This is Marketing

What I wrote yesterday about the commoditization of marketing is deeply inspired by the work of Seth Godin.

This year, I have read his most recent book, This is Marketing, and despite having followed his blog for years now, and being familiar with most of his ideas, I felt it was the missing piece in my approach to marketing. A way to translate things that are already profoundly rooted in my practice into easy and plain words that everybody can understand.

You can’t be seen until you learn to see is the subtitle of the book, and that is a common thread througout the pages. The focus on empathy and on the necessity to deeply understand who you are serving is one of Seth’s mantras. There’s a metaphor he uses this time around, that is not only great at describing this approach, but also in differentiating it from the other side of marketing, the commoditized side.

It doesn’t make any sense to make a key and then run around looking for a lock to open. The only productive solution is to find a lock and then fashion a key.

Seth Godin

Marketing is about building a relationship, this should be nothing new to anyone who has read Kotler and his principles. And despite this being one of the oldest precepts of the field, we keep forgetting it, because other ways are more alluring and promise shorcuts to achieve results.

For Seth, it all starts by understanding what is the change you seek to make. Because every marketer is in the business of “making change happen” (and everyone who wants to make a change is a marketer). Then, understanding that changing everyone, seeking the mass, is not only unrealistic, it also sets us for mediocrity and disappointment. The only real possibility is identifying our “smallest viable audience“, the smallest market we (or our company) can survive on. And do our best work and responsibly bringing it to them.

This is Marketing is about a way to do marketing that considers affiliation more important than dominion.

Modern society, urban society, the society of the internet, the arts, and innovation are all built primarily on affiliation, not dominion. This type of status is not “I’m better.” It’s “I’m connected. I’m family.” And in an economy based on connection, not manufacturing, being a trusted member of the family is priceless.

Seth Godin

Affiliation, though, does not happen when you talk about how perfect your features are, or when you bombard people with flashy and catchy ads. It is a slow and long process, one that requires patience and consistency, and one that cannot be measured. And that’s where most marketers fail nowadays: they use the prime tool for affiliation (content marketing) and pretend to dress it for dominion (us, us, US!).

Eventually, if the marketer is successful, they will have served people that will spread the word (“the best reason someone talks about you is because they’re actually talking about themselves”, about their taste, about what is important to them) and that will speak up if they are missing (permission marketing).

This is Marketing is a beautiful read about mindset and change, one that is not for marketers only. Actually, it is for marketers only, but we all are marketers nowadays.

For a long time, during the days when marketing and advertising were the same thing, marketing was reserved for vice presidents with a budget. And now it’s for you.

Seth Godin


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