There’s no attention without tension

To be human is to be conflicted. To live a life of constant, simultaneous contradictions.

That is why brands need to learn tension.


My Top 10 Seth

It’s been almost ten years to the day that Seth Godin has started his blog (the first post is from January 31, 2002). So it’s only fitting (as well as delusional) to try and make a Top 10 list of his best posts.

Although I’ve been privileged to sit down for an interview with Godin several years ago, I do not presume to know his work better than others. The list you’ll find below is completely subjective. And I haven’t gone back to research all of his posts – instead, I’ve used three criteria:

1. The post influenced my thinking or my work

2. I frequently find myself coming back to the post

3. I quote it or cite it to convince clients 🙂

Coincidentally, the list consists mostly of posts from the past 5 years or so, and all are from his main blog (not this or that, although both are recommended reading).

So, without further ado, here are my Top 10 Seth, with some comments. Would love to get replies with your favorite Seth posts!

1. Marketing

Yes, the first one is actually not written by Seth, but by venerable VC-investor Fred Wilson. This might seem an odd choice unless you read the post and then read the first comment – a comment by none other than Godin himself. His comment succinctly sums up, in non-academic layman’s terms, what marketing is. And sheds a light on the fact that people, even extremely smart ones, tend to confuse advertising with marketing.

2. What do you know?

Marketing 101. Every person who’s interested in or works in marketing should read this.

3. Fear, hope and love: the three marketing levers

Strong brands (should) use at least one of those levers. Apple, the strongest brand in the world, inspires all three.

4. The simple first rule of branding and marketing anything (even yourself)

Branding 101. A brand is what it does, not what it says. So if it does say anything, it’d better do it. If a brand just says it – that’s Trustiness, not trust (the difference between Caveat Emptor and Emptor fidem). Another related post is the honest broker: as an example not mentioned in the post, Google is slowly but surely breaking its promises to the user.
Of course, the brand’s promise should be a relevant one – one that is in alignment with customers’ expectations. And no, a slogan isn’t a promise – for most brands it’s become a meaningless line with zero recall.

5. Thinking about business models

Business 101. It’s really tough to have answers for those 4 questions. Those answers often require making real choices, otherwise the discussion is abstract and useless. The innovator’s dilemma often results in failure to make those choices (or to make the right choices), as the music business has learned. And no, you can’t always test those choices. You need guts.

6. Open conversations (or close them)

Customer service 101. It’s tough to choose among Seth’s musings on the subject, so this choice was somewhat random. These two are great as well: “…but what really blew me away” and Winning on the uphills.

7. Naming a business

Naming 101. Also this. Both make the point, by the way, that people tend to overestimate the importance of  a short URL (or, relatedly, owning the exactly-spelled domain). The unimaginable number of people searching for “Facebook” on Google is the ultimate proof.

8. The brand, the package, the story and the worldview

Packaging 101.

9. Timing rewards

This is about our current culture of instant gratification. But it’s also a beautiful insight about value. From the consumer’s point of view, it’s the road from “What have you done for me lately?” to “What’s in it for me, right now?”.

10. Which are you

The default is not competent. It’s mediocre. It’s average. Which encapsulates the previous nine.

How to deliver value

A few years ago, when I was at McCann Erickson, I became fascinated by Brand Utility. I developed a model to apply utility thinking and  eagerly presented it to various clients. But for some reason, Brand Utility didn’t catch on as a major marketing approach, neither amongst my clients nor elsewhere.

Nevertheless, the essence of Brand Utility lives. Brands are not what they say they are. They’re not what they say they do, either. Brands are what they DO, period. It’s important now more than ever before. And what brands should do is deliver VALUE. Value is a universal imperative for brands.

So here’s my model for how to deliver value.

A few caveats before you dive into the deck [warning: it’s pretty massive]:

1. I do not presume to list all the ways of delivering value. I did not include price, for example – obviously, when you lower the price the value equation changes for consumers. I didn’t include entertainment, either. Feel free to add your own if you use this.

2. Some examples fit into more than one type of value. More power to them.

3. The length of a section does not correlate with its potential value potential, if that makes sense.

4. Some examples are outdated, but I left them in as valid examples of value (e.g., Sparkbuy which was bought by Google).

5. Most screenshots and images have proper credits. Let me know if you identify the missing ones.

6. Thought and design inspiration came from Paul Isakson. Thank you Paul.