Thursday, January 24, 2008

My takeaways from the Seth Godin seminar

Yesterday’s "How do you avoid the meatball sundae?" online seminar was pretty good. Not much new for those who are familiar with Seth Godin’s work, but it was a solid review of some of the changes that today’s marketers are facing—and how we can respond.

Here are the five takeaways that have stuck with me during the past 24 hours:

1. Seth presented some great examples of organizations that got defensive about new media instead of being innovative in how to approach it. The Yellow Pages could have evolved into Google. TV Guide could have evolved into YouTube. AOL could have evolved into Facebook. Unfortunately for them, they were too invested in doing things the old way. (After taking all this in and absorbing a question a friend asked me, here's another one: could have evolved into Facebook.)

2. Seth was asked what role ad agencies can play amid all this change. His response? “They have a great opportunity, but I think they’re going to blow it.”

Let’s start with that whole opportunity thing: if ad agencies are willing to do work that’s vastly different than what we do today, we can be more valuable than ever to our clients. This new work will involve sitting side-by-side with clients from a project’s conception, giving them an objective opinion on how to make their product or service truly remarkable. Agencies also can channel their creative energies into helping shape a differentiated message for that product or service, although that message will take the form of traditional advertising much less frequently.

Now, when Seth says “they’re going to blow it,” I don’t completely disagree. The agencies who aren’t focused on strategy, and who are more concerned with awards than getting results for their clients, will be irrelevant before long. But those who are committed to the principles of new marketing won’t “blow it”—they’ll simply take the place of agencies who can’t adapt.

3. Every organization needs to think of itself as an online business. Every organization needs to think of the opportunities inherent in social networking. If you don’t think those possibilities exist, you’re either not thinking creatively enough or you’re headed towards extinction.

4. The phrase “everyone’s a critic” must be taken literally today, because every customer has a voice, all those voices are equal in volume, and prospects will listen to one of your customers before they’ll listen to you. (If you don’t agree,
watch this clip. Then look at the number of views it’s received.)

5. Today’s marketer should strive for
permission: an invitation from customers or prospects to speak with them. It’s an invitation to take some of their discretionary time, which is the currency of the new marketing era. How do you know when you have permission? When your customers miss you when you’re not there (in their in box, on your blog, or next to you at the conference table, for example).

The best thing about attending the seminar, though, was that it sparked an idea for an organization I work with. That alone made it a worthwhile hour.

If you’re interested in learning more from Seth Godin, check out his books--including his latest, Meatball Sundae.


ScLoHo (Scott Howard) said...

Thanks for the insight. I listened to most of the seminar then lost my internet connection.

Due to my working in the mass media business, your third comment caught my attention as I have been looking for ways to prepare our radio stations for this evolution. The folks at have done a nice job, but they need a way to promote and move their revenue stream to the online business in such a way that the newspapers are a bonus for their advertisers.

My radio stations are well positioned as are a couple other station websites in town, but there is another step that radio stations need to do with their branding and positioning in the very near future. (But for now, I'm not sharing this information publicly!)

TV, has the power of video and I'd like to see the numbers of our local stations internet activity to see how effective it is.

Thanks for alerting us to the seminar!

Anthony Juliano said...

Thanks, Scott, for another well-thought-out comment.

I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but radio has a big challenge today: some people see satellite as a main threat, but I think it's just a blip on the radar screen. The real challenge comes from Internet radio. I've been a (free) Yahoo/Launch subscriber for about 5 years, and I gotta say that it's by far my favorite "station." Then again, I'm also a big believer in local media having a great opportunity for differentiation in that they have access to something totally unique--local news and information.

Godin alluded to all of this yesterday when he talked about every Google search being a "channel." I really believe that the key thing for marketers to understand today is that the thing they're competing for is the audience's discretionary time, and against all the ways they could be spending that time. A lot has changed, but that's the main thing.

One thing's for sure: your stations are smart to be considering these issues. There are a ton of media entities (ad agencies, too!) with their heads in the sand, hoping this will go away. Obviously, it's not going anywhere.