At this year’s PPAI EXPO, our Gill Thorpe, MD of the Sourcing Team, was lucky enough to hear master marketer Seth Godin’s keynote speech on Invisible Or Remarkable: Notes From The Revolution, where he showed his interpretation of what marketing should be today and which gave everyone plenty to think about. Gill covers the key elements of his speech here:
Seth’s message was simple – the only asset that matters is Connection – who you know, who knows you, who’s paying attention to you.
Seth’s insight is based on the fact that he believes a giant shift has taken place in marketing over the past 50 years. We are connected to people worldwide through the web. Using real life stores and examples, he explained where and how he thinks marketing is evolving. He believes that the world is moving from an industrial economy to a connection revolution. In his own words *
“Mass merchants demanded mass markets to sell more stuff. The mentality was that if we advertise it enough, people will buy from us. This is all fuelled by bosses who keep saying the four-letter word to us over and over again. M-O-R-E. More market share, more yield, more profit per share. This leads to average products for average people. All products are average on purpose, because if you want to reach everybody, you better make something everybody wants to buy.”
“In the 90s, advertising stopped working – because we could ignore it ever more easily. The mass market stopped being a mass market and splintered into little pieces.”
The internet fundamentally changed our ability to connect. Marketing used to be the same as advertising.
“Marketing is the promise that we make when we tell someone the story about what we do. And that means that everything we do is marketing. And if everything we do is marketing, and the mass market is gone, average people buying average things is no longer a way to make a living. …It’s not about how can I be cheaper than the competition and sell average stuff to average people – marketing becomes something more human, something more real.”
He continued, “We have enormous trouble doing this because we were raised to be obedient students and be successful cogs in the industrial system. When you are a cog in the system, you are not allowed to say this might not work. That’s reckless. But if we are going to do something that will connect us, something that people are going to talk about, that people will pay extra for, we have no choice but to do something real and artistic. But what it means to do something artistic is to do something that might not work.”
While most of us were taught from an early age to be quiet and fit in, Seth Godin now begs us to do the complete opposite. As he explained, the rules have changed. “There is an entire industry that is falling apart—the one that drove the mass marketing concept of interrupting everybody is going away. We are going into a completely new way of thinking and lots of people are looking in the rear-view mirror and thinking ‘How do we drive forward?’”
“The argument I’m making is that mass has left the boat. The people who want average stuff don’t care that much and if they don’t care, they’re just going to sort by price.
“The privilege of delivering personal, anticipated and relevant messages to people who want to get them, drives so much of what you are capable of changing in industries that need your help. Also, for the first time ever, it is easy and imperative to treat different people differently.”
People like us in merchandising completely understand this.
As Seth remarked, “the generic water bottle with a logo on the side isn’t going to make anybody any money, because the minute you have a client that’s going to buy a lot of them, they’re going to buy them from someone cheaper than you.” Instead we focus on the people whose world view is… “I am the kind of person who cares about this. I am the kind of person who wants to be known for this. I am the kind of person who will pay extra to get extra…”
What Seth said echoed our ethos. We are right-siders and we work with clients who want our expertise and our insights. We believe that what we create is highly relevant for today and for our client’s audiences – which is why they come back to us. Our products say we care. They don’t say – here is another give away to add to your collection.
As Seth said, there’s that one kind of person you should work with, and they’re over here on the right while everyone on the left is the undifferentiated, bottom feeding mass. We firmly sit on the right.