#29 Seth Godin – How To Get Your Ideas To Spread
June 15, 2021
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In his 17-minute Ted Talk, marketing expert Seth Godin discusses the death of the “TV Industrial Complex” and what it takes to get an idea to spread in the modern world. While before, you could spread an idea by interrupting people, now you have to earn their attention by being remarkable. In the past, you could make an average product for average people and hit a huge market in the center. Now, you need to find a special segment with keen interests and serve them and then they may spread your idea. Let’s look at the details in this quick summary. 


The Greatest Idea Since Sliced Bread: Interruptive Advertising Is Dead

Seth Godin’s big idea is that interruptive advertising is dead and marketers need to stop bothering potential customers and start serving them. We need to care about what they are interested in. And no matter what we do, getting people to be interested in what you are doing is essential. Godin points out sliced bread itself was unpopular for 15 years until the Wonder company figured out how to market it. It’s all about getting ideas to spread. Godin says that “what we are living in is a century of idea diffusion. That people who can spread ideas, regardless of what those ideas are, win.”


The End Of the Tv Industrial Complex

In the past, we spread ideas with the “TV-industrial complex.” Godin describes a cycle of interruptive advertising. You buy ads, interrupt people, sell products, buy more ads, interrupt more people. That worked for a while. But now that approach is not working. Godin gives a few funny examples of rather desperate and expensive interruptive advertising campaigns. People are busy and they have lots of choices, so bothering them with your message about you just does not work any more. You need to talk about what they want to talk about or get their attention somehow by being unique and remarkable. 


Be Remarkable Like A Purple Cow

Godin invokes a concept that provides the title for one of his books, a purple cow. Nobody notices cows, but if you have a purple cow, well that is something. In order to stand out in a busy market place you have to be remarkable. Godin directs our attention to the literal meaning of that word; you must be something that people make remarks about, something that people naturally talk about. This is in stark contrast to the mass market strategy that has dominated the previous century.

By making average products for average people and interrupting their way to market share, big companies went for the center, the big market. But now, people are really good at ignoring you, so you can’t interrupt your way to the attention of a mass market. You have to find people who care and talk to them. 


Find The Otaku

Otaku describes a person who is narrowly obsessed, like a noodle aficionado who will drive across Tokyo to try the newest ramen shop. Godin says “To make a product, to market an idea, to come up with any problem you want to solve that doesn’t have a constituency with an otaku, is almost impossible. Instead, you have to find a group that really, desperately cares about what it is you have to say. Talk to them and make it easy for them to tell their friends.”

As Godin points out, there is a hot sauce otaku, but there is no mustard otaku. It would not be difficult to create a product line of different mustards, but no one does it. But many brands offer several flavors of hot sauce because there is a small segment of the market that is keenly interested in flavors of hot sauce. Not all hot sauce consumers are passionate, but the ones who feel that otaku will try different flavors and tell their friends. 


How Can You Be Remarkable?

So now you know that to get your ideas to spread, you need to be remarkable and find some people who have a strong and focused interest that aligns with your brand. Commit to thinking about this and give yourself some time to recognize ways that you can distinguish what you do from your competitors. Think about your customers and try to identify a segment that may have a focused interest that relates to your offer. Then follow through and make a plan to set yourself apart and spread your idea.