something remarkable.

The cheapest, easiest, best designed, funniest, most expensive, most productive, most respected, cleanest, loudest...

Before you begin to do edgecraft, you must accept the fact that the edges of the problem aren’t always obvious. Because the edge you’re seeking is not the primary reason for being, you’ve got to see it out of the corner of your eye. It’s not always clear exactly what would make your product or service significantly more remarkable, until you embrace the fact that the problem you’re trying to solve isn’t the problem you think you have. It's also quite possible that your edge will merely be stupid, not effective.

Sometimes you don’t discover the problem you’re solving until after you’ve solved it--it’s not always a top-down process. Someone creates something weird or neat or quirky or fun and the marketplace embraces it. You don’t often create a more popular restaurant by serving better food. You can do it by serving remarkable food, or having a remarkable location or a remarkably famous chef. You don’t often build a better car by building a faster car. You do it by building the most beautiful car, or the least polluting car, or the biggest car. At least for a while.

Instead of slogging your way through incremental improvements in the core element of your offering, then, the edgecrafter seeks out another element and pushes it so far it becomes remarkable.

Cell phone cameras repel UFOs

We've relentlessly outfitted just about everyone with a pocket-sized video camera.

And as we've done that, the UFOs have stopped visiting us.

Experience is real. It is our memory and perception of what happened to us, and it's influenced by our self-told story of the world around us. Experience, though, doesn't spread nearly as well as the digital record does.

That doesn't diminish our need to experience wonder or fear or tribal connection. Digital proof doesn't decrease a human being's need to be an outlier (or an insider) or to flee to safety in the face of things that scare us. It doesn't diminish our need to invent conspiracy theories or recognize heroism.

So the emotional experience moves. It moves from making up sea dragons and UFOs and the other "un-true" things others could never prove were merely made up. Instead, those emotions drive how we interpret what you sell, or what you say when you run for office, or how we interpret what happened on TV screens around the world. It changes the way we think about the things we can look up or get in our email box. Even when we can see something for ourselves, we'd often rather get a talking head or tribal leader to understand it for us. To tell us what people like us think about something like that.

Emotion isn't going to go away when the 'false' legends and fables do. It's too resilient for that.  Instead, it's going to influence the story we tell ourselves, as it always has.

We don't need your proof. We need your story, and what it means to us.

Actually, they're not yours

When you say, "my customers," or, "my readers," you're using a shorthand, but you're also making a mistake.

We're not yours.

We're ours.

Your readers aren't going to spread an idea merely because you ask them to.

Your customers aren't going to buy an upgrade just because you issue one.

In the short run, sure, momentum may keep things going. But in the long run (and all the important stuff is in the long run) those individuals, that tribe, is going to care about what they always care about--itself. If you play a part in their version and vision of the future, then sure, go along for that ride. But no, you don't own an audience.

Sometimes, if you're lucky, you rent one.

Q&A: All Marketers... and the challenge of telling the right story

Our series continues with All Marketers are Liars, a prime example of what happens when you tell a story wrong. I've done some pretty poor book titling over seventeen books, but this one was too clever by half.

Most people, of course, have never read any of my books, and even most of my blog readers haven't read any given Seth Godin book. So a book is judged by its cover, just as you and your brand and your product are judged by your (conceptual) cover.

People saw this cover (with the original ridiculous photo) and immediately assumed that they knew what it was about (how to lie) and that the title offended them ("hey, I'm a marketer and I'm not a liar").

But, of course, the book isn't about how to lie, it's about the imperative to tell the truth, a truth that resonates, a truth you can live with. The title messes with our perceptions, but in a way that instead of welcoming in my very busy, very picky potential reader, pushes her away. One newspaper reviewer slammed the book without even reading it, deciding that the title alone was sufficient cause for dismissing it.

So, to answer David Meerman Scott's (and others') questions: I changed the title for future editions to All Marketers Tell Stories because, even though it's less artistic, it takes my own advice (at least a little). An even better title would have been: TRUE STORIES (and the Smart Marketers That Tell Them).

The advice: find the worldview and the bias and the cultural preconceptions that your audience carries with them and then place your story (you do have a story, whether you want to or not) as a hook that leverages those biases.

In the internet era, your story is going to be inspected, held up to scrutiny and scoured for half-truths. But if your story is true, if it not only resonates with the worldview we insist on but actually delivers, then you've created something of lasting value.

The closer you get to the front, the more power you have over the brand.

Krulak’s law is simple: Soldiers in the field interacting with local people are the most important element of nation building and counter insurgency. It has wide applicability to any organization that interacts with the public.

One errant minimum-wage cog in the machine can cripple an entire brand, or at the very least, wreck the lifetime value of a customer. The two kids at Domino’s who made a YouTube sensation out of cruelty to pizza did more damage to the Domino’s brand than any vice president ever could.

