Will they miss you when you're gone?

Seth Godin must be used to hearing that he “needs no introduction.” But that’s a copout. The challenge is to introduce him in the right context without simply listing his storied achievements. If you want that list, his bio will deliver.  The thing about Seth is this: he creates the context. He changed the way we tell stories, shaped the aspirations and ideas that propel us, and reminded us that to succeed—really succeed—we must be nothing short of remarkable. We fit into the context he creates, not the other way around. If we poke the box and bust our tails, we can create it with him.

Walk 50 feet in any direction at any one of our offices and you’ll find at least one dog-eared copy of Tribes or Purple Cow. The questions in this interview are from some of the Godin readers among my US and international colleagues. I hope you enjoy reading Seth’s answers as much as we enjoyed asking him questions.

You don’t observe some of what I’ll call “social media orthodoxies,” like allowing blog comments or “engaging” on Twitter. What’s the common thread in your thinking here that guides these decisions?

The orthodoxies are almost all about fitting in, not about doing work you care about. I want to be the best I can be in whatever medium I use. If I’m going to tweet, I want to do it remarkably well. But where does that time and effort come from? Should I blog less? And, while it gets me in trouble to say it, can you point to a twitter user who is doing work that people will want to read a month or a year from now? I’m sure Twitter works in certain instances, but for me, it would be a major distraction, a show where I’d have to dance faster and faster.

As for comments, I’m more and more coming to the conclusion that almost no one should read the comments on his blog. It activates the lizard brain, reinforces the lizard and doesn’t lead to better work.

Every great artist gets booed at some point. The trick is to ignore it, not bend to it.

Is content still king? Was it ever?

Elvis is the King, and always will be. But content rhymes with Elvis.

I think that leading, connecting and earning permission are newly important assets, and you can’t do those without content.

Of all the ideas you’ve shared in 4,000 blog posts and 12 books, are there any that you really expected to resonate with your audience, but didn’t?

About 3,000 of them. But I’m patient.

What role does authenticity play in permission marketing?

If you want to keep permission (not just abuse it) then the messages need to be about the readers, not about you. That doesn’t mean authenticity, but it means a consistent generosity that’s hard to fake.

When building a marketing team, it’s really difficult to define a single metric or measure of success to have my team march toward. What is the most relevant thing for a marketing team to focus on these days? How do you keep focused and creative?

Marketing, of course, is not advertising. It’s everything in your story, from the product to the price to what you focus on. So it’s a mistake to make it one thing, to have one metric.

Most of all, I’d measure this: will they miss you when you’re gone.

In your view, is it a false premise to suggest that social media has made us more connected socially–at least via the Web–while effectively impeding true self-reflection? This is assuming that self-reflection and self-expression (as far as social media enables it) aren’t necessarily equitable.

I think it’s very early days.

And I think there’s an enormous amount of posturing and misdirection going on. Even your true self isn’t your true self when it’s amplified a thousand times on a jumbotron.

Why can’t other consumer electronics brands seem to keep up with Apple? Other top CE brands have some of the brightest and most-motivated marketing minds in the world, but they can’t seem to produce a hit. What are they missing, or what do they have too much of?

Almost no other CE companies have a heritage of being run (really run) by a marketer who understands tech. Engineers are smarter than me, but taste is important too.

What are your predictions for Google+ vs. Facebook vs. Twitter.  Who wins?  Who becomes as big as Google is today with social advertising?

Does it matter? How will getting this forecast right change your world? I think we spend way too much time treating tech like a horse race and not enough time using it.

How would you build your marketing team? What sorts of people would you hire? What sorts of personalities or skills are absolutely necessary?

I think it depends a lot on what you make and how you take it to market. There’s no glib answer here.

What’s your take on “black-box” marketing? Is it better to develop in top-secret conditions (like Apple) and delight customers with theatricality? Or is it better to collaborate with customers and be open and iterative?

The black box was part of Apple’s show. Pixar’s show, of course, was not that at all. Both work, but both have a show, right?

What advice do you have for people that are trying to tell compelling stories about products? For example, how can something like a product roadmap be brought to life with the right story?

Practice? Yes. Practice. You learn to tell stories by telling stories.


Thanks, Seth. So, readers: What stories are you learning to tell? And: will they miss you when you’re gone? 

Customer Intelligence

7 Responses to ““Will they miss you when you’re gone?” Seth Godin on what really matters in marketing”

  1. “You learn to tell stories by telling stories.” – I should say this is not the only way. You have to read others’ stories, you learn the rules. Practicing is not the only way to be a good marketer. You have to always remember that you must learn from others, and there is a lesson from a bad example too!

  2. Thanks Seth – I’m a huge fan and introduced the book “Tribes” into our community awhile back.  Since then, many tribes have flourished here, from Iron Chef to Wakeboarding to “The Biggest Loser”.
    I also asked the Google+ question.  While I appreciate your answer, I’m curious if you think Google will “get social right” or if the network effect of Facebook is just too strong at this point.  As a user of both (primarily Facebook right now), I ask this question not just as the CEO of Bazaarvoice but also as a “consumer” of the social web.

  3. Thanks Seth.  I asked the Google+ question.  While I appreciate your answer, I’m curious if you think Google will “get social right” or if the network effect of Facebook is just too strong at this point.  As a user of both (primarily Facebook right now), I ask this question not just as the CEO of Bazaarvoice but also as a “consumer” of the social web.

  4. Awesome to hear from you, Seth! It’s funny that you say “engineers are smarter than me, but taste is important too.” Sometimes, I feel like there are different kinds of smart that make products or projects successful and some get far too much credit (e.g. Lady GaGa), but that’s just me. Regardless, I’ve never thought of one type of smart as “taste” – which most people seem to call “marketing savvy” – but I think it’s spot on.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>