How to get your ideas to spread | Seth Godin

13 min read
Transcript 0:25 I’m going to give you four specific examples, 0:28 I’m going to cover...

Transcript

0:25
I’m going to give you four specific examples,
0:28
I’m going to cover at the end
0:30
about how a company called Silk tripled their sales;
0:32
how an artist named Jeff Koons went from being a nobody
0:36
to making a whole bunch of money and having a lot of impact;
0:39
to how Frank Gehry redefined what it meant to be an architect.
0:42
And one of my biggest failures as a marketer in the last few years —
0:46
a record label I started that had a CD called “Sauce.”
0:50
Before I can do that I’ve got to tell you about sliced bread,
0:53
and a guy named Otto Rohwedder.
0:54
Now, before sliced bread was invented in the 1910s
0:58
I wonder what they said?
1:00
Like the greatest invention since the telegraph or something.
1:03
But this guy named Otto Rohwedder invented sliced bread,
1:06
and he focused, like most inventors did, on the patent part and the making part.
1:11
And the thing about the invention of sliced bread is this —
1:14
that for the first 15 years after sliced bread was available
1:18
no one bought it; no one knew about it;
1:21
it was a complete and total failure.
1:23
And the reason is that until Wonder came along
1:28
and figured out how to spread the idea of sliced bread,
1:32
no one wanted it.
1:33
That the success of sliced bread,
1:35
like the success of almost everything we’ve talked about at this conference,
1:39
is not always about what the patent is like, or what the factory is like —
1:45
it’s about can you get your idea to spread, or not.
1:49
And I think that the way you’re going to get what you want,
1:52
or cause the change that you want to change, to happen,
1:55
is to figure out a way to get your ideas to spread.
1:57
And it doesn’t matter to me whether you’re running a coffee shop
2:01
or you’re an intellectual, or you’re in business,
2:03
or you’re flying hot air balloons.
2:06
I think that all this stuff applies to everybody regardless of what we do.
2:12
That what we are living in is a century of idea diffusion.
2:17
That people who can spread ideas, regardless of what those ideas are, win.
2:21
When I talk about it I usually pick business,
2:23
because they make the best pictures that you can put in your presentation,
2:27
and because it’s the easiest sort of way to keep score.
2:30
But I want you to forgive me when I use these examples
2:32
because I’m talking about anything that you decide to spend your time to do.
2:36
At the heart of spreading ideas is TV and stuff like TV.
2:41
TV and mass media made it really easy to spread ideas in a certain way.
2:47
I call it the “TV-industrial complex.”
2:50
The way the TV-industrial complex works, is you buy some ads,
2:53
interrupt some people, that gets you distribution.
2:56
You use the distribution you get to sell more products.
3:00
You take the profit from that to buy more ads.
3:03
And it goes around and around and around,
3:05
the same way that the military-industrial complex worked a long time ago.
3:09
That model of, and we heard it yesterday —
3:11
if we could only get onto the homepage of Google,
3:13
if we could only figure out how to get promoted there,
3:16
or grab that person by the throat,
3:18
and tell them about what we want to do.
3:20
If we did that then everyone would pay attention, and we would win.
3:24
Well, this TV-industrial complex informed my entire childhood and probably yours.
3:30
I mean, all of these products succeeded because someone figured out
3:35
how to touch people in a way they weren’t expecting,
3:38
in a way they didn’t necessarily want, with an ad,
3:40
over and over again until they bought it.
3:42
And the thing that’s happened is, they canceled the TV-industrial complex.
3:47
That just over the last few years,
3:49
what anybody who markets anything has discovered
3:52
is that it’s not working the way that it used to.
3:54
This picture is really fuzzy, I apologize; I had a bad cold when I took it.
3:58
(Laughter)
4:00
But the product in the blue box in the center is my poster child.
4:03
I go to the deli; I’m sick; I need to buy some medicine.
4:07
The brand manager for that blue product spent 100 million dollars
4:10
trying to interrupt me in one year.
4:12
100 million dollars interrupting me with TV commercials
4:15
and magazine ads and Spam
4:17
and coupons and shelving allowances and spiff —
4:20
all so I could ignore every single message.
4:23
And I ignored every message
4:25
because I don’t have a pain reliever problem.
4:27
I buy the stuff in the yellow box because I always have.
4:29
And I’m not going to invest a minute of my time to solve her problem,
4:34
because I don’t care.
4:36
Here’s a magazine called “Hydrate.” It’s 180 pages about water.
