Seth Godin: The idea guy
By Daniel Williams
“We live in a world where consumers actively resist marketing. So it’s imperative to stop marketing at people.
The idea is to create an environment where consumers will market to each other.” – Seth Godin
I grew up in the ‘70s and my reference to consumerism comes in the form of the great jingles of that time—Burger King, Oscar Meyer (Is it so obvious that it’s nearing lunchtime as I write this column?).
Their catchy tunes had me singing “hold the pickles, hold the lettuce,” or “My bologna has a first name; it's O-S-C-A-R.”
As much as I loved them, those commercials interrupted my reruns of Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch. In those days, I didn’t have a DVR. Sheesh, I didn’t even have a remote control. I couldn’t hit pause and wait for the commercials to end. I watched them, every last one of them, experiencing the flash of logo, the earworm of song. These days, my introduction to products is different. Other than the Super Bowl, I don’t remember the last time I actively sat through a commercial and paid attention.
When I read Godin’s thoughts on consumers marketing to each other, I thought of the various platforms on the Internet that connect us in ways many of us never thought possible. For historical note: Myspace launched in August 2003; Facebook followed in February 2004; Twitter sent out its first 140 character magnum opus in March 2006. Marketing guru Seth Godin wrote the lines that began this column in his book, The Idea Virus. The book did not come out yesterday, last month or even three years ago. Godin published The Idea Virus in 2001. In stating the obvious, the book was ahead of its time.
These days, most of us have blogs or websites or social media identities and the hope is that whatever we push out on the Internet goes viral. But how to predict what will or won’t go viral is akin to picking horses or betting on stocks. If we knew the answer ahead of time, we’d have more money than Midas. How else to explain, “Charlie Bit My Finger,” the viral video of a Brit kid and his bobble headed toddler brother, Charlie, that has been viewed on YouTube an astonishing 700 million times as of April 2014, ranking it as the fourth most viewed video of all time on that site.
When I search for marketing information on the Internet, Godin’s name keeps popping up. He seems to have a crystal ball or at least a good compass as to what will hit next in branding and market connectors. Godin served as a keynote speaker at the AALU Conference May 4 in Washington, DC. In his minimalist fashion, he served up juicy takeaways.
Here are a few key quotes I cribbed from Godin, ideas and thoughts you might want to incorporate into your business philosophy:
“A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.”
“I define anxiety as experiencing failure in advance.”
“In a battle between two ideas, the best one doesn't necessarily win. No, the idea that wins is the one with the most fearless heretic behind it.”
“If you need to conceal your true nature to get in the door, understand that you'll probably have to conceal your true nature to keep that job.”
“Here's the truth you have to wrestle with: the reason that art (writing, engaging, leading, all of it) is valuable is precisely why I can't tell you how to do it. If there were a map, there'd be no art, because art is the act of navigating without a map. Don't you hate that? I love that there's no map.”