Marketing has changed … no more spam, no more hussle, no more shame … Seth Godin explains what marketing is, again

April 22, 2019

Seth Godin has been a peer for the last 25 years. When his great book Purple Cow came out back in 2002, I was CEO of the world’s largest marketing network, the Chartered Institute of Marketing. We immediately embraced the concept, the book, and Seth. He became the guest editor of our new monthly magazine which I first published a year later, The Marketer. His purple cow became a symbol not just have how to stand out, but also of how to articulate ideas in more memorable ways. And my own first book Marketing Genius came out around the same time too.

Since then we’ve developed parallel careers, many more books (he has delivered a phenomenal 19 titles), huge amounts of speaking, and I think we also share a relentless desire to innovate the way people read, learn and share ideas too. Seth has constantly experimented with new platforms. And he’s lost none of his irreverence too. Yet what happened to both of us is interesting. From marketing we gradually shifted to topics that had more relevance to wider audiences – to entrepreneurs, about innovation, and for leaders.

When I was leading the CIM, my mission was for marketing to drive the business (strategically, insightfully, in terms of people and influence, and in terms of economic value). We did huge amounts of analysis (proving that marketing contributes around 3 times more to profit, than any other activity/function in the business), building capabilities for marketers to have the skills and confidence to become future CEOs, and positioning marketing as providing the insight that drives new ideas, and the strategic vision that steers the future business direction.

But somehow marketing lost its way. It, dare I say, became uncool. The disruption of digital, big data, and most significantly Google, transformed priorities from strategic brand-building, to tactical data plays. Search engine optimisation became more important than channel development, Groupon-type discounting more important than building loyalty, building an app more crucial than delivering great service. There’s nothing wrong with all this. It’s the new competitive battleground, the new tools of the trade. But it all became rather functional, rather tactical, rather operational.

So it’s great that Seth has jumped back into the cheerleader seat of marketing.

His new book proclaims This is Marketing, which is sure to work well on Google search. And immediately follows with “Marketing has changed” … or at least some of it …

“Over the past quarter century, Seth has taught and inspired millions of entrepreneurs, marketers, leaders, and fans from all walks of life, via his blog, online courses, lectures, and bestselling books. He is the inventor of countless ideas and phrases that have made their way into mainstream business language, from Permission Marketing to Purple Cow to Tribes to The Dip.

Now, for the first time, Godin offers the core of his marketing wisdom in one accessible, timeless package. At the heart of his approach is a big idea: Great marketers don’t use consumers to solve their company’s problem; they use marketing to solve other people’s problems. They don’t just make noise; they make the world better. Truly powerful marketing is grounded in empathy, generosity, and emotional labour.

  • Marketing’s about solving problems, not selling products
  • Marketing’s about building empathy, not communicating messages
  • Marketing’s about enabling people to achieve more, not just do what they do

This book teaches you how to identify your smallest viable audience; draw on the right signals and signs to position your offering; build trust and permission with your target market; speak to the narratives your audience tells themselves about status, affiliation, and dominance; spot opportunities to create and release tension; and give people the tools to achieve their goals.

  • Marketing’s about focused propositions, not average solutions
  • Marketing’s about building trust and dialogue, not awareness and hussle
  • Marketing’s about being part of their world, not making them part of yours

It’s time for marketers to stop lying, spamming, and feeling guilty about their work. It’s time to stop confusing social media metrics with true connections. It’s time to stop wasting money on stolen attention that won’t pay off in the long run. This is Marketing offers a better approach that will still apply for decades to come, no matter how the tactics of marketing continue to evolve.”

Here are some of the many great quotes which I came across:

(Page 12) “Marketers make change happen: for the smallest viable audience, and by delivering anticipated, personal, and relevant messages that people actually want to get.”

(Page 12) “Marketers have the empathy to know that those they seek to serve don’t want what the marketer wants, don’t believe what they believe, and don’t care about what they care about.”

(Page 20) “Marketing is our quest to make change on behalf of those we serve, and we do it by understanding the irrational forces that drive each of us.”

(Page 28) “You have no chance of changing everyone. You need to change someone. Which ones? Do they share a psychographic?”

(Page 65) “Our calling is to make a difference. A chance to make things better for those we seek to serve…Not for your own benefit, but because of what it can produce for others.”

(Page 70) “Great marketing is the generous and audacious work of saying, ‘I see a better alternative; come with me.’”

(Page 81) “Marketers make change. We change people from one emotional state to another. We take people on a journey; we help them become the person they’ve dreamed of becoming, a little bit at a time.”


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