Seth Godin is an entrepreneur and blogger who thinks about the marketing of ideas in the digital age
For the first few years, the idea of sliced bread was a complete flop – noone wanted it, and noone knew it was available. The original focus was on patents and factories – the technical side of the idea, rather than the commercial. Nowadays it doesn’t matter how good your idea (or product) is, it is only the most widely spread that “win”.
In recent history, the TV-Industrial complex was how companies spread their products. Advertising on TV would give you sales which you could reinvest in TV. Nowadays it just doesn’t work – people have too many choices and too little time to care about advertising – they ignore most of it. The best way to be noticed is to be remarkable, or different. The largest and smallest cars are the best sellers now – because they are different. A chair can sell better as a status symbol, rather than a utilitarian chair.
The TV-industrial complex sold to the masses – these are the people who stopped caring and just ignore it now. Nowadays a better strategy is to appeal to the niche – early adopters or ‘geeks’. These people like listening, and are keen to try something new and to tell their friends about it. They have “Otaku” – an obsession to try something, because that is what they do. It is hard now to market a variety of products that don’t have an Otaku group – that’s why you’ll see much more variety in hot sauces than mustards. Sell to people who are listening and they might tell their friends.
Apple will stream their key note and 50,000 people will watch a 2hr commercial for their products, because these people care desperately enough to listen. They will tell their friends, and this keynote is what keeps Apple so successful. Pearl Jam now sells only on its website (to their biggest fans) and makes a profit every time. Dutch Boy Paint is 35% more expensive but desired for its innovative paint can design, Hard Candy Nail Polish doesn’t appeal to everyone but those who love it talk about it all the time. People want different products, and they want them targetted at them.
Some closing points
- Design is free when you get to scale, and people who are coming up with something remarkable can make the design work for them
- The riskiest thing is to safely market at the mainstream. Being Safe now is about marketing at niches. Simply being very good is unremarkable and rarely noticed – you have to also be different.
- The best way to market a new product is work out who cares and target them directly.
Seth is fascinating. His talk comes down to really simple points – come up with something remarkable and market it at a group who care. Mass media doesn’t work any more. Reading in other places (though he discusses it briefly in the talk), he has made the distinction between types of marketing:
- unsolicited ‘Interruption marketing’- TV ads, spam emails. These interrupt what you are doing and demand your attention
- Permission Marketing – this is opt in – people have agreed to receive more information. They are more receptive, it is more personal, and the advertising is cheaper.
All this makes me wonder how I can become a purple cow 🙂