Seth Godin - The London Session


Seth has a following.  At he is worthy of his own store... and I suspect this will be one of very many blog posts about Seth's visit to the UK and his London Session.

But that's OK.  Seth's following is proof of the concepts he writes about.  I guess you might guess that I'm somewhat of a Seth fan - after all, I paid money to go and spend three hours with him (and a few hundred other people) and I've read (listened to actually) six of his books (my view of the core topic in parenthesis):

  • Tribes (leadership)
  • Meatball Sundae (new marketing doesn’t mix well with old)
  • The Dip (it’s there to make success worthwhile)
  • The Big Moo (Seth + 33 others on remarkable ideas, beyond the purple cow to the big moo)
  • Unleashing the Idea Virus (get a free electronic copy) (it’s implementations of remarkable ideas that get attention)
  • All Marketers are Liars (the point of this one is precisely the opposite of the title, tell interesting authentic stories)

So what are his concepts?  As far as I can tell he invented the term 'permission marketing' as distinct from 'interruption marketing' - he wrote the book (Permission Marketing).  TV advertising is a simple example of interruption marketing - you're watching your favourite show and just at a critical point, it's interrupted with an advert break.  You didn't want the break, your show was interrupted.  Whereas with permission marketing you provide permission to receive communication from whoever asked - when you buy something from Amazon you expect to get email from Amazon promoting stuff similar to whatever your bought.

So permission is Seth's base concept for modern day marketing.  Building on that marketing that is 'anticipated, personal and relevant' is likely much more effective than anything that interrupts.  The ultimate test for your marketing in this mould is 'if a recipient didn't receive your communication would they complain?'  if they would, you've cracked it.

Hang on - is getting a blog post via an rss feed, or an email that you are looking forward to or some form of communication that passes this test marketing?  Sure it is, it's the very best kind of marketing.

And the test for the end product of the marketing - if your marketing causes the recipient to do something that they are pleased they did, then you're in a good place.  so, ethical marketing that people want to receive, that sells a product that people want to buy.  Actually when put in such a pithy sentence, it sounds obvious; it's a shame reality isn't always so simple - and that I guess is a key reason Seth still sells lots of books.

Finally, Seth talks about 'new marketing.'  Starting with Permission Marketing his approach has always been against the status quo of traditional marketing (actually, going against the status quo is a key topic of Tribes, I'll write about that shortly).  "In the middle of a revolution it's weird.  The rules are changing but most people don't realise."  In America there were 1000's of car companies building cars by hand at the time Henry Ford was changing the world through mass production - in that revolution there were two sets of rules - build one at a time or build using mass production.

Today, we are still in the transition between interruption marketing and new marketing - and Meatball Sundae tackles that topic head on.

Having read most of his books, I can't say I learned a great deal of new information - but it was a great way to spend three hours - one hour of Seth presenting and two hours of Q&A.  The audience weren't all marketeers either.  The lady I sat next was a dance teacher, she was a 'fan' too.  If you get the chance I'd recommend Seth Godin live.

Late addition: with thanks to John Welsh there’s blow-by-blow account of the session at These Digital Times.