Got Godin? Q+A with Marketing Superstar, Seth Godin

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Seth Godin: It’s the three prongs of the message I’ve been talking about for a long time. First of all, the idea [that] advertising—which is a tool that interrupts people over and over again so that you can make enough money to interrupt more people—is fundamentally broken, and that our companies and our economy are based on the assumption that it works. Smart companies and organizations are shifting gears because suddenly it’s not working. Part of the reason [it’s not working] is clutter.

The second part of my message is the way you cut through that. What happens in a crowded market place is [that] people ignore marketers. But they rely ever more on their friends and trusted colleagues. So you have to make something worth talking about.

The third part is that people desperately want to believe. People want to believe in products and things and just stuff to talk about. And what they believe in are not facts or features; what they believe in are stories. What smart marketers do is they tell stories that people want to believe—they tell stories that are easy for people to share.

A: How long have you been attending Advertising Week events?

SG: You know, I don’t even remember if I’ve been to Cleveland before—and that’s where I’m going right now. What happens is that it’s very easy to become a junky of these conventions and you see the same people over and over again. I try very hard to extract little bits of data here and there, but not spend my whole day at a conference. I think that every once in a while a conference like this one shows up, usually in New York, and they’re worth going to.

A: What sorts of opportunities does this week provide for the online folks?

SG: The online thing is pretty interesting, because we’re at a turning point online in determining what our medium is going to be. If we spend a lot of time trying to make our medium about offering better ad units to the people who are obsessed with buying advertising, then we’re going to be selling the medium short. We will end up laying the groundwork for the medium to go down the same way traditional media are going to fall apart. When we take a look at what’s working, and we take a look at who’s succeeding, it is not people who are figuring out how to make online ads more like TV. So I’m hoping that this will be the year that the online people will take a deep breath and look at things a little differently.

A: What do you think will be the most popular and talked about topic of the week?

SG: You know [that’s] really tricky, because…more than most times I can think of, lots of people are on different tracks. Some people are just catching up with this whole blog thing, other people are ten steps down the road in SEO, other people are obsessed with the fact that Skype got bought by eBay and what does that mean. So there isn’t a sort of unanimity of focus about what it’s about, what’s next. It’s more of a taking a look at what you want to claim and what you can’t claim about the future.

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