By James Khattak
In today’s interconnected world, the only resource that matters is who trusts you, who’s listening to you and who’s connected to you. That, says Expo East Keynote & Cocktails speaker Seth Godin, is the revolution of the digital age. “We are living in a revolution. Revolutions destroy the perfect and enable the impossible. And something impossible is happening in your industry,” he says.
Godin ended Expo East’s opening day Thursday on a strong, inspiring note, drawing an enthusiastic crowd to the show’s annual Keynote & Cocktails event. A bestselling author, blogger and agent of change, Godin also spoke to the industry at The PPAI Expo 2016 in Las Vegas.
Marketing and media have undergone a sea change in recent decades. When Henry Ford pioneered industrialism, he ushered in the age of mass production. The world learned to make a lot of the same, identical thing. But how do you distribute and sell a lot of the same thing? Middlemen. Mass production led to mass marketing. And that, says Godin, worked for 75 years. “It was magic. Attention was cheap, you could buy a lot of it, and make a profit.”
Mass production leads to “more and more and more.” It leads to average products for average people. We were all the same, says Godin, until the internet.
When we are connected, we create value. The core of Godin’s connected economy isn’t spin or buzz or clicks. It’s not the story or the price. It’s the product or service. The connected economy’s core has to be something worth connecting to. In operation, it is governed by four factors: coordination, trust, permission and the exchange of ideas. These depend on generosity and art. “No one wants to connect to a greedy person. No one wants to connect to a boring person.”
“Cows are boring,” says Godin. “They’re all the same. But what if there was a purple cow. A purple cow is remarkable! And all remarkable means is ‘worth talking about.’ Who gets to decide that? Not you. It’s the person who chooses to talk about it.”
When a business or product stands out from the crowd, and people choose to use or buy it, price isn’t the point. When you’re the only one, Godin explained, the story, the legend, is the point. And the world today is one of abundance. There is an unlimited amount of choice and information available. The good news is that every customer in the world is available to you. The bad news is that every competitor is only a click away.
Humans are hardwired to do what other people are doing. There is opportunity in being the person to take the first step and create connections among the community, audience or tribe. Godin says that this hardwiring is why marketing today can be reduced down to seven simple words: “People like us do things like this.”
“Why aren’t you dating your prospects?” asks Godin. “Why isn’t your business based on turning strangers into friends, rather than customers? Keeping in touch is free. The only two challenges you have are trust and attention.”
Trust and attention are only going to get more valuable, Godin stressed, as the bell curve that defines a “normal” person melts away every day. “Day by day, there are more people outside of normal. The people on the edges are weird, that means they’re interested, that means they’re looking for you as long as you don’t try and sell them something for normal people.”
Connecting with these people requires showing leadership, doing something new and doing your best work. Godin defines your best work as “making change happen” but cautions, “Change has an ugly stepbrother that’s always there: tension. But if failure is not an option, neither is success. Innovation is failing over and over again. As Kurt Vonnegut said, ‘We have to throw ourselves off cliffs to grow wings on the way down.’”
Godin closed his keynote with an encouraging nod toward the audience and its potential. “There’s a difference between being ready and being prepared. None of you are ready, but you’re all prepared. Someone in this room is going to change everything, whether you are ready or not. They’re going to discover a new kind of generosity or art.”