Seth Godin really needs no introduction, his name is synonymous with the world of Marketing. I, like millions of others, have been a big fan of his for years now. We thrive on his insightful, articulate, honest and inspiring views on human behaviour and the world of marketing.
Godin is the author of 17 bestsellers, he’s a renowned speaker and also the founder of Squidoo.com. You can pick up a copy of his latest book which has been released ‘The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly?’ on Amazon which I’m really looking forward to reading. Godin’s book takes a look at the end of the industrial economy and he argues that we’ve all been brainwashed by industrial propaganda and now he is encouraging us all to think about standing out and not be so concerned with fitting in.
When the opportunity came up to see the man himself present at ‘A Morning With Seth Godin’ hosted by the Business Chicks in Melbourne, the Marketing.com.au team jumped at the chance!
If you didn’t get a chance to make it or you just wanted to revisit his great presentation, I’ve put together a round up of his presentation below. Enjoy!
Seth began his presentation by reflecting back on a book he wrote when the Internet was in it’s infancy on 180 cool things you can do on the Internet. It sold 1800 copies which he said was a failure. At the same time with the same resources, two guys from California saw what he did but they built Yahoo!
“They saw a blank slate. I said what do I already know how to make? That’s one of the challenges that the people in this room have. That I have. We look at opportunities and we say well where is the comfortable part? What do we already know how to do? As opposed to saying ‘What’s possible?'”
The Industrial Economy
Godin then moves on to talk about how Yuri Gagarin was the first man in space. He grew up in mud hut with no electricity or windows and then 20 years later he’s in outer space. Godin explains that this defined the culture of our parents.
He reflects on how Henry Ford was one of the most important people in the 20th Century by making middle class possible through pioneering and perfecting mass production. Godin says that the management of anything we make is all about getting people to do exactly what they did yesterday but now to do it faster and cheaper. That gave rise to buildings and factories and replaceable people. Godin explains that our parents built this super efficient and profitable system that does the same thing over and over again because:
“It makes us feel comfortable.”
Mass Production Leads to Mass Marketing
Godin then shares the story of how Josiah Wedgwood from England worked out how he could make pottery on mass and organised the first manufacturing line. He invented commission sales people in the store in London and was essentially the first direct marketer and was highly successful.
However, Godin goes on to say that once you have the factory system up and running you’ve got a problem. You need to keep it up and running with ads to sell more stuff and to interrupt as many people as much as you can to tell them about your product. This gave rise to magazines and television for advertising. Godin then states that this method worked like a charm for 90 years until a minute ago:
“Microsoft last year spent more than $500 million on advertising this product and they sold fewer than $500 million worth of the product. Because no longer can we yell at people enough to get them to buy the thing that we want them to.”
Godin likens it to our need for more likes or more followers to determine if you are ‘better’.
“It’s the thinking of volume, the thinking of noise. The four letter word that every boss keeps telling you – more.”
The TV Industrial Complex
Godin talks about how businesses would spend money on advertising to get more. More attention, more shelf space and more noise. This has now lead to what Godin refers to as the ‘TV Industrial Complex’.
Step 1 you’re busy advertising. Step 2 is you get something in exchange – shelf space or attention for example. Buy doing this people will buy from you. Then you buy more ads and around and around you go. Godin points out that all brands we grew up with were built on the back of this TV Industrial Complex. Average stuff for average people.
Seth then addresses the problem we all have as marketers. Take for example a hotel, it used to be enough to be ‘dark and quiet’ but now the market is flooded and you sort by price. There are hotels saying, we’re just the same but cheaper. Which are you going to pick?
The Problem Of Clutter
Godin then moves on to discuss the problem of clutter and that we’re probably making more of it than we did 5 years ago. There’s more variety and choices. He gives the example of a supermarket with thousands of new items every year. If one disappears no one would miss it.
