The Bright Ideas Of Yesterday Aren’t That Good

If you are over 20 years old you have to be willing to be a heretic to survive in business.  No this is not a religious blog so please don’t start a fight about religion.  But I will gladly accept a fight about marketing!.

What worked in the past does not work today.  The old idea of blasting out to millions of people and then catching the masses with some great idea or marketing trick does not work.  Businesses that have adapted to the new world are realizing that things do not spread from the top down but from the bottom up.

Each one of us is hit by over 30,000 images a day!   It may start in your home with the tattoo your daughter got that upsets you, TV commercials,  product placement on your favorite show, billboards, wrapped cars, banner ads on your computer, pop ads, outfield signs at the ballpark, the logo on your shirt, your shoes, the millionth billboard.

Yet the light bulb still goes off in business owner’s heads that if only they came up with a great image all the other 30,000 images people see each day will disappear and millions will remember their company – IMAGE # 30,000 + 1.

Seth Godin pointed out in his TED talk last year that the internet has ended mass marketing.  It has returned us to a community of tribes.  Businesses that know their tribe and communicate with their tribe will survive.  (For those who may be interested in the larger global view of this change I would suggest The Collapse of Globalism by John Ralston Saul.)

Godin asks 3 questions that I found very intriguing.

1.  Who are you upsetting?  Because if you are not upsetting anyone, you’re not changing the status quo. You are not in business to make everyone happy, unless maybe if you are a clown.  Even then you may scare some children.   So businesses today have to be willing to take a risk to reach out to their tribe – those who follow them.

2.  Who are you connecting?  Because for a lot of people, that’s what they’re in it for.  The connections that are being made, one to another. As a business it is your tribe.  How do you strengthen the connections around your customers.  How do you get your tribe to talk and connect with other people who are passionate about your product or service?

3.   Who are you leading?  Because focusing on that part of it, not the mechanics is what you’re building, but the who, and the leading part is where change comes.

Business owners often start a business because they are passionate about something.  But not everyone enjoys the same thing.  I am reminded of this when I go shopping with my wife.  My back aches, I get light headed, I can’t remember where I parked the car and I am sure that we are just going in one big circle and have been to the same store 50 times.  I find the benches in the mall and inevitably I meet other tired husbands.

So if you are selling to women, I am not in your tribe.  Your tribe starts with the broader group of women but then it starts to get more narrowly focused.  Is it shoes you are selling, purses, perfume, dresses, and is your product or service for retired women or college women?

Yesterday the idea was to blast out your message into every household that you could reach and maybe your customer could be heard.  The internet has changed that.

ARE YOU THE LEADER OF YOUR TRIBE?  Customers today follow the leaders.  They find them on the internet.  They don’t wait for a TV commercial, or a magazine ad, or a flyer in their mailbox to research what they are passionate about.  They have the power in their own hands and they use it.

My interests are unique, but so is everyone’s.  I recently looked up YouTube videos from my little city and found that the most popular one was about local drag racing.  My wife said, “Who would watch that!”  I pointed to the counter and said, “105,000 local race fans.”

One of my favorite videos is a lecture from Stanford University.  Now I know you will ask me who would watch that?  114,000 people in my tribe who enjoy listening to Robert Sapolsky!  I think that he is a leader in understanding humans in light of modern research and I told my brother in Italy about him and my cousin in Toronto.   Tribes today are not geographically trapped.  But they do center around the leaders.

Businesses today have to  be willing to be a heretics that connects people around your leadership!


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