Yesterday I went from a person who only had a vague notion of Seth Godin as a marketing-guru-slash-author to one of those people who quotes Seth Godin like he’s the number one God of all things futuristic and innovative.
Sorry if I’m late to the party, friends. I attended an all-day conference with the man and got to hear his unique wisdom in a freewheeling, unscripted session. It was a crash course, but also confirmation of a lot of things I already held true.
What Mr. Godin kept coming back to again and again was this notion that we are now living in a “connection economy,” where marketing has gone from the mass to the mini-networks we can grow and cultivate.
He kept throwing out good litmus tests for our ideas and aspirations:
- Are you willing to get arrested for this idea?
- What story are you prepared to live?
- Are you doing work that you care about so much that you are willing to fail?
- Are you willing to explain to the world why they should pick you?
There a lot of safety in mass market products, what Godin calls “average.” With these, you use a megaphone to try to sell as many widgets as you can to as many people as you can. The problem is that nowadays, many of us are trying to sell something hand-crafted to a very specific group of people. Our products have a point of view that maybe isn’t all things to all people. Naturally, the sales process becomes more personalized, more dependent on an authentic grasp of what drives the audience, what they need.
That takes a lot more time, but it can be much more rewarding.
The discussion reminded me of a terrific class that I took while at film school, taught by a producer named Richard Miller. It was my first brush with the business side of filmmaking, and it centered a lot on marketing. In the film business, a distinction is drawn between something called “marketability” and something called “playability.”
“Marketability” is being able to draw a huge opening weekend crowd with a blitz of print ads and TV commercials. “Playability” is when a movie has “legs” and stimulates word of mouth. In the class, we were taught to see the distinction literally in dollars and cents.
Marketable films often had a huge drop-off after the opening weekend, which meant the marketers had been successful in hooking an audience in, but that audience didn’t love what they saw. Playable films were a slow burn. You’d see a less precipitous fall-off in box office numbers because each audience member was telling a friend about how much they loved the film.
And word of mouth marketing is some of the most effective marketing there is.
What I learned yesterday from Godin is that we’re all searching for playability. Small guys have more power and opportunity than they’ve ever had, but we need to be always putting our strongest asset, our passion and authenticity, at the foreground.
We have to strive to make things that people will not just like but love, and want to tell others about, even if that initial audience is small.
A great question to ask therefore: who will love this?