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Seth Godin 2008-06-18

Posted by lukethelibrarian in Librarysphere.

Since Vint Cerf was so kind as to drop me a comment in response to my liveblog from the opening keynote of SLA 2008, I figured I’ll try it again for the closing keynote by Seth Godin, which is about to start. This post should progressively develop as the session goes along…

Seth Godin:

I’m going to argue over and over that everyone in this room — and your customers — are marketers.  And the basic principle of successful marketers is: “Ideas that spread, win.”  Do *we* need to spread ideas?  We like to think three is some element of “the truth” that we are simply uncovering — but “the truth” doesn’t matter if no-one actually gets “the message”.

It all starts in the birthplace of marketing: Chicago.  Jolly Green Giant, Charley Tuna, it all came from Chicago.  Marketers figured out in the 50s that if you yell at people often enough, you earn enough money to yell at them more.  The TV-Industrial Complex Cycle: Buy ads -> Get more distribution -> Sell more product -> Make a profit -> Buy more ads… repeat.  This is the classic history of marketing from the very first advertisements, but it focuses on “average stuff for average people.”  Why? because you have to interrupt *everybody* to get your message out, so you’d better have a message/product that is for *everybody*.

Marketers were trying to solve problems for people that didn’t feel they hadn’t problems, and the volume just progressively escalated.  The Internet has opened up the floodgates of truths, half-truths and messages.  I am here to tell you your organization no longer has the right.  You can’t command people to read your message — and you’re still trying to solve a problem that people don’t know they have.

Salad water, diet water — we’re just dealing with clutter by creating more clutter.  We’re branding ourselves to death.  Medusa, you look at her & turn to stone — this is the patron saint of marketers!  We try to put ourselves in front of people with the hope that they will simply freeze and do what we want them to do.  Problem is, the response rate to direct marketing is not 2% any more, not 1%, but a fraction of 1% — and response rate of spam is far smaller.

Every mass medium in recent history has existed for one reason only — to make money for advertisers.  The Internet is the only medium that wasn’t built for marketers!  But it’s porous, so marketers are using it, politicians are using it, and more.  So we can look at the current state and say it’s over — but I’d like us to look at it and say, “This is our Industrial Revolution.”

The symptom of a revolution is: somebody playing by a totally different set of rules gets radically superior results.  Idea behind my book Meatball Sundae: we work for meatball-making companies, good, substantial, nutritious stuff.  But the Internet is a sundae: whipped cream and cherries.  There’s nothing wrong with meatballs, unless you’re trying to make a sundae.

Case study: Wedgewood pottery.  Josiah Wedgewood saw a revolution and died with more money (in real money) than Bill Gates and his fortune funded the voyages of his grandson Charles Darwin.  His brother died penniless.  Josiah knew there was a revolution and he seized it: factory automation, lobbying, direct-delivery sales, health insurance for employees, much more.

I’ve picked 14 of the 150+ trends that make up this revolution.  You can either keep doing what you’re doing, into the wind, or you can change and take advantage of the wind at your back.

1. Direct communication between people who make stuff and people who use it.  Didn’t used to be true. Case study: Sonos home sounds systems — instead of going through middle parties, installers, marketers, they interact directly with the public.

2. Amplification of individual consumers.  Case study: Joanne Cates, food editor for Toronto newspaper.  They have her picture in every kitchen in Toronto.  New reality: *every* customer is Joanne Cates.  Comcast installer falls asleep on guy’s couch, guy videotapes him, uploads it to YouTube.  Guy has bad experience at Taco Bell, creates “Run From The Border” website to collect Taco Bell horror stories.  “Wanna See My Socks” website for girls.

You need to tell stories if you want them to spread.  If somebody else is doing the telling, it might not be the story you want told.

3. with props to Chris Anderson: The Long Tail.  When you have “infinite shelf space” (digital goods), you don’t have to limit your stock.  There’s a long tail of information too — every library is as big as the library wants to be.  What happens when the car dealer goes away, when you can go online, design every detail of your car, and they deliver it to your house in 3 days for the same price as a mass-produced car?  Google has blown up the context world.  Every Google search delivers information with no context.  What are you going to do?  You can’t just whine about stuff with no

4. Connecting consumers to each other.  PayPal.  Kiva.  Now — by connecting people

5. Difference between “who” and “how many”.  Most marketers are obsessed with “how many”.  But what’s important is “who”.  If there’s a blog about deep-water petroleum exploration and you sell deep-water oil drill bits, that’s a great place to advertise even if they only have 4 readers.  Have you taken advantage of that asset?  If the top 5 people in your company waited every day for a 4-line email from you analyzing the most important new information that has come out, imagine the influence you have.

6. The Seinfeld Curve.  If you love Jerry Seinfeld, you can either: (a) see reruns of his show every night for free, or (b) spend beaucoup money, fly to Vegas and see him in person.  There’s nothing in between — the experience is either scarce or ubiquitous.

You may not demand my attention any more, because I won’t give it to you.  Look at replacements.com and zappos.com for examples of the new paradigm. In a good company experience, you will never hear the recording, “your call is very important to us,” because your call is *so* important, that they answer the damn phone!

Key questions:

Are we in the business of building customers for our products, or building products for our customers?

Are we trying to achieve success before we make a commitment? or are we prepared to make commitment first and then build success?

The new cycle — The Fashion/Permission Cycle:  Be Remarkable (if you can’t, start over) -> Tell a Story to your Sneezers -> They Spread the Word -> Get Permission from their Friends -> Be Remarkable some more… and repeat!  If you view your job as delivering information nuggets to the same old questions, you’re not being remarkable.

Question & Answer:

Q: We’ve had a lot of controversy about our name — we’re named after a building (the L word), does that make sense?

A: Rules of thumb: don’t appear with children, dogs, or talk about the name of the organization that hired you!

Names don’t mean something inherently — they come to mean something.  “Let’s name our coffee shop after a minor character in Moby Dick ?!”  Starbucks has nothing to do with Moby Dick.  You’ve got to understand and shape what your customers associate with the term “library” and “librarian” by what you do.

Q: I read your book on my PDA — the book you gave away.  What can you tell us about the future of books

A; I have made more money from the book I gave away than any other!  Books are souvenirs now, not informaiton artifacts.  Even in specialized information areas we will have this divergence: what people will pay a premium for will be special/unique, i.e. custom, very quick, etc.  Tim O’Reilly said it best: the enemy of every author is not piracy, it is obscurity.

Q: What if we really are selling meatballs, the information that people actually need — we can’t turn our back on that and sell sundaes?

A: There’s nothing wrong with meatballs, people will always need meatballs, it doesn’t make you a second-class organization, but it will have a pattern of growth and development that will tend to be more slow and steady.

Q: What do your ideas have to say about the state of political discourse in our country?

A: In politics, anonymous discourse tends to be harmful, and we’ll see a lot more of it.  At the same time, non-anonymous stuff becomes much more possible and much more effective.  I’m hoping that part — getting the permission and making the discourse civil and effective — is the one that happens.



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