Unleashing the Idea Virus – Seth Godin

I really like a lot of Seth’s ideas. I’ve reviewed his book Linchpin (hate that word though), but what I find is he’s very wordy, and repetitive, which is great for retention, but not good when you have limited time. So here’s the Cliff Notes for Unleashing the Idea Virus, which is actually free to read online. And I’m passing it on to you, which makes it an idea virus…

People used to get rich owning farms, then factories… now is the age of the idea. Which is cool. Because we’re full of good ideas 🙂 “If something is new and different and exciting and getting buzzed about, we want to knowabout it, be part of it. The fashion is now to be in fashion, and ideas are the way we keep up”

Basically the gist is that in the past advertising has been about interrupting a customer from what they are doing, to give them a message they don’t want to hear, about a product they don’t want to buy. And though for the last 100 years this may have been the best/only way to inform a customer about a product, it’s not the best way now, and it doesn’t really work. Instead of talking TO customers, we need to help customers to talk to each other.

A better way to advertise is to find people who ARE interested in your product (movie, short, whatever) and GIVE it to them, and then they will LOVE it, and tell people about it, and there’s your marketing. And it cost a lot less than traditional advertising. It does take a bit of work though. If your product is a movie, giving copies to everyone you know may not be the best way. Your Mum might rave about it to all her friends, but her friends know she’s being a proud Mum and it isn’t an indication of the quality of the movie. But if you make a movie about a Tattoo artist, and you give copies to the top Tattoo artists, and THEY love it, and THEY tell other artists… who tell their customers… who tell their friends…

The key is to find the people who will spread your message. Seth calls them Sneezers. And Sneezers have different value. We all know people who pass on everything, whether it’s of value or not. And generally we block them on facebook, making their Sneezing ineffective. And then there’s the Promiscuous Sneezer who passes things on because they will gain from it somehow, which takes away their effectiveness. The Powerful Sneezers are the people who not only pass things on, but people believe them. They can’t be bought, and “they do it because it’s remarkable, thoughtprovoking, important, profitable, funny, horrible or beautiful”

Seth is not just talking about Viral Marketing that uses the internet as it’s medium of travel (remember he published this in 2000), but about all viral ideas (and he uses a heap of interesting examples). Basically, have an idea worth spreading, make it easy to pass on, create a group of supporters, be persistent.

Quick ideas:

  • Be the best, or the most, or the cheapest, or the fastest… this is news worthy and can be passed on.
  • Create something that people want, maybe didn’t even know they wanted, but when they see it they must have it.
  • People are hesitant to try something new, especailly if it costs. You have to let them know that your idea (film) has arrived. That’s it’s a done deal before you’ve even started shooting. That the water’s warm and the air is safe to breathe.
  • Don’t be afraid to give stuff away for free. Even if it’s your whole movie streaming free online for a limited time. The more people who know about your movie the more it’s worth.
  • Don’t make the mistake of marketing only to your arty film/theatre friends. They don’t necessarily push your marketing over into the mainstream, where about 90% of people are.
  • Make your idea (film) easy to remember, talk about, pass on.

Like Linchpin, I wish this book was available as a fold out brochure, or an 18 minute TED lecture, but I did find all the case studies interesting, and there’s a lot of food for thought.

Oh, and if you’d like more info on why people pass on ideas, there’s a great (though probably not exhaustive) list from Seth here.

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