Seth Godin is well known in the marketing industry as both a businessman and an author of over 18 best-selling books. This year he was inducted into the American Marketing Association’s Marketing Hall of Fame and today releases his newest book, This Is Marketing. Below is a short excerpt from the book in which Godin waxes poetic on fame and trust, and where marketing fits between those two ideas.
The internet thrives on affiliation. At its core is the magic that comes from peer‑to‑peer connections.
But the forces that prefer dominion instead of affiliation see this as a threat. And they’ve created waves of distrust around the voices and channels that we built our cultural trust around.
In addition, alas, the exposed misbehavior and greed of many of the pillars we count on have also destroyed the benefit of the doubt we’d like to give those who we look to for leadership.
The result is a moment in time when more people are connected and fewer are trusted. When science and fact are often thrown into a blender of willful misinterpretation and hurried misunderstanding. We’re not supposed to trust spiritual institutions, the mainstream media, politicians, social networks, or even the person down the street.
Add to this the cacophony of noise (with less signal than ever before) and the prevalence of fakes and rip‑offs, and trust is endangered.
What’s Trusted, Who’s Trusted?
Into this vacuum of mistrust, marketers find themselves on one of three paths:
If you’re ignored, you can’t accomplish much, because in addition to not earning trust, you haven’t earned attention either. If you’re sneaking around, pretending to be one thing while acting in a different way, you might be able to steal some attention and earn some faux trust, but it won’t last.
The third method—trust—is the only one that pays for the investment required. And it’s nice that it’s also the easiest to live with.
A trusted marketer earns enrollment. She can make a promise and keep it, earning more trust. She can tell a story, uninterrupted, because with the trust comes attention. That story earns more enrollment, which leads to more promises and then more trust. And perhaps, if the story is well organized and resonates, that leads to word of mouth, to the peer‑to‑peer conversations that are at the heart of our culture.
Benefit of the doubt is not a myth. There’s a ton of doubt, and you’re likely not getting the benefit of it. It’s only when people are actually going where they think you’re going, when their identity and status are already on the line—that’s when you get the benefit.
And then change happens.
The Trust Of Action
In a world that scans instead of reads, that gossips instead of researching, it turns out that the best way to earn trust is through action.
We remember what you did long after we forget what you said.
When we asked for a refund for a defective product, what did you do? When you lost our data, what did you do? When you had to close the plant and our jobs were on the line, what did you do? Marketers spend a lot of time talking, and on working on what we’re going to say. We need to spend far more time doing.
Talking means focusing on holding a press conference for the masses.
Not talking means focusing on what you do when no one is watching, one person at a time, day by day.
Famous To The Tribe
Fame breeds trust, at least in our culture.
Everyone is famous to fifteen hundred people.
Some people are even famous to three thousand.
And that’s a fascinating new phenomenon. When there are three thousand or ten thousand or five hundred thousand people who think you’re famous… it changes things. Not simply because they’ve heard of you, but because people they trust have heard of you as well.
If you’re a business consultant, a designer, or an inventor, being famous to the right three thousand people is plenty.
The goal isn’t to maximize your social media numbers. The goal is to be known to the smallest viable audience.
Public Relations And Publicity
Usually, marketers seek publicity. They want clips. Write‑ups. Features. Getting the word out. If you hire a public relations firm, it’s more likely that you’re hiring a publicist.
And good publicity is great if you can get it—why not?
But what you probably need more than publicity is public relations.
Public relations is the art of telling your story to the right people in the right way. It willingly turns its back on publicity that seeks ink at all costs (“As long as they spell my name right”) in exchange for the marketer’s reliance on building an engine for an idea.
The race to be slightly famous is on, and it’s being fueled by the social and tribal connections permitted by the internet. We give a lot of faith and credit to the famous, but now there are a lot more of them. Over time, once everyone is famous, that will fade, but right now, the trust and benefit of the doubt we accord the famous is quite valuable.
Excerpted from This Is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See by Seth Godin, in agreement with Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © Seth Godin, 2018.
Photo: ©2015 Polo Jimenez.