I really enjoyed this quote and it really nailed the point on the head:
“This model that said find some poor schmo and assault them over and over and over with ads until one day they buy from us? Doesn’t work anymore. People are saying go away. It’s against the law to spam me. I don’t want to hear from you. Don’t call me. Don’t put a billboard in front of me. I have a remote and I’m not afraid to use it. We’ve done this to people because we’ve branded ourselves to death.”
Godin then shares the example of the history of the LP. Once upon a time it was perfect, people were buying them and the record industry was making millions. The industry was perfect. Until smart phones came along and changed the rules. It was a revolution and as Godin states that all revolutions “destroy the perfect and and enable the impossible”.
Treat Different People Differently
So Godin shares that he knows this is obviously bad news if you’re trying to profit from this, that the things that used to work don’t anymore. But as always, he shares the up side. There is a way to succeed moving forward where mass marketing is dying:
“Treat different people differently.”
He repeats this quote and you can see why. It is important for us as marketers to keep this mantra in our minds, to help us.
Godin states that this is revolutionary thinking. We all grew up knowing about the normal distribution where the people in the middle of the curve are considered ‘normal’. But over the last few years this is melting away and there are now more people outside of this curve. Godin states that “We are choosing to be weird” which is a great way to think about it and that we’re able to do so easily with the Internet – you can buy almost anything online.
“If you are going into the world saying this is for everyone, you’ve made your first mistake. The second mistake is if you say this you’re in big trouble. Everyone else is one click away.”
Godin encourages the audience not to think about the masses when building your organisation but to think about the edges and the weird people. He reminds us that plenty of successful brands are built for the weird people.
The Connection Economy
Godin then introduces the concept of ‘The Connection Economy’. He states that humans are good at connecting to each other.
“The revolution of our time is the Connection Revolution. The Industrial Economy is being replaced by the connection economy.”
He states that we work together to create value – horizontally.
What Is The ‘Connection Revolution’ Built Upon?
Godin sees there are four pillars:
- Co-ordination. Getting people together.
- Permission. The privilege, NOT the right, to talk to people who want to be talked to.
- Exchange of ideas. All of us are smarter than any of us. Listening to each other.
Godin then believes that there is an underlying foundation of ‘Generosity’ and ‘Art’. No one wants to connect to selfish people who take and ‘Art’ because we don’t want to connect to the boring and predictable.
“Art is the human act of making something that might not work. Of connecting one person to another in a personal way.”
So What Do Marketers Do?
At the centre of this chart Godin shared is ‘Products’ or ‘Service’. The next layer around that is ‘Support’ and ‘Usability’. The next layer is ‘Story’, ‘Community’, ‘Price’ and ‘Tribe’. The very outer layer is things like ‘Links’, ‘Hype’, ‘Buzz’, ‘Spin’, and ‘Ads’.
Godin articulates to the audience that we are going to have to make products and services that people actually want to connect to. That you can’t just hire celebrities or make average stuff for average people anymore. The value of a network is based on the number of people and their individual power.
Godin asks how many people found out about Twitter via advertising? Most likely none. Most had someone else who told them about it and who said to ‘Follow me on Twitter’.
Godin then asks the audience to think what product can they make that connects us? IF you do make it, the connection economy can’t wait. If you create a product that’s generic then it’s just a race to the bottom and you can’t just ‘raise your price’. Customers are not idiots, they just realise you’re more expensive. Godin urges the audience to realise that the only choice is:
“Be the one and only in your category. The one and only that is worth connecting with.”
Godin gives the example of an American airline VS Trip Advisor. Which is worth more? Trip Advisor is where you go to connect, you can’t replace it but there are lots of different airlines to choose from. He goes on to say it’s the same challenge faced by bookstores who compete with the online world. They forgot to sell connection and are just selling inventory.
He then gives the example of 747s coming in for landing at JFK and how they’re dramatically and dangerously off course until the last possible minute. They adjust. The Internet has made it cheaper to adjust more than ever before and that the cost of being wrong is tiny when you can adjust quickly in the online world.
