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May 18, 2007

Personal Democracy Forum Report: Seth Godin

by Josh Bernoff

Seth is a flame thrower. We all know that. Here are some of his thoughts.

The key "Ideas that spread, win." Successful democracy is about spreading ideas and causing action.

Godin says this starts with TV -- interrupt people to put your idea in front of them. This worked. Especially in politics.

The TV industrial complex: Buy ads, get donations, get elected, get more donations, around and around.

Now the world is filled with noise. TV is broken. (Yeah, we know that Seth.) This is why it will cost a billion dollars to elect a president.  The amount of clutter is huge. "We can't just keep branding everything. . . .We can't keep just being spammers."

Political sphere -- still marketing like targeting people in a singles bar. As opposed to romancing people who care about their ideas.

"Permission cuts through the clutter."

Now politicians are realizing they are in the fashion business.

So in politics, stop trying to be average for average people. Instead, start with the geeks and the nerds -- the early adopters. The message starts with the geeks and the nerds.

The key "create stories people want to share."

Also: "people feel good when they are connected with other people with the same ideas."

Turn the marketing funnel into a megaphone for your customers.

His new version of the cycle is this: Be remarkable. Tell a story to your sneezers. They spread the word. Get Permission. And so on.

Seth's critics say he is full of attractive ideas that don't work. I disagree. Seth is a disciple of the new thinking. Listen to him. Take his ideas and shake up your thinking. Yes, he lets you do the real work for yourself. Is that so bad?

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Graham Hill


I agree with your description of Seth. He has absolutely tons of great ideas, some of them almost obvious (but not quite), some of them way out on the boundary. He always challenges the reader to think for themself.

It is the thinking for yourself that seems to be the problem for so many readers, rather than the ideas themselves. They want everything pre-packeged into bite-sized chunks that are easy to digest, ideas included.

Maybe in our high-pressure world, we are so desperate to be doing stuff that we forget to think about what stuff we should be doing first.

Just a thought.

Graham Hill
Independent CRM Consultant
Interim CRM Manager

seth godin

Graham's right. It's not that my ideas don't work. Hey, I make em work every day. It's that doing something new is never easy. Making it easy is the hard part.

David Phillips

Can we move on from this. It is important but there is more. Because people feel good in the society of people with similar values (by that, I mean all manner of values) they create communities that are lubricated by RSS, tagging and comment. This makes them into user generated markets. Market segmentation is no longer the domain of the marketing manager, it is the domain of the Commons. We, of all ages, races, and incomes all talk to each other in a way that a marketing manager cannot. We then are the market.

The market research, patented product and three year plan is interrupted by people who listen, join the conversation, innovate and then listen. It is non-stop and neither needs patent or copyright nor benefits from it.

The purveyor of assets has no product as the user garners all that is needed. The MS Word document needs a PC, the Google Document needs hole-in-the-wall Internet access. The bank needs deposits, the user need access to networked micro money.

The asset economy has a finite life.

David H. Deans

Perhaps the reason why it will take $1 billion to elect a new president is because legacy political promotion consultants are just as obsolete as their traditional advertising agency counterparts.

Mass-media thinking results in a huge waste of resources devoted to pushing irrelevant soft messages to gullible voters -- when the real issues affecting society are rarely discussed.

That said, the whole system seems based upon contempt for the general public -- a belief that most people in America don't believe in democracy anymore. Clearly, most don't bother to vote. Some states, like Texas, have passed laws to make it more difficult for those few active voters to cast their vote.

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