Seth Godin – The Wizard of Marketing

Anyone who knows me well knows that I absolutely love to read, particularly books about business and marketing. I’m sure that I’ve read hundreds of business books over the years, and I can say, without question, that Seth Godin is one of my favorite authors in that arena. Why? I’ll tell you.

You see, for some people marketing is just a career. For others it is just a tool. For me it isn’t “just a” anything…it’s a passion, and some days an obsession. I’ve been marketing in one form or another since I was a child, and I’m still at it.

While marketing is technically a field all its own, in reality it is an amalgam of a number of very different fields, including Psychology, Sociology, Economics, and Statistics, not to mention a whole host of others. Unfortunately, too many people make marketing out to be super complicated, and it isn’t. Marketing is simple, and Seth Godin understands this well.

You see, for the last decade or so, Seth Godin has been one of the loudest voices preaching about effective marketing, how things have changed in the marketing world, and how things will yet be changing. So far, I have read five of his books: “Purple Cow”, “Unleashing the Ideavirus”, “All Marketers are Liars”, “The Dip” and “Meatball Sundae”. Each has helped to shape (and sometimes re-shape) the way I view the world of marketing.

Let me summarize what I have learned:

You see, there are essentially three cornerstones to effective marketing: The Product, The Consumer, and The Message.

First and foremost, for marketing to work the way it should, you need a truly remarkable product. You need a product that speaks for itself, that is so unique/interesting/useful/cool that it could almost sell itself.

Sure, it is possible to market a product that is none of those things, but that won’t work forever. Consumers are becoming more and more savvy, and the market, all markets, are becoming so diluted down the long-tail that for a new product to really succeed in the present and near-future, it MUST be remarkable.

Second, and just as important, is the consumer. The consumer leg of the marketing tripod really has two parts: the niche and the hub.

First, the niche. You see, if you create a product that appeals to everyone, you’ve created a product that appeals to  no one. Whether you are creating a new product or marketing an existing one, you MUST do one of two things: either find a niche, or create one. Remember, Bill Cosby said it best: “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is to try to please everyone”.

Second, in regards to the consumer, you need to identify the hub. The hub, or hubs, are the people who are passionate about the niche you are marketing to. Consider them the gatekeepers of your target niche. If they love your product, and it relates to their passion, they will spread the word to other, like-minded people in a way no TV ad ever can. Viral marketing at its best!

For example, Cindy Gordon, a marketing VP at Universal Orlando Studios. Cindy was given the responsibility of marketing for the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park opening in Orlando. Instead of going through traditional media outlets, she instead held a private webcast for 7 of the most influential Harry Potter bloggers (the hub). Within 24 hours of the webcast, 350,000,000 people had heard the news. From 7 bloggers to 350 million people is an example of what finding the hub can do.

Third, you have the message. Or, as Seth Godin would say, the story. You see, the product that sells best is most often the product with the best story behind it. Not necessarily the story you are telling (although that is part of it), but the story that people tell themselves. As he explains it, why else would anyone pay $125 for Nike shoes that cost just a couple of dollars to produce overseas? They do it because the Nike story tells them that these shoes are better, that they will make you a star. The shoe doesn’t sell the story, the story sells the shoe.

To succeed, your product needs a story, an image, a brand, something that helps consumers to sell themselves on the extra cost. Needs sell well, but wants sell even better. To be most effective, the story needs to be true (though not necessarily), and needs to appeal to the consumer on an emotional level. Sometimes the story can just be implied, and still be just as successful.

Take Häagen-Dazs. It has a fancy European sounding name that invokes a sense of exclusivity, or rarity. The reality is that Häagen-Dazs was created in the Bronx, and the name actually means nothing whatsoever. It just sounds cool, and in doing so tells a story, which in turn helps consumers to tell themselves a story that convinces them to pay a premium for ice cream that is, in my opinion, nothing special.

When you effectively combine all three elements, you see a marketing success. Think iPod. Think Facebook. Think Google. You see, what we call viral marketing is, in reality, real marketing. Marketing was never intended to be a sham or a scam, but a means of spreading information about useful products and services.

If your product or service is crap, no amount of marketing will save it in the end.

So that is that, my summary, in my words, of what I’ve learned from reading Seth Godin’s books. I’m super excited to read his latest book, Linchpin, and I’m even more excited to go to his upcoming lunch presentation and to actually meet him! That’s right, Seth Godin, marketing wizard, is going to be coming to Utah 2 weeks from today (February 12th, 2010)! You can find the details here: Seth Godin in Utah

The world of marketing is rapidly changing, and the old school marketing techniques are dying. The music and newspaper industries are perfect examples. Understanding effective marketing is the difference between the success and failure of a product, service or business. Learn it well!

If you haven’t read Seth Godin’s books, I highly recommend them, and if you live in the Utah area, come on out to the meeting and meet the wizard himself!

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