Godin then discusses that while the Industrial Economy is based on ‘scarcity’. The Connection Economy is based on ‘abundance’ and unlimited choices. He gives example of a factory giving away free samples, if everyone takes one you go out of business. If you own an idea factory and everyone takes a free sample you win.
We’ve all heard about tribes, they are basically groups of people who share a way of being with each other.
Godin states that most people grew up with three tribes: Spiritual, Work and Community. However, now there’s been an explosion of tribes. He gave example of Star Trek guys who are still going to conventions to hang out with one another. It’s what we like to do.
Godin then gets the audience involved. He asks us to start clapping and within 6 seconds we’re in unison. Godin asks ‘”How did you know which rhythm to clap?”. Because you are listening intently – it matters to you to be in sync. That it’s in our nature to be good at doing what other human beings are doing.
“Here’s your challenge. Your opportunity. Find a tribe and lead them. To connect them. To commit to where they are going. To intentionally create a culture for who they are. To challenge them about what the next level is going to be. To be clear in how you communicate where you are going.”
What If You Don’t Feel You Have The Authority?
Tribes are everywhere. Godin gives the example of how Bob Marley didn’t invent the Rastafarians but he did show up to lead them. He then goes on to tell the story of how his friend went to work at the SPCA animal shelter and when he found out how many animals were being killed each year he new something had to change. He wasn’t in charge and had no authority. He went the council to see it overturned and was unsuccessful. He then went to the people of San Francisco, the weird ones, and eventually raised enough money and volunteers to make San Francisco the first No Kill city and he’s moved on now to others with people who follow his lead.
Godin then goes on to reflect on how ‘follow me’ is the opposite of what they teach in school. You learn to hold a little back because they’ll ask for more. Schools were developed to train kids to be normal and to fit in and originally started to train children to work in factory.
Godin then ponders how for millions of years humans hunted, 10,000 years ago they invented farming and only 200 years ago did they invent jobs. Godin predicts that we’re about to go back to that era where there are no jobs. We’re going to do something else. Art. He reminds us that artist is the person who says ‘This might not work’.
The Concept Of Tension
I really identified with particular part of Seth’s presentation.
He talks about how the tension we invite into our lives is fascinating. He demonstrates this by doing a card trick on the big screen where the audience has to pick a card, remember it and then he shuffles the cards and turns over the one we all picked. He says, “How did I do it?”. If it felt spooky then it’s because I created tension. Because it’s impossible he did it. You’re then busy trying to figure out how to make the ‘tension’ go away.
Godin then goes on to say how creating art is learning to live with the tension that what we’re doing might work or it might not. We need to be able to have both of these thoughts in our heads at the same time.
“If we can’t live with the tension then we have to go get a factory job, doing what we’re told, being a cog in the system and be disrespected. If we can live with the tension we can start creating. We have to be able to ask ourselves a simple question – why? What for? What change am I trying to make in the universe?”
How Do I Succeed In this New Economy?
Everyone wants a map says Godin, that shows them how. To give a guarantee. That’s because we’re trying to turn it back into a factory job rather than embracing the tension. Godin goes on to say that we all think competence is super important but it actually isn’t, we can get competence cheaper.
Godin knows that not everyone can be there own boss than many work within a team – so how do you get them to come along for the ride. Here were his insights:
- We need to be more comfortable with stealing ideas. That all items brought to the market were stolen from someone else and just made better.
- Do not listen. Shun the non believers. Godin gives the example that he’s never met author that read all their 1 star reviews and said as a result how much better their writing now is. Ignore those people. It’s not for them. That you get that they didn’t like it. Godin emphasises that it’s essential if you’re going to cater to the weird and that if we listen to ‘normal’ people we’ll stop having the guts to make something for the weird.
- Every time you succeed at anything give credit to your boss and co-workers. If you are relentlessly giving away credit people will get in line so you can do it for them. The flip side is to relentlessly take blame. Accept responsibility. You’re priceless and people will work with you.
- Ship. If you don’t bring your work to market you haven’t done anything. Ideas are fine but if you don’t interact with the market they are not art. They are not making the connection. They’re just interesting.
