How to Get Your Ideas to Spread: Seth Godin (Transcript)

To make a product, to market an idea, to come up with any problem you want to solve that doesn’t have a constituency with an otaku, is almost impossible. Instead, you have to find a group that really, desperately cares about what it is you have to say.

Talk to them and make it easy for them to tell their friends. There’s a hot sauce otaku, but there’s no mustard otaku. That’s why there’s lots and lots of kinds of hot sauces, and not so many kinds of mustard.

Not because it’s hard to make interesting mustard — you could make interesting mustard — but people don’t, because no one’s obsessed with it, and thus no one tells their friends.

Krispy Kreme has figured this whole thing out. It has a strategy, and what they do is, they enter a city, they talk to the people, with the otaku, and then they spread through the city to the people who’ve just crossed the street. This yoyo right here cost $112, but it sleeps for 12 minutes.

Not everybody wants it but they don’t care. They want to talk to the people who do, and maybe it’ll spread. These guys make the loudest car stereo in the world. It’s as loud as a 747 jet. You can’t get in, the car’s got bulletproof glass, because it’ll blow out the windshield otherwise.

But the fact remains that when someone wants to put a couple of speakers in their car, if they’ve got the otaku or they’ve heard from someone who does, they go ahead and they pick this. It’s really simple — you sell to the people who are listening, and just maybe, those people tell their friends.

So when Steve Jobs talks to 50,000 people at his keynote, who are all tuned in from 130 countries watching his two-hour commercial — that’s the only thing keeping his company in business — it’s that those 50,000 people care desperately enough to watch a two-hour commercial, and then tell their friends.

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Pearl Jam, 96 albums released in the last two years. Every one made a profit. How? They only sell them on their website. Those people who buy them have the otaku, and then they tell their friends, and it spreads and it spreads.

This hospital crib cost $10,000, 10 times the standard. But hospitals are buying it faster than any other model. Hard Candy nail polish, doesn’t appeal to everybody, but to the people who love it, they talk about it like crazy.

This paint can right here saved the Dutch Boy paint company, making them a fortune. It costs 35% more than regular paint because Dutch Boy made a can that people talk about, because it’s remarkable. They didn’t just slap a new ad on the product; they changed what it meant to build a paint product. — everyday 250,000 people go to this site, run by two volunteers, and I can tell you they are hard graders — They didn’t get this way by advertising a lot. They got this way by being remarkable, sometimes a little too remarkable.

And this picture frame has a cord going out the back, and you plug it into the wall. My father has this on his desk, and he sees his grandchildren everyday, changing constantly. And every single person who walks into his office hears the whole story of how this thing ended up on his desk.

And one person at a time, the idea spreads. These are not diamonds, not really. They’re made from “cremains.” After you’re cremated you can have yourself made into a gem.  Oh, you like my ring? It’s my grandmother.

Fastest-growing business in the whole mortuary industry. But you don’t have to be Ozzie Osborne — you don’t have to be super-outrageous to do this. What you have to do is figure out what people really want and give it to them.

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A couple of quick rules to wrap up. The first one is: Design is free when you get to scale. The people who come up with stuff that’s remarkable more often than not figure out how to put design to work for them.

Number two: The riskiest thing you can do now is be safe. Procter & Gamble knows this, right? The whole model of being Procter & Gamble is always about average products for average people. That’s risky.

The safe thing to do now is to be at the fringes, be remarkable. And being very good is one of the worst things you can possibly do. Very good is boring. Very good is average. It doesn’t matter whether you’re making a record album, or you’re an architect, or you have a tract on sociology. If it’s very good, it’s not going to work, because no one’s going to notice it.

So my three stories. Silk put a product that does not need to be in the refrigerated section next to the milk in the refrigerated section. Sales tripled. Why? Milk, milk, milk, milk, milk — not milk.

For the people who were there and looking at that section, it was remarkable. They didn’t triple their sales with advertising; they tripled it by doing something remarkable. That is a remarkable piece of art. You don’t have to like it, but a 40-foot tall dog made out of bushes in the middle of New York City is remarkable.

Frank Gehry didn’t just change a museum; he changed an entire city’s economy by designing one building that people from all over the world went to see.

Now, at countless meetings at, you know, the Portland City Council, or who knows where, they said, we need an architect — can we get Frank Gehry? Because he did something that was at the fringes.

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