4:41
(Laughter)
4:42
Articles about water, ads about water.
4:45
Imagine what the world was like 40 years ago,
4:48
with just the Saturday Evening Post and Time and Newsweek.
4:51
Now there are magazines about water.
4:53
New product from Coke Japan: water salad.
4:56
(Laughter)
4:57
Coke Japan comes out with a new product every three weeks,
5:02
because they have no idea what’s going to work and what’s not.
5:05
I couldn’t have written this better myself.
5:07
It came out four days ago —
5:09
I circled the important parts so you can see them here.
5:13
They’ve come out…
5:14
Arby’s is going to spend 85 million dollars promoting an oven mitt
5:18
with the voice of Tom Arnold,
5:21
hoping that that will get people to go to Arby’s and buy a roast beef sandwich.
5:26
(Laughter)
5:27
Now, I had tried to imagine what could possibly be in an animated TV commercial
5:32
featuring Tom Arnold, that would get you to get in your car,
5:36
drive across town and buy a roast beef sandwich.
5:39
(Laughter)
5:40
Now, this is Copernicus, and he was right,
5:44
when he was talking to anyone who needs to hear your idea.
5:46
“The world revolves around me.”
5:48
Me, me, me, me. My favorite person — me.
5:51
I don’t want to get email from anybody; I want to get “memail.”
5:54
(Laughter)
5:56
So consumers, and I don’t just mean people who buy stuff at the Safeway;
6:02
I mean people at the Defense Department who might buy something,
6:05
or people at, you know, the New Yorker who might print your article.
6:08
Consumers don’t care about you at all; they just don’t care.
6:13
Part of the reason is — they’ve got way more choices than they used to,
6:17
and way less time.
6:19
And in a world where we have too many choices and too little time,
6:23
the obvious thing to do is just ignore stuff.
6:27
And my parable here is you’re driving down the road
6:31
and you see a cow, and you keep driving because you’ve seen cows before.
6:35
Cows are invisible. Cows are boring.
6:38
Who’s going to stop and pull over and say — “Oh, look, a cow.”
6:41
Nobody.
6:42
(Laughter)
6:44
But if the cow was purple — isn’t that a great special effect?
6:48
I could do that again if you want.
6:49
If the cow was purple, you’d notice it for a while.
6:54
I mean, if all cows were purple you’d get bored with those, too.
6:57
The thing that’s going to decide what gets talked about,
7:01
what gets done, what gets changed,
7:03
what gets purchased, what gets built,
7:05
is: “Is it remarkable?”
7:08
And “remarkable” is a really cool word,
7:10
because we think it just means “neat,”
7:12
but it also means “worth making a remark about.”
7:16
And that is the essence of where idea diffusion is going.
7:21
That two of the hottest cars in the United States
7:24
is a 55,000-dollar giant car,
7:27
big enough to hold a Mini in its trunk.
7:30
People are paying full price for both,
7:32
and the only thing they have in common
7:35
is that they don’t have anything in common.
7:38
(Laughter)
7:39
Every week, the number one best-selling DVD in America changes.
7:45
It’s never “The Godfather,” it’s never “Citizen Kane,”
7:48
it’s always some third-rate movie with some second-rate star.
7:51
But the reason it’s number one is because that’s the week it came out.
7:56
Because it’s new, because it’s fresh.
7:58
People saw it and said “I didn’t know that was there”
8:01
and they noticed it.
8:02
Two of the big success stories of the last 20 years in retail —
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one sells things that are super-expensive in a blue box,
8:08
and one sells things that are as cheap as they can make them.
8:11
The only thing they have in common is that they’re different.
8:14
We’re now in the fashion business, no matter what we do for a living,
8:18
we’re in the fashion business.
8:19
And people in the fashion business
8:21
know what it’s like to be in the fashion business — they’re used to it.
8:24
The rest of us have to figure out how to think that way.
8:27
How to understand
8:28
that it’s not about interrupting people with big full-page ads,
8:32
or insisting on meetings with people.
8:34
But it’s a totally different sort of process
8:37
that determines which ideas spread, and which ones don’t.
8:40
They sold a billion dollars’ worth of Aeron chairs
8:44
by reinventing what it meant to sell a chair.
8:47
They turned a chair from something the purchasing department bought,
8:51
to something that was a status symbol about where you sat at work.
8:55
This guy, Lionel Poilâne, the most famous baker in the world —
8:58
he died two and a half months ago,
9:01
and he was a hero of mine and a dear friend.
