Talk #28: Seth Godin on standing out / what sells / sliced bread


(TED has renamed this talk from "Seth Godin on what sells" to "Seth Godin on sliced bread" and finally to "Seth Godin on standing out".)

Coke Japan comes up with a new product every 3 weeks because they have no idea what will work in the market.

The world revolves around the consumer. If you're offering a product or service, people don't care about you; they care about themselves. "Me, me, me, me. I don't want to get e-mail. I want ME-mail."

In modern times, the number of choices available to the consumer has increased tremendously, paralleled by a sharp decrease in the consumer's time to choose. The consumer's natural reaction to more choices and less time is to ignore more choices. That explains why advertising often leaves the consumer cold, and must be repeated ad nauseaum to elicit a 'buy' response. TV ads are much less effective nowadays.

You're driving down the road and you see a cow, and you keep driving. Because you've seen cows before. Cows are invisible. Cows are boring. Who's going to pull over and say "Oh! Look! A cow!"? Nobody. But if the cow was purple... ! If the cow was purple, you'd notice it... for a while. I mean, if all cows were purple, you'd get bored with those too.

Still, there are products and ideas that penetrate into the consumer's sphere of attention - the weird stuff. To draw attention, a product or service must be remarkable - the consumer must remark it.

Remarkableness doesn't mean the product has to be very good; "very good" is boring and is no longer the safe choice of a manufacturer. The safe choice has become the fringe, the unusual, the idea that spreads. "Remarkable" means worth making a remark about - spreading the idea.

A 12-meter bush sculpture of a dog is not an art masterpiece, but it's special. Today (May 1st, 2008), the artist Jeff Koons, had his "Tulips" drawing featured on Google's home page. Funnily enough, Seth Godin talks at some point about "[...] if we could only get onto the homepage of Google".

You have to be unique. The fastest-growing business in the mortuary sector is making fake diamonds out of cremation remains. "Like this diamond on my ring? It's grandma!"

"Silk" (a brand of soy milk that doesn't require refrigeration) tripled sales when they moved their Silk cartons among the milk cartons in the refrigerated area, because people noticed it: "Milk, milk, milk, NOT milk".

If one divides the market into innovators, early adopters, mainstream, and laggards, then successful marketing will address the early adopters, because they care and listen. Mainstream consumers will tend to ignore any sort of advertising, and the best way to reach them is through their early adopter friends (the "Otaku") - people who are passionate or even obsessed about something. If you're not into computers but want to buy one, will you turn on the TV and watch some ads, or will you ask your computer geek friend?

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