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Seth Godin: 'Connections'
is the new mass marketing

or Seth Godin, the future is on the edge.

Sporting his trademark yellow spectacles and a smoothly shaven head, he cuts the figure of what a new age marketing maven should look like: different. And his look fits his message. The mission of the modern marketer, he says, is “to delight and overwhelm the weird.”

Godin was the featured speaker at the kickoff luncheon for Startup Week, the sprawling week-long convocation of all things entrepreneurial in the greater Denver area. His credentials include an impressive array of involvement with early dot-com marketing companies and authorship of a popular media blog. You can find out more (a lot more) about him with a quick Web search.
The message he brought to Denver was one he has been trumpeting for some time: Mass media is dead; long live the niche audience.

DSW-logo-latest-1“The bell curve — the normal distribution — doesn't matter like it used to,” he says. “In every market, in every segment, we see people pushing to the edges. There are more people on the edges than there are in the middle.”

Godin’s seminal assertion is that mass marketing is in its death throes — or at least severely injured. We are now in the age of “connection” marketing.

His premise is that traditional media has become so pervasive, so overcrowded, that “the cost of getting attention from a stranger has become too high.”

To illustrate, he points to television. Fifty years ago we had only three channels; today our choices are virtually unlimited. “We don’t get to say ‘we’ll be back after a word from our sponsor’ anymore,” says Godin. “Because by the time we get back you’re gone.”

The industrial economy is dying and according to Godin, we are now in the midst of the “connection revolution.” Marketing is no longer about the masses, it’s about “tribes” – narrow groups of people sharing common interests.

"If you tell me you are making something for everyone, you are making something for no one," says Godin.

So how do you get your message to the tribe? One by one, person by person.

Today, Godin says, selling is a matter of “earning the privilege of marketing to people who want to be marketed to.” Word spreads horizontally. We earn privilege person after person, he says. “Over time … drip, drip, drip … we’ve earned permission.”

At times, his advice sounds daunting, like a slow march across Siberia in flip-flops. But he makes a compelling case.

To demonstrate his point, Godin tells the story of a couple of twenty-somethings who started a company to make pairs of socks that don’t match — intentionally. As it turns out, the mismatched footwear was discovered by young girls who went to school the next day to show off their new fashion statement. “Person by person, kid by kid, the idea spread,” he says. The punchline? Last year, the company made $40 million in revenue.

It wasn’t about the socks, Godin says. It was about a group of people who wanted to talk about a common interest. “The product is giving you a story to be able to connect with your tribe,” he explains.

For Godin, the “story” is critical. It is the secret handshake that gets you into the tribe. If you create something remarkable, he says, it will gain attention and it will spread.

"The Internet is the first medium in history not invented because we needed a place for advertising," he says. “The idea of being able to sell something by just yelling about it is fading fast.”