Seth Godin’s idealistic world of marketing

SUMMARY: Seth Godin is a great marketing blogger but his view of marketing is often idealistic. To Seth marketing should tell stories even though consumers today don’t have the time or patience for stories. Today consumers want a good product at a fair price they don’t want to listen to stories that, to them, don’t change the fact that the frozen pizza brand they’re buying is more expensive and taste like cardboard.

Harvard marketing professor Theodore Levitt is famous for stating: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill bit. They want a quarter-inch hole.” That’s still true but incomplete. What people really want is the shelf that will attach to the wall once they drill the hole coupled with the satisfaction that comes from knowing they did it themselves. In other words, they want to feel safe and respected.

“If you can bring someone belonging, connection, peace of mind, status, or one of the other most desired emotions, you’ve done something worthwhile. The thing you sell is simply a road to achieve those emotions, and we let everyone down when we focus on the tactics, not the outcomes. Who’s it for and what’s it for are the two questions that guide all of our decisions.”– Seth Godin

The best ways to generate those emotions that customers are really after are still:

  1. Tell stories – which resonate and which hold up over time because they are true.
  2. Make connections – because everyone wants to feel part of something which is bigger than themselves and their immediate needs.
  3. Create experiences – where customers become part of the ongoing narrative and build connections with others who are in the same boat.

OK. Let’s talk about reality for a minute. Last year a pasta sauce company in Chicago, family-owned, It seems that a marketing company in Cambridge told them they needed to “tell their story” about what went into the product and how it was made but alas consumers didn’t want to hear about that. It came down to two things: shelf space at retailers and advertising in FSI’s. Once they changed the way they talked to consumers sales started to take-off.

People don’t have the time or patience to read brand stories. Content marketing is the most oversold and over-hyped tactic promoted to marketers.

Seth, in his latest book, says “empathy is at the heart of marketing. You have to obsess over what “better” looks and acts like for your tribe. Better is what your market is waiting for and craves so figure out how you can make things better for those you seek to serve and how you can take them there and your marketing tactics will become obvious”. He is partly right.

Empathy today is understanding that consumers are feeling the pinch of paying more for healthcare or that a lot of national brands have let them down.

One thing I do agree with Seth is “the challenges you face as a marketer is not to win the mass market right out of the gate. Instead, you need to win over a micro-market first and matter to a few. If you can figure out what the smallest viable market is and market specifically to them, you build a foundation for going bigger in the future”.

Too many brands and marketers try to maximize market share right out of the gate instead of focusing on micro markets. The biggest mistake a lot of brands make is getting too big, too fast and losing sight of the value you bring to each micro-segment.

About richmeyer

Rich is a passionate marketer who is able to quickly understand what turns a prospect into a customer. He challenges the status quo and always asks "what can we do better"? He knows how to take analytics and turn them into opportunities and he is a great communicator.

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