9:03
He lived in Paris.
9:04
Last year, he sold 10 million dollars’ worth of French bread.
9:08
Every loaf baked in a bakery he owned,
9:11
by one baker at a time, in a wood-fired oven.
9:14
And when Lionel started his bakery, the French pooh-pooh-ed it.
9:18
They didn’t want to buy his bread.
9:19
It didn’t look like “French bread.”
9:21
It wasn’t what they expected.
9:22
It was neat; it was remarkable;
9:25
and slowly, it spread from one person to another person
9:29
until finally, it became the official bread of three-star restaurants in Paris.
9:33
Now he’s in London, and he ships by FedEx all around the world.
9:36
What marketers used to do is make average products for average people.
9:42
That’s what mass marketing is.
9:43
Smooth out the edges; go for the center; that’s the big market.
9:48
They would ignore the geeks, and God forbid, the laggards.
9:52
It was all about going for the center.
9:54
But in a world where the TV-industrial complex is broken,
9:58
I don’t think that’s a strategy we want to use any more.
10:00
I think the strategy we want to use is to not market to these people
10:04
because they’re really good at ignoring you.
10:06
But market to these people because they care.
10:10
These are the people who are obsessed with something.
10:14
And when you talk to them, they’ll listen,
10:16
because they like listening — it’s about them.
10:19
And if you’re lucky, they’ll tell their friends on the rest of the curve,
10:23
and it’ll spread.
10:24
It’ll spread to the entire curve.
10:26
They have something I call “otaku” — it’s a great Japanese word.
10:30
It describes the desire of someone who’s obsessed to say,
10:33
drive across Tokyo to try a new ramen noodle place,
10:35
because that’s what they do: they get obsessed with it.
10:38
To make a product, to market an idea,
10:41
to come up with any problem you want to solve
10:43
that doesn’t have a constituency with an otaku,
10:46
is almost impossible.
10:48
Instead, you have to find a group that really, desperately cares
10:51
about what it is you have to say.
10:53
Talk to them and make it easy for them to tell their friends.
10:56
There’s a hot sauce otaku, but there’s no mustard otaku.
11:00
That’s why there’s lots and lots of kinds of hot sauces,
11:03
and not so many kinds of mustard.
11:05
Not because it’s hard to make interesting mustard —
11:07
you could make interesting mustard —
11:09
but people don’t, because no one’s obsessed with it,
11:12
and thus no one tells their friends.
11:13
Krispy Kreme has figured this whole thing out.
11:16
It has a strategy, and what they do is,
11:18
they enter a city, they talk to the people, with the otaku,
11:20
and then they spread through the city
11:22
to the people who’ve just crossed the street.
11:25
This yoyo right here cost 112 dollars, but it sleeps for 12 minutes.
11:29
Not everybody wants it but they don’t care.
11:31
They want to talk to the people who do, and maybe it’ll spread.
11:35
These guys make the loudest car stereo in the world.
11:38
(Laughter)
11:40
It’s as loud as a 747 jet.
11:42
You can’t get in, the car’s got bulletproof glass,
11:45
because it’ll blow out the windshield otherwise.
11:47
But the fact remains
11:49
that when someone wants to put a couple of speakers in their car,
11:52
if they’ve got the otaku or they’ve heard from someone who does,
11:55
they go ahead and they pick this.
11:57
It’s really simple — you sell to the people who are listening,
12:00
and just maybe, those people tell their friends.
12:02
So when Steve Jobs talks to 50,000 people at his keynote,
12:05
who are all tuned in from 130 countries
12:08
watching his two-hour commercial —
12:10
that’s the only thing keeping his company in business —
12:13
it’s that those 50,000 people care desperately enough
12:15
to watch a two-hour commercial, and then tell their friends.
12:18
Pearl Jam, 96 albums released in the last two years.
12:21
Every one made a profit. How?
12:23
They only sell them on their website.
12:25
Those people who buy them have the otaku,
12:27
and then they tell their friends, and it spreads and it spreads.
12:30
This hospital crib cost 10,000 dollars, 10 times the standard.
12:35
But hospitals are buying it faster than any other model.
12:37
Hard Candy nail polish, doesn’t appeal to everybody,
12:40
but to the people who love it, they talk about it like crazy.
12:44
This paint can right here saved the Dutch Boy paint company,
12:49
making them a fortune.
