Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Seth Godin and Marketing Lessons from the US Election

One of my favorite business bloggers is Seth Godin. Recently he wrote about the 2008 Election and what business can learn from it. A presidential campaign is a marketing campaign after all; both sides are trying to get you to believe their candidate is the best. Here is an excerpt from his post:

Stories really matter. More than a billion dollars spent, two 'products' that have very different features, and yet, when people look back at the election they will remember mavericky winking. You can say that's trivial. I'll say that it's human nature. Your product doesn't have features that are more important than the 'features' being discussed in this election, yet, like most marketers, you're obsessed with them. Forget it. The story is what people respond to.

Mainstream media isn't powerful because we have no other choices (see below). It's powerful because they're still really good at writing and spreading stories, stories we listen to and stories we believe.

The basic idea is the power of the Tribe, a cornerstone of Seth Godin's philosophy of marketing. Both candidates created a tribe, a group of individuals committed to an idea and person. Those tribes grew in number and strength and began spreading the story of their chosen candidate. But Obama's tribe outnumbered McCain's tribe, so Obama won the presidency. Simple idea.

How did Obama's tribe grow so strong and how does this relate to your publishing company, or any business for that matter?

When you are writing a book, or even a blog post, you should keep in mind WHO you are telling the story to. What do they need? This is basic marketing: discover what the market needs and fill that need, or at least convince them they need it (which is harder to do than simply fulfilling a real need). Obama won because he tapped into the greatest need our country has right now: real CHANGE. The people who needed the change joined his tribe because his story resonated with their own stories. It was harder for McCain to be the force of change because he is a member of the current administration's tribe, namely the Republican Party. But he is also a war hero, and his story of survival resonated with many. However, Obama didn't just talk about change, he actually was different. McCain tried hard to convince us he was "Change," and many people joined his tribe, but he couldn't convince enough people that he was REAL CHANGE. See the difference?

So when you're writing your book think about what you're trying to achieve with that book and who will benefit from it. How does the story create change for the person who will read it? Why will they benefit? Does the book really fill the promise you made by writing it? Or are you trying to sell an old idea as something new? It's not impossible to do, but it is harder, as McCain discovered.

This is a very quick summary of what business can learn from the US Election. There is more specific information in the article about using the media to spread your story, so follow the above link to Seth Godin's blog. And sign up for his newsletter. Each email post I receive from his site is short and very helpful.

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