Questions for Seth Godin

  |  March 21, 2005   |  Comments

Godin holds forth on blogs, BzzAgent, and the lies marketers tell.

Are all marketers liars? That's what Seth Godin says in his new book. His last two, "Purple Cow" and "Free Prize Inside," evangelized the big, crazy idea. Now Godin explores the central role of the fib in all advertising. He's been promoting "All Marketers are Liars," due this spring, on his blog with anecdotes about the deceit underlying various marketing strategies.

ClickZ recently reached Godin to discuss his best personal lie, the value of blogging, and why he stands by his endorsement of controversial buzz marketing firm BzzAgent.

Q.What's a favorite lie you tell about yourself?

A.The lie that's particularly effective for me is that I know what I'm doing. That's a story that people want to believe, and so it's effective in helping people get what they want -- find the ideas they want, make the changes they want, etc. If you go to a restaurant with a group and someone says, "Hey, I know what's good here," it's easier to order and a lot more fun.

Q.What sorts of lie do you think interactive media is great at telling? Which lies does the Web fail at?

A.The key word is "interactive." The Web is particularly bad at the vernacular of solidity and trust. You can't do with pixels what you can easily do with marble and pillars and arches. On the other hand, when the Web connects one human to another, it's quite powerful. Send an email to a powerful blogger or author or executive or politician and get a note back in ten minutes... that has an impact that will last forever.

Q.How has the blog served you in the promotion of this book, and of your books and your brand in general? What do you like about it? What do you hate?

A.For five or six years, my job has been spreading ideas. Things like books are time consuming and slow and expensive, and you don't know for a year if your idea is going to spread or not. Blogging helps me a great deal because I can find out in five minutes if I've got something or not. One of the reasons I've been successful at blogging is that is all I'm trying to do. I'm not trying to make money or sell something or prove something. I just want to spread my ideas.

What I don't like about the Web in general is anonymity, and particularly the bad behavior anonymity brings out in some people. It's like at Disney World, where people (even adults) pinch and hit and swear at the folks wearing the character costumes. Even though these people aren't wearing masks, they act that way. So now at Disney the characters have guards. Sometimes the posts and mail and stuff is just stupid and mean. I hate that.

Q.You were caught up in some blogosphere controversy in recent months over an endorsement of BzzAgent, which has faced criticism. What's your take on this company and its lies?

A.It wasn't controversy. It was uninformed spin and self-promotion.

BzzAgent doesn't pay people to pimp their friends. Evangelical religions like the Mormon Church do a great job of making it easy for the committed to spread the word -- just for the satisfaction of doing so. That's what the BzzAgent I've worked with does. They send out materials and samples, and if people get a kick out of spreading the word, they do so.

In the parlance of my new book, BzzAgent makes it easy for people to tell a story.

If you don't like the fraudulent agencies (I sure don't) that hire supermodels or send out street teams or spray paint the street or set up false storefronts, then that's fine. Don't like them. But it's a misunderstanding to lump BzzAgent in with those guys.

One thing that's happening online is that bloggers in search of traffic can manufacture controversy by "going after" someone. My response is to have no response.

Q.If all marketers are liars, where do you draw the ethical line between a decent lie and a horrible lie?

A.Fibs and Frauds. A fib is a story that makes us feel better about doing something. If we find out it's a fib later on, well, it's okay, because we're still glad we did it. A nightclub tells a fib. So does perfume.

A fraud on the other hand is a story that attracts us but it turns out to be the opposite. SUVs are a fraud. They're not only not safer, they're less safe. They kill people. Once you find that out, it's not okay.

Q.What isn't a lie?

A.The smile on a kid's face when you give him a hug.

ClickZ Live Toronto Twitter Canada MD Kirstine Stewart to Keynote Toronto
ClickZ Live Toronto (May 14-16) is a new event addressing the rapidly changing landscape that digital marketers face. The agenda focuses on customer engagement and attaining maximum ROI through online marketing efforts across paid, owned & earned media. Register now and save!*
*Early Bird Rates expire April 17.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Zachary Rodgers

Until March 2012, Zach Rodgers was managing editor of ClickZ's award-winning coverage of news and trends in digital marketing. He reported on the rise of web companies, data markets, ad technologies, and government Internet policy, among other subjects. 

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

ClickZ Today is our #1 newsletter.
Get a daily dose of digital marketing.

COMMENTS

UPCOMING EVENTS

Featured White Papers

ion Interactive Marketing Apps for Landing Pages White Paper

Marketing Apps for Landing Pages White Paper
Marketing apps can elevate a formulaic landing page into a highly interactive user experience. Learn how to turn your static content into exciting marketing apps.

eMarketer: Redefining Mobile-Only Users: Millions Selectively Avoid the Desktop

Redefining 'Mobile-Only' Users: Millions Selectively Avoid the Desktop
A new breed of selective mobile-only consumers has emerged. What are the demos of these users and how and where can marketers reach them?

Jobs

    • Contact Center Professional
      Contact Center Professional (TCC: The Contact Center) - Hunt ValleyLooking to join a workforce that prides themselves on being routine and keeping...
    • Recruitment and Team Building Ambassador
      Recruitment and Team Building Ambassador (Agora Inc.) - BaltimoreAgora, www.agora-inc.com, continues to expand! In order to meet the needs of our...
    • Design and Publishing Specialist
      Design and Publishing Specialist (Bonner and Partners) - BaltimoreIf you’re a hungry self-starter, creative, organized and have an extreme...