Here’s a TED Conference talk by Seth Godin, marketing guru and proponent of the concept of ‘permission marketing’. Whilst the talk is a little old, the principles are more important than ever, particularly as marketers and advertisers try to navigate and harness the social media landscape.
The fundamental marketing concept that Godin pushes is simple – ideas that spread, win. However, the problem with most marketing and advertising isn’t that it ignores this concept, but that it isn’t given a chance because marketers too often are talking to people who aren’t listening.
Godin explains that marketing and advertising really came into their own with the rise of the TV-industrial complex – advertisers would buy ad space, leading to increased exposure and distribution, garnering more profits which could be used to buy more ads, reinforcing the cycle (below):
Marketers used to market average products to average people because that was the biggest market; they didn’t care about the fringe consumers, they only cared about targeting the masses all at once. But, says Godin, that won’t work post-TV-industrial complex, because the majority is so overwhelmed and overexposed they don’t care. There are too many options for them and too little time, so most marketing is simply ignored. Instead, Godin advises to focus on the outliers – the geeks, the innovators and early adopters because they are who the majority looks to for direction. Often, we will only see the benefit or appeal in something foreign once it has been demystified through mass uptake. Look at the iPad – no one would have dreamed they had a need for one, or what the heck to even do with one, until it was accepted through the various techno-stratospheres to the point where a technologically challenged soccer-mum can see the product’s benefit to her.
Godin employs the term otaku, Japanese for a group of people who cares desperately about a certain topic. Think a ramen obsessive who will drive 3 hours to try the latest, greatest ramen restaurant. Or the hoards lined up outside Apple shops worldwide prior to the release of any new iProduct. Godin emphasises the importance of targeting otaku – find a group who cares about what you have to say, inform them and let them tell their friends. Too many campaigns fail – especially social media campaigns – because they try and capture too much interest, too quickly. Instead, build a relationship with the otaku, say something remarkable to get their attention and give them a reason to tell their friends. Don’t forget that remarkable doesn’t just mean something neat or interesting – it must be something worthy of remark! Give people who are interested something to talk about and build your base from there. It won’t happen instantly, but it will happen, and with the benefit of genuine interest in your message leading to genuine engagement and awareness.