Seth Godin is an entrepreneur, long-time blogger, author, noted speaker, big thinker, and all-around marketing guru. He was born in Mount Vernon, N.Y., and graduated from Tufts University in 1979 with a degree in computer science and philosophy. He got an MBA in marketing from Stanford Graduate School of Business while working as a brand manager for a software firm. In 1986, he started a book packaging company out of his NYC studio apartment. A few years later he sold the business to his employees to work exclusively on Yoyodyne, an Internet marketing firm he started with entrepreneur Mark Hurst. In 1998, he sold Yoyodyne to Yahoo! for $30 million.
Seth published his first book in 1993 and has since written 15 more including classics like "Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable," "Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers Into Friends and Friends Into Customers," and "All Marketers Are Liars: The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low-Trust World." His blog is widely regarded as one of the best marketing blogs on the Web and was one of the first I followed when I first started reading blogs nearly a decade ago.
I have been a fan of Seth for years and have a small Godin section on my bookshelf. It was a dorky thrill when he posted about a fundraising blogathon that I organized back in 2006 and once called me a quitter (the good kind of quitter: the others listed included Harrison Ford, Howard Stern, Jeff Bezos and Michael Bloomberg).
His latest work, The Domino Project, is described as "a new kind of publishing" and seeks to introduce a new business model for authors that emphasizes permission marketing and viral promotion while eschewing a focus on any one format. I profiled Domino Project managing editor Michael Parrish DuDell a few months ago.
Seth's work keeps him very busy, so I was pretty excited to be able to grab some of his time to answer these seven questions.
MNN: How should global warming be marketed?
Seth Godin: It's hard to have a marketing campaign when you don't have a marketer. Obviously, this is everyone's problem, not just the greenies. At the same time, it's an issue that's aggressively marketed by politicians, pundits and others with an axe to grind.
The challenge, then, is in telling a story that can spread, and building it from the ground up, not from an ordained authority.
The opportunity is in getting those that accept science as a process (as opposed to those that believe in the tooth fairy) to pay attention. Arguing with skeptics is foolish. Organizing the tribe makes more sense.
Years ago I blogged we should call it atmosphere cancer. Both 'global' and 'warming' have a nice feel to them. The fact is, the atmosphere has cancer, and if we don't hurry, it's going to get a lot worse.
The tribe needs useful facts. We need concrete steps — this is better than that, this plan moves us in the right direction more than that plan — as opposed to what we have now, which is way too much introspection and complexity.
What's wrong with publishing?
Books are storied, powerful, long-lasting and magical. The problem is that they are caught in a miserable business model.
Too few stores.
Too many returns.
Too many titles for the amount of shelf space.
No easy way to get books discovered.
And most of all, a posture of scarcity. The Internet rewards abundance, things that spread. Most publishing is about scarce resources and a difficulty in spreading ideas.
Do bookstores have a future?
Not bookstores that try to be just like Amazon, but a little smaller, a little more expensive and a little less convenient.
Yes to bookstores that are more focused on acting like gift or jewelry stores — chosen books, lovingly sold, books worth buying and gifting at a retail location.
"Format agnostic:" Does that mean that music and video could be a part of the Domino Project someday?
Could be but probably not, because I don't know how make that work (my record label, years ago, failed noisily).
Does the world need saving?
The world is the world. The only one we've got... We live in it, and I think it's probably a worthwhile project to make it more conducive to a joyful life for our grandchildren.
What's the difference between green and greener?
At some point, being green can cease being a highly leveraged activity and veer either to a shallow five-letter word that means nothing, or into an ascetic religious practice that doesn't scale. I think the opportunity is to avoid the 20 percent of the activities that cause 80 percent of the damage and use the rest of your energy to spread the word.
What will happen when a billion people in the developing world have enough money to buy a car?
I have no idea.
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