If anyone knows marketing’s future, it’s Seth Godin. The longtime guru of the subject and author of 19 books — his new one is called This Is Marketing, and he has a new notebook in partnership with MOO — preaches a kind of invisible marketing. “The word marketing should mean ‘What do we call it when we make something people want?’ ” he says. That’ll become increasingly important as 2019 brings more digital noise. His challenge: Be relevant, not loud.
How will marketing continue to change in 2019?
Attention and trust are the two most valuable elements of our economy going forward, and big companies have a long history of just burning it, wasting it. The alternative is to be the kind of organization that markets with people instead of at them.
What do you mean?
The mindset of pop-unders, pop-overs, spam, interruption, demographics, targeting — these are all hunting tactics. Like, We have something we want to sell, and gosh darn it, we’re going to find someone to sell it to.
That stuff always makes me feel like the marketer is aware that they’re unwanted.
Exactly. What we’re seeing over and over again is that the organizations that are succeeding don’t do that. They’re the ones that would be missed if they were gone. When you act in a way that helps the person achieve their dreams and goals and desires, then you don’t have to bully your way in and elbow your way in. We’re entering this age where everyone knows there’s no privacy left, everyone knows there’s no data security, everyone knows you can’t trust anyone. But when someone we can trust shows up, people go, “Oh, that person’s different. They’re one of us.”
Where does new technology fit into this? Entrepreneurs have a lot of tools available to them.
Online technology that’s free is generally working when you’re welcome, like email people want to open or websites people want to visit. Online technologies you have to pay for, like programmatic advertising, snooping on people’s privacy, boosting things, are interactions that were invented to make social media money, not to help people who are making products that would be found anyway. It makes more sense to not worry about getting big but worry instead about being important — seeking out the smallest viable audience, because that audience will demand you make something special. And if it is special, they’ll tell their friends.
That’s very back-to-basics.
Yeah; the basics of a century ago. And the reason this is hard is not because it’s hard. The reason it’s hard is because it’s scary. The tools of industrial marketing let the big companies off the hook. You just write a check and it’s not your fault anymore. But if you’re going to make it human, it means you’re going to put yourself out there and say, “I made this,” and someone is going to see it and say, “I don’t want it.” And it’s easy to hear that and say, “You don’t want me. I failed.” But that’s not the right answer. The right answer is “Oh, I didn’t make this for you. I made it for someone like you who believes something different, who wants something different. Let me go find that person.”