The instinct, then, is to tightly control that last step, to be sure no one has any leeway or can take initiative when dealing with customers, because, after all, you can't trust them.

This is a self-defeating precaution. As soon as you elminate humanity from the interactions you have with customers, you've guaranteed that your (now sterile) brand will mean less than it could.

Hire better people. Trust them more. And be prepared to make it right when they don't.

Being found vs. being sought

There are proven strategies that generic products can use so that they're more likely to be stumbled upon by someone searching. Name your new book with all sorts of keywords in the title, for example, so it organically ranks higher for those very keywords...

The alternative is to create a product that earns a reputation sufficient that people choose to talk about it, choose to argue about it, choose to look for it. Not something like it, but it.

Nice to be found. Essential to be sought.

This was always a good idea, but in a post-search era of mobile and social, it's now the best idea.

The trust brand

Dave Ramsey was telling a small business person how he'd built his media empire. The guy interrupted, "well, sure, that's fine for you, because you have a trust brand."

A trust brand?

What other kinds of brands are there?

Perhaps your brand stands for cheap or convenient. Sure, you can win with that for a while, at least until someone gets a little cheaper or the internet gets a little closer. For the rest of us, though, there's only one option, isn't there?

When you have a choice in what to buy, you will first and foremost (and second and third in fact) base your choice on a simple question, "who do I trust to keep the promise that the marketers are making?"

The fact is, people will soon forget if they overpaid for something. They will probably never (ever!) forget if you violated their trust.

The fascinating thing: even though most everyone shakes their head in agreement on this topic, they get stuck answering the question, "how have you regularly overinvested and prioritized being the most trustworthy organization/individual in your industry?" Being just like the others and doing your job doesn't get you to this level.

It doesn't matter if you work for a search engine, run a plumbing service or organize a conference. If I've come to know you and trust you and then you turn your back on me, abandon me and make me feel like a fool for trusting you, I won't be back any time soon.

What does the fox say?

The viral music video of the moment is right here.

It's probably going to be compared to Numa Numa (but not break any records--Gangnam has 1.7 billion views).

The question for the marketer, music or otherwise, isn't, "what are the hooks and tricks I use to go viral?" No, the question is, "is it worth it?"

What does the fox say has the hooks and tricks in abundance. It has Archie McPhee animal costumes, nonsense words, just the right sort of production values, superfluous subtitles, appropriate silliness. It would probably help the cause to add spurious nudity, but give them points for getting the rest of it right.

To what end?

If your work goes viral, if it gets seen by tens of millions of people, sure you can profit from that. But most of the time, it won't. Most of the time, you'll aim to delight the masses and you'll fail.

I'm glad that some people are busy trying to entertain us in a silly way now and then. But it doesn't have to be you doing the entertaining--the odds are stacked against you.

So much easier to aim for the smallest possible audience, not the largest, to build long-term value among a trusted, delighted tribe, to create work that matters and stands the test of time.

"Baby bump bump bay dum."

This isn't going to work

AT&T has a new film out about the stupidity, selfishness and yes, death, associated with texting while driving. It's directed by Werner Herzog and it's quite moving.

It's not going to work.

Hundreds of thousands of people are going to die or be maimed because it's physically impossible for us to deal with the cultural imperative to stay in touch on our phones--and drive at the same time.

The reason a movie isn't going to solve the problem is that it is competing against several cornerstones of our culture:

  • The culture of the car as a haven, a roving office, and a place where you do what you like
  • The culture of the Marlboro man, no speed limiters in cars, 'optional' speed limits on roads
  • The culture of connection and our fear of being left out
  • The culture of technology, and our bias to permit it first and ask questions later

If you get a marketing assignment where you're out to change even one of these deeply held beliefs, consider finding a new client. All four? There's no marketing lever long enough to do this work.

There's a technical solution, one that might work. The are two solutions I can think of actually, both cheap and fast and effective.

The first is to require the phone to automatically alert every person you're texting or emailing at the moment you use your phone while moving. As we've seen, knowingly interacting with someone who is driving is a crime in many locales, and yes, you should go to jail for it. We need to change the cultural imperative, and we can't do that with laws alone and we can't do that with movies. Technology, though, can fix what it broke.

The second solution is even simpler: when a phone is moving, don't permit it to accomplish certain tasks.

People won't die as a result.

It won't cost the companies a penny in profit.

And defenders of the status quo will scream about freedom and access and rights and how it used to be. They will worry about people on trains or passengers in carpools.

But you know what? It's better than being dead. Better than being the victim of the one out of three drivers I see who couldn't wait...

I have no illusions that we will find the will as a society to insist that a technology be used to alter our culture. But we could.

/rant

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