Godin then warns if you are building your business on the assumption that your customers won’t realise that someone else is willing to do it for free then you will fail.
The Dangerous Leap
Godin reads a quote from Kurt Vonnegut who said “We have to throw ourselves off cliffs and grow wings on the way down.” He goes on to say that the Internet has given us the ability to do this safely. We have a microphone. We can start something.
He then goes on to say that if you say that if failure is not an option then you’ve also announced that neither is success. You either decide that your goal is to connect and to lead or you decide to play it safe. Godin then points out that while it may feel safe, it really isn’t.
A great Italian phrase that Godin shares is “Solto Mortale” which means ‘The Dangerous Leap’. That we need to leap and it will feel uncomfortable. It’s not what we’re trained to do. The danger makes it worth doing.
Godin does caution though that there is a between being ‘ready’ and ‘prepared’. He wants us to be prepared. But ready we will never be.
“There’s a voice in your head, I can hear it from here, the voice that says it’s not your turn, the voice that says you’ll never amount to anything, the voice that says an alligator will eat you, or you will fall off a cliff or a shark will land on your house if you do this sort of thing. Because when werwolves are out there we’re worried about it.”
Godin then reflects on the story he heard when growing up of Hickorus where the father was banished to an island with his son. His father fashioned a set of wings for them. He cautioned that they would fly off the island but not to fly too close to the sun or it will melt the wax on your wings. More importantly not to fly too low as the mist hides the waves that will capture you and you will perish. Godin then goes on to say that we’re all guilty of flying to low. Of listening to the man and the system.
Godin then further illustrates his point by mentioning the Solvay Conference 90 years ago and shows a picture. There were 17 Nobel Prize winners in this picture including physicists like Madam Curie and Albert Einstein. He then points out that almost all of them won it after the photo was taken. He then encourages the audience to look around, that this could be their Solvay if they choose it be.
“Important work always ships before it’s ready.”
Godin then talks about how the resistance in your head, the thing that can give you writers block is hard wired in our brainstem – 2 seconds faster than the conversation in your head. He articulates this with an example, the boss’s boss is calling you at work. You don’t think to yourself ‘Oh good, she finally figured out all the good work I’m doing I’m finally about to get promoted.’ You most likely think ‘I’m in trouble, they’re going to fire me, I’m going to loose my house etc.’ Godin says it’s the amygdala in your brain can make that happen in .3 seconds. That’s what work does to us. It gets us to act like sheep.
Godin then reflects on the movie ‘Singing In the Rain’, he had an umbrella the whole time but it’s not called ‘Singing with an Umbrella’. The rain was the point. The tension is the point.
He then goes on to talk about how everyone who runs the marathon gets tired and that the only difference between those who win and don’t is those that work out what to do with the tired. They don’t deny it and they don’t have a magic trick. The tired just goes on the run with them. Godin says if you want to make the change you think you’re capable of you need to do it with the fear. There are no guarantees and that we need to be vulnerable. To accept that it may or may not work.
Godin reminds the audience, the opportunity is not to yell louder about making average stuff for average people. He shares a story of how he got stranded in Albany, New York on a plane that was 1 1/2 hours away from home for him. The pilot said in 2 hours he might be able to fly back. Seth thought this was ridiculous so he hired a car. He turned to the passengers and said he was clearly not a psycho as he was wearing a tie but that he had 3 spare seats – who wanted a ride? Not one person joined him. He then said that he figured out that we’ve all been trained to stay on the plane. It’s better to make it someone else’s fault rather than to get off and take responsibility into our own hands.
Godin concludes that we all have the chance of our lifetime. That we have a microphone that has been given to us to make a difference. That we don’t have to do it by ourselves, we just need the passion to care enough to do it before it’s ready.
His parting ‘One bullet point’ that he wanted us to take away with us that I want to share now with you is the question is ‘Are You Going To Matter?’
If you’re like me and can’t wait to get into Seth’s new book you can buy your copy of ‘The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly?’ on Amazon.
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