Mr Seth Godin, Sir- I have some questions…
Below is the video documentation of one of the very popular talks by Seth Godin (at the business of software conference in 2008). I haven’t attended the presentation and so can’t ask him direct questions. No surprises there- I am neither a software developer, nor do I have thousands of dollars to get enlightened in person. But I raise my hands here – get into the blog time machine and ask: “Mr Seth Godin, Sir- I have some questions.”
He talks about how marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department and throughout, he emphasizes that it is the ‘remarkability’ of the product/offering that what matters the most.
A mix of some great and some obvious points in the expected Seth Godin style- funny pictures and plenty of examples. The overall presentation is quite a food for thought, but I have some doubts. I fear saying “disagreements”, because I don’t have an iota of expertise, experience, clout or personality that Mr Godin has.
Neverthless for the sake of discussion, I raise my hands. That might be because I am looking at it from the eyes of buisiness exec and a marketing fan. To me, what is being elucidated in the presentation is the age old concept of Unique Value Proposition, finding and exploiting gaps in the market and developing products with a potential to sell.
Having said that, there are some gems in the conversation that Mr Godin is having.
He says everyone is in the same business. The business of spreading ideas. No matter what you are doing or what function you are in to- you are basically spreading ideas. Great thought and point taken.
He suggests that today marketing needs to be built into the product. Products need to have the capacity to spread itself.
He also says that most media and marketers have been subjecting the audience into a barrage of interruption advertising which leads to clutter and encourages production of average products for average people.
- Interruption marketing: Firstly, I have always thought this ‘interruption marketing’ thing is a bit exaggerated in the way it is told- Remember my specialty is digital engagement marketing- and so it favors me if I substantiate that most other mediums are Interruption led (and hence obsolete). But I have not been very convinced. At the core- even if at theory level, the art of advertising/marketing has great depth and has its own proven impact on business and consumer behavior. It is altogether a different thing that most ad guys do not do it that way.
- Purple cow: The philosophy for success that he elucidates is- be a purple cow. You know this one. Focus on making your product remarkably different from others. (Unique Value proposition/differentiation?). He goes on to talk about the importance of weaving marketing into the product itself. So what we know of marketing (advertising/Public Relations actually) is not so important.
I always argued that business is marketing. Yes, if your product is truly ‘remarkable’ – the product will likely sell on its own. Even then, the job of marketing does not become redundant. For even the most imaginative domino arrangement- needs an initial thrust to continue the display.
- Also if being remarkable was the only thing important- the HPs, Dells, Lenovos, Acers of the world should be dead by now. So would all the FMCGs.
- What I mean to say is- what do you do when you are in a business that is highly commoditized/standardized, customer service and other factors like retailing distribution are difficult to change remarkably. The art of Brand Management then becomes insignificant and most other time tested marketing- redundant.
- In such cases, the brand becomes the differentiator- which heightens the importance of marketing
Mr Godin himself suggests similarly with a few examples.
A remarkable product was created in 1913- sliced bread. But it was a failure- until some 20 years later- another brand came along and made a huge success out of it. Why? Apparently they MARKETED the product well. The remarkable thing in this example then becomes marketing and not the product itself. And even this is quite simplistic an assumption. How about existing infrastructure, consumer behavior, retailing, storage and distribution that might have evolved in 20 years? Almost a generation gap!
I think being remarkable is a very simplistic criterion. It does not give any solutions and is a bit vague.
The word ‘remarkable’ means a myriad of things. It can then mean anything actually. A good product, a differentiated product, great marketing, anything. So what exactly is remarkable then?
My thinking is – Remarkability is important, but nothing is important than an idea whose time has come.
To substantiate with an example- I prophesize that virtual worlds will become widely successful in 10 years from now. It is a remarkable (at least different) product and some remarkable marketing around it. It is an idea worth spreading. Or at least was when it was launched a few years ago. Right? Then why did it not become a widespread success? Because IMO remarkability isn’t as important as an idea whose time has come. Culturally, commercially and infrastructure wise. That’s why.
There are many many examples. 3D content anyone? Was started about 20 years back maybe. Was it remarkable then? Of course it was. It was a story worth telling. Why did it not succeed then? The same issues as I mentioned earlier. Again I prophesize that 3D content will be a potent force- within 5 years from now. Not just in movies but even in home media including gaming content. But not before the right time and the right market.
If you have an offering whose time has come- you will succeed even if it is not remarkable. If it is remarkable as well, the markets will bow in front of you.
- Meatball Sundae: Another good analogy is the ‘Meatball sundae’ concept. Because products are made that are suited for the masses- they end up being ‘meatballs’- standard and assembly line. OK Agreed. This also implies that all operators in the market need to be unique.
But If every product is Unique, no one is Unique. If every cow is of a different color, there is no uniqueness in a purple cow.
And this is where Marketing becomes more important. In any category, there is enough market for multiple operators- till the elasticity of profitability sets in. There are examples in every category that support this theory. Marketing/advertising is a necessary evil in most cases. As a matter of fact, it might be the most important contributing factor to success.
Seth then rightly explains that remarkable does not mean product innovation only, but even things like ‘customer service’ can make you remarkable.
He also mentions that the Internet can go a long way in making your offerings remarkable because it gives unparalleled interaction with the customer and the company.
Basically Give people something to talk about.
This is right- but I think the often told tale of Zappos has brilliant public relations at the back of it- even if they had some kick ass customer service. Heightened in the recent years that eventually led to their seemingly ultimate goal of getting sold.
- The long tail and the democracy of product availability:
He mentions that if you give people an opportunity to make a choice, they will choose the most remarkable product. I beg to differ. Fundamentally because people do not know what they want.
How many times have you seen an unremarkable product sell better than others- or a market of similar product where one sells off better than the others?
Of course then again, he says storytelling is important- more important than anything. I couldn’t agree more – and have believed in this since ages.
But then the same argument holds for a ‘standardized’ or cluttered product. If I can weave a story around that product, will the product sell or create buzz? I think yes. Recent examples- Skittles, Burger King, Australian tourism, etc.
Another long post. But I think what was said in the presentation was a lot of marketing 101.
Yet Mr Godin succeeds in making a great impact and reaching out to his audience- both online and offline. This is what being remarkable is. Maybe.