12:50
It costs 35 percent more than regular paint
12:53
because Dutch Boy made a can that people talk about, because it’s remarkable.
12:57
They didn’t just slap a new ad on the product;
12:59
they changed what it meant to build a paint product.
13:01
AmIhotornot.com — everyday 250,000 people go to this site,
13:06
run by two volunteers, and I can tell you they are hard graders —
13:10
(Laughter)
13:14
They didn’t get this way by advertising a lot.
13:17
They got this way by being remarkable,
13:20
sometimes a little too remarkable.
13:21
And this picture frame has a cord going out the back,
13:26
and you plug it into the wall.
13:27
My father has this on his desk,
13:29
and he sees his grandchildren everyday, changing constantly.
13:34
And every single person who walks into his office
13:36
hears the whole story of how this thing ended up on his desk.
13:39
And one person at a time, the idea spreads.
13:42
These are not diamonds, not really.
13:45
They’re made from “cremains.”
13:47
After you’re cremated you can have yourself made into a gem.
13:50
(Laughter)
13:51
Oh, you like my ring? It’s my grandmother.
13:54
(Laughter)
13:59
Fastest-growing business in the whole mortuary industry.
14:03
But you don’t have to be Ozzie Osborne —
14:05
you don’t have to be super-outrageous to do this.
14:07
What you have to do
14:08
is figure out what people really want and give it to them.
14:11
A couple of quick rules to wrap up.
14:13
The first one is: Design is free when you get to scale.
14:17
The people who come up with stuff that’s remarkable
14:19
more often than not figure out how to put design to work for them.
14:22
Number two: The riskiest thing you can do now is be safe.
14:27
Proctor and Gamble knows this, right?
14:29
The whole model of being Proctor and Gamble
14:31
is always about average products for average people.
14:34
That’s risky.
14:35
The safe thing to do now is to be at the fringes,
14:38
be remarkable.
14:40
And being very good is one of the worst things you can possibly do.
14:44
Very good is boring. Very good is average.
14:47
It doesn’t matter whether you’re making a record album,
14:49
or you’re an architect, or you have a tract on sociology.
14:52
If it’s very good, it’s not going to work, because no one’s going to notice it.
14:56
So my three stories.
14:57
Silk put a product that does not need to be in the refrigerated section
15:02
next to the milk in the refrigerated section.
15:04
Sales tripled. Why?
15:06
Milk, milk, milk, milk, milk — not milk.
15:09
For the people who were there and looking at that section,
15:12
it was remarkable.
15:13
They didn’t triple their sales with advertising;
15:16
they tripled it by doing something remarkable.
15:18
That is a remarkable piece of art.
15:20
You don’t have to like it,
15:21
but a 40-foot tall dog made out of bushes in the middle of New York City
15:26
is remarkable.
15:27
(Laughter)
15:28
Frank Gehry didn’t just change a museum;
15:30
he changed an entire city’s economy
15:33
by designing one building that people from all over the world went to see.
15:37
Now, at countless meetings at, you know,
15:39
the Portland City Council, or who knows where,
15:42
they said, we need an architect — can we get Frank Gehry?
15:45
Because he did something that was at the fringes.
15:48
And my big failure? I came out with an entire —
15:50
(Music)
15:53
A record album and hopefully a whole bunch of record albums
15:56
in SACD, this remarkable new format —
15:58
and I marketed it straight to people with 20,000-dollar stereos.
16:02
People with 20,000-dollar stereos don’t like new music.
16:07
(Laughter)
16:11
So what you need to do is figure out who does care.
16:17
Who is going to raise their hand and say,
16:19
“I want to hear what you’re doing next,”
16:21
and sell something to them.
16:22
The last example I want to give you.
16:24
This is a map of Soap Lake, Washington.
16:26
As you can see, if that’s nowhere, it’s in the middle of it.
16:30
(Laughter)
16:36
But they do have a lake.
16:38
And people used to come from miles around to swim in the lake.
16:41
They don’t anymore.
16:42
So the founding fathers said, “We’ve got some money to spend.
16:45
What can we build here?”
16:46
And like most committees,
16:48
they were going to build something pretty safe.
16:50
And then an artist came to them — this is a true artist’s rendering —
16:54
he wants to build a 55-foot tall lava lamp in the center of town.
16:59
That’s a purple cow; that’s something worth noticing.
17:02
I don’t know about you,
17:04
but if they build it, that’s where I’m going to go.
17:06
Thank you very much for your attention.

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