What Would Seth Godin Say To Advertising Agencies?


First things first. This is a list of Seth Godin’s writing output over the past 19 years. Quite the prolific dude.

Seth Godin Bibliography:

  • The Smiley Dictionary. (1993).
  •  eMarketing: Reaping Profits on the Information Highway. (1995).
  • Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers Into Friends, and Friends Into Customers. (1999).
  • Unleashing the Idea Virus. (2001).
  • The Big Red Fez: How To Make Any Web Site Better. (2002).
  • Survival is not enough: zooming, evolution, and the future of your company. (2002).
  • Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable. (2003).
  • Free Prize Inside!: The Next Big Marketing Idea. (2004).
  • All marketers Are Liars. The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low-Trust World. (2005).
  • The Big Moo: Stop Trying to be Perfect and Start Being Remarkable. (2005).
  • Small Is the New Big: and 193 Other Riffs, Rants, and Remarkable Business Ideas. (2006).
  • The Dip: A Little Book That teaches You When To Quit. (And When to Stick) (2007).
  • Meatball Sundae: Is Your Marketing out of Sync? (2008).
  • Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us. (2008).
  •  Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? (2010).
  • Poke the Box. (2011).
  • We Are All Weird. (2011).

I first became aware of Seth Godin in 1995 when I shifted from Saatchi & Saatchi to Internet publishing. It was a natural move since I was sucking up all of the digital knowledge and ideas that were just starting to percolate. I began watching Seth’s company Yoyodine that was one of the first digital marketing entities. It created online contests, games, and scavenger hunts but was best known for creating the concept of “Permission Marketing” which lead to Seth’s 1999 best seller “Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers Into Friends, and Friends Into Customers.” The premise of permission marketing remains a bedrock element of digital direct marketing and is a key driver of social media.

Chances are that you’ve read one or more of Seth’s books. Here are my favorite books supported by Godin’s Amazon description and some thoughts on how I see each book’s relevance to today’s advertising agency world. Even Seth’s short descriptions contain highly valuable business advice.

Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers Into Friends, and Friends Into Customers.

“In his groundbreaking book, Godin describes the four tests of Permission Marketing:

Does every single marketing effort you create encourage a learning relationship with your customers? Does it invite customers to “raise their     hands” and start communicating?

Do you have a permission database? Do you track the number of   people who have given you permission to communicate with them?

If consumers gave you permission to talk to them, would you have anything to say? Have you developed a marketing curriculum to teach   people about your products?

Once people become customers, do you work to deepen your permission to communicate with those people?”

My take: Any of your in and outbound agency marketing programs, including email, content marketing and social marketing, should be designed to build your contact database and relationship building programs. Getting permission and building trust with your prospects is key to building that relationship. Here is how my agency did just that with an online survey and follow up relationship-building emails to net corporate business from Harrah’s.

Purple Cow: Transform Your Business By being Remarkable

“What do Starbucks and JetBlue and Apple and Dutch Boy and Hard Candy have that other companies don’t? How did they confound critics and achieve spectacular growth, leaving behind formerly tried-and-true brands? 

Godin showed that the traditional Ps that marketers had used for decades to get their products noticed-pricing, promotion, publicity, packaging, etc.-weren’t working anymore. Marketers were ignoring the most important P of all: the Purple Cow. 

Cows, after you’ve seen one or two or ten, are boring. A Purple Cow, though . . . now that would be something. Godin defines a Purple Cow as anything phenomenal, counterintuitive, exciting… remarkable. Every day, consumers ignore a lot of brown cows, but you can bet they won’t ignore a Purple Cow.” 

My Take: The benefits for an agency to go purple and be distinctive are clear. Me-too sales propositions simply do not work in the long-run. Who has done it right in the past few years? Certainly the somewhat unloved Victors & Spoils (because they are way too purple for some in the industry); London’s London Agency (because they “own” the London brand and offer this concise sales proposition, “We create One Brilliant Idea that can work in any media, anywhere in the world.“) and Bend Oregon’s G5 (because they picked a profitable niche and services that can be resold across business categories.) These three Denver, London and Bend agencies have figured out how to go purple.

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?

“There used to be two teams in every workplace: management and labor. Now there’s a third team, the linchpins. These people invent, lead (regardless of title), connect others, make things happen, and create order out of chaos. They figure out what to do when there’s no rulebook. They delight and challenge their customers and peers.  They love their work, pour their best selves into it, and turn each day into a kind of art.    
Linchpins are the essential building blocks of great organizations.”

My take: Is there anything more important to your organization – or to your clients – than the right staff? The concept and makeup of “right staff” is complex. But, at the end of the day, the right staff means a cadre of co-workers that are going to help you deliver superior service to your current clients and… possibly more important, be partners in helping you continuously define and build your agency for future growth.

All Marketers Are Liars: The Underground Classic That Explains How Marketing Really Works–and Why Authenticity Is the Best Marketing of All.

“All marketers tell stories. And if they do it right, we believe them. We believe that wine tastes better in a $20 glass than a $1 glass. We believe that an $80,000 Porsche is vastly superior to a $36,000 Volkswagen that’s virtually the same car. We believe that $125 sneakers make our feet feel better—and look cooler—than a $25 brand. And believing it makes it true. 

As Seth Godin showed in this controversial book, great marketers don’t talk about features or even benefits. Instead, they tell a story—a story we want to believe, whether it’s factual or not. In a world where most people have an infinite number of choices and no time to make them, every organization is a marketer, and all marketing is about telling stories.”

My take: I’ve reviewed hundreds of advertising agency websites in the past few weeks. The great majority do not offer an agency story. That means any story that helps a prospective client form a strong opinion, helps sell the agency message and builds a differentiated persona. This is very disconcerting since so many agencies preach the power of storytelling to their clients.

Who tells a great ad agency brand story? Ogilvy.

Liked what you’ve read? Lets talk. Here is my Corleone offer.


2 Trackbacks

  • By louis vuitton imitation handbags on March 7, 2013 at

    louis vuitton imitation handbags…

    cheap handbags as well as designer handbags to end users who are budget conscious. who said that designer handbags were always expensive? ‘my new handbag’ proves it…

  • Sites we like…

    the time to read or visit the content or sites we have linked to below the…

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.