To be human is to be conflicted. To live a life of constant, simultaneous contradictions.
That is why brands need to learn tension.
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 🙂
So, without further ado, here are my Top 10 Seth, with some comments. Would love to get replies with your favorite Seth posts!
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.
Marketing 101. Every person who’s interested in or works in marketing should read this.
Strong brands (should) use at least one of those levers. Apple, the strongest brand in the world, inspires all three.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.