Tag Archives: Seth Godin

Seth’s List

I’m one of those marketers who tends to hold my breath and lean in when Seth Godin talks. A business leader that I admire very much recently told me, “Seth is just a little too-out there sometimes for my taste.” Yeah, I know. And that’s why we love him and that’s why he’s great.

Today, Seth has spoken again–actually, he blogs daily it seems, so this is no surprise. But today, I’ve leaned in again, and I’m listening, and I’m pulling my credit card out. Without further ado, Seth Godin’s top reading list (so far) for 2012. Enjoy.

“All Marketers Are Liars” is a Lie: Ask Seth

I need to get this off my chest. Marketing is not lying. Lying is lying and marketing is, in its simplest form, promoting a real event, product or service. There is a lot more that goes into that promotion, like blood, sweat and tears, but lying is not part of the mix. In fact, just ask any college marketing professor to name the entire marketing mix for you. Lying is not part of it.

Why am I ranting about this? Over time, I have deleted a few people from my Facebook profile page due to a simple little fact: they are telling lies, especially lies about their career all in the name of marketing and PR, to make them seem more successful. I love a good lie, don’t get me wrong. Tell me I look 21 and I will a) think you are lying and b) love you. No, I will worship you. Anyway, I noticed that as social media grew, so did the unfortunate side-effect of some people lying, and, worse, it was done under the guise of marketing. Normally, I would let sleeping dogs lie, literally, but when people start lying and then justify it by saying, “It’s just marketing,” then I have an issue, people. I’m a marketer, not a liar (unless you are going to bust me on age issues again).

Don’t believe me? Fine. Ask Seth Godin, who as any marketer knows (but liars may not) wrote “All Marketers are Liars.” See, he didn’t really mean it, because of this quote from the book: “When you are busy telling stories to people who want to hear them, you’ll be tempted to tell stories that just don’t hold up. Lies. Deceptions.”

I was reminded of this quote when I recently saw a friend who asked about a mutual friend. “It seems like things are going well, judging by the Facebook updates,” he said. Before I could even answer, he added, “Of course, if you can believe all that.” I told him that based on what I knew, he was right; this friend was doing a little fabricating. “How’s that working out?” he asked dryly, waiting a beat, then said, “Oh, I guess it’s not.”

More than an admonishment on lying, my message here is that the lies don’t hold up if you don’t have proof of the product, or the business, or the experience. People see through it, or worse, they believe you, then ask an innocent question following up on your Facebook update, and realize, “Huh, that was a lie.” People don’t like to be duped. A sucker is born every minute; a person scorned is reborn every second. And scorned consumers are the ones spending money on the competitor’s product or service. Not the liars.

Words Gone Wild

Billy Joe Armstrong (from starpulse.com)

Billy Joe Armstrong (from starpulse.com)

Confession: not too long ago, I made a mistake. I knew it as soon as I was called on it, and oh yes, I was called on it. Big time.

My mistake? On the surface, I misused a word in a presentation. Let me be honest. It was much more than that. On the dark side it was sloppy writing. On the bright side it was overzealous creativity, or a desire to please too much. It was a failure to “kill my darlings,” as Oscar Wilde instructed writers with a penchant for clever phrasing.

In writing about a jewelry line, I described a particular piece as a “sumptuous” sapphire. I could have easily written that the sapphire was “shiny,” “sparkly,” or even “sea blue.” When I originally wrote the copy, I had a fleeting thought: “sumptuous describes the taste of something you’re eating.” Still, I liked it. It rolled around nicely on my tongue and at the time, evoked an idea in my head of a rich, deep blue, perfect sapphire. Why I didn’t write something more along those lines is left to the mystery of my own imperfect illogic, which at times like this, I myself cannot explain.

I ignored my intellect, which according to Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink,” would have been the right thing to do as I opted to go with my gut. I kept “sumptuous sapphires” in the copy, and I turned it into my client.

Later, in a conference call, a salesman (it’s always the sales guy) made fun of my choice of words. “Are we going to eat the sapphire?” he asked. Everyone laughed. Well, everyone except me, though I gave a half-hearted, good-sport chuckle. Inside I was thinking, well, I wasn’t thinking. I was slapping myself against the head.

The error of my ways got me pondering my own writing habits and noticing other writers. I’m not making excuses for my lazy writing, but I’m definitely not alone. That’s bad news. I’ve seen two ads lately for an upcoming show of a popular band. The band’s talent is described as “tasty,” and the music hailed as “yummy.” Can I have a side of fries with that cover song?

Speaking of music, every where I turn these days, someone is being hailed as the “marketing rock star,” or the “finance rock star” or the “scientist rock star,” or, “The rock star of neurology.” We are all sumptuous, tasty, yummy rock stars, even if we are Chief Marketing Officers or Neurologists.

It reminds me of a buzz word from a few years back: “wired.” In the nineties, we always described a person in–the-know as “wired,” or a magazine was “wired,” even if it wasn’t the magazine Wired.

We covet our buzz words. When they are new, they can make our writing fresh and snap to life. Imagine the first time someone wrote that a brilliant executive was a “wired, rock star CEO.” We instantly got an image of a professional at the top of her game and knowledgeable of all new trends and the best and latest business practices. Buzz words and phrases quickly get overused, though, and we rely on them too easily; they make our writing lazy, they turn our words into instant clichés.

Billy Joe Armstrong, and Bono are rock stars. Seth Godin is often called a marketing rock star (and his popularity may have well contributed to this rock star trend). All sorts of people are now considered social media rock stars. The thing is: aren’t rock stars known for their bad behavior? When I think of a rock star, I think of a musician in a famous band that likes to throw TV sets out the window of hotels a la Keith Moon, or a musician/heroin addict with mascara dripping down his/her face and his/her bloated bellies poking out over his/her too-tight leather jeans. None of that may describe Bono, a more cleaned-up version of a rock star, and admittedly, they are out there in droves: famous rockers who are politically active and campaign for presidential candidates and worthy causes—while wearing too-tight leather pants and dark eyeliner. That does not sound like the typical CEO or up-and-coming entrepreneur gracing the cover of Wired.

My point is, why are we calling people who have reached the height of their career a rock star, which, when you think about it kind of has a trampy, bad-boy/diva connotation? Does Seth Godin wear leather pants when he gives key-note speeches at conferences? Does he end each speech breaking his laptop over the podium? No, but he is one hell of a marketing genius (and I don’t mean to single him out, he’s just an obvious choice in the marketing world).

Then again, it must be fun to call successful people rock stars, as everyone is doing it. As for me, I’m going to try harder. I’m going to dig for my words, and not reach for some handy cliché that is being tossed around at the moment. From here on out, fried chicken is tasty. Mashed potatoes are yummy. A Chocolate soufflé is sumptuous. Successful marketers, neurologist, chefs, writers, scientist, fashion designers are what they are: great, brilliant, leading, premier, and ground-breaking. Sure, those words are overused, too, but they don’t make us think of snakeskin boots and screaming fans.

Sapphires are not sumptuous. Guitar licks are not tasty (though the reference is tempting.) Green Day is not yummy; they are killer, but they are not killers. However, The Killers are rock stars.

Like sapphires, words are precious. The ease of instant publishing has made them commodities. Let’s treat them like diamonds, not like CZs.

When (Marketing) Worlds Collide

Conclave 2009I am a big fan of the American Gem Society, a consumer watchdog in the jewelry industry. Every year at their annual Conclave, they put on a great meeting of the minds for the creme de la creme of the industry and, among other things, they discuss the best practices in marketing. In previous years, they have had keynote speakers like Malcolm Gladwell, for example. This year, I am just beside myself with the news of their keynote speaker. I shake as I write this: it will be Seth Godin. Yes. Seth Godin, the Purple Cow marketing god. And, I fell out of my chair when I read this one: Hearts on Fire is sponsoring his keynote. Hearts on Fire, in case you do not know who they are, is led fearlessly, and I do mean fearlessly, by Glenn Rothman, another great marketing god who is especially revered in the jewelry industry, and who is a member of the American Gem Society. Confession time: I have been fortunate enough in my career to work with both the American Gem Society and Glenn. He was a mentor to me, and I consider that association to be my MBA in marketing.

The news regarding Hearts on Fire sponsoring Godin should come as no surprise to me. Great marketing minds think alike and these two men are quite audacious in their marketing and thinking.

Congrats, American Gem Society! Hearts on Fire is not just a great sponsor, they are marketing saints, helping spread the word of GODin!