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Seth Godin: Flying High

Category: Creativity, Marketing

What does Seth Godin say we’re really good at? Connection. And it is the business of tomorrow.

by Martha Spelman

Image: Seth Godin, author of The Icarus Deception, and keynote speaker at recent City National One20 Conference.

If you don’t know Seth Godin, he is the author of 15 books, each a bestseller; he is a prolific blogger and has been called “America’s Greatest Marketer.”


A couple of weeks ago, I saw Seth Godin present, live and in-person, at the InsightOne20 Conference put on by City National Bank. The conference targeted small businesses and offered sessions from finance to sales to content marketing. The topics were relevant and the conference fairly well-attended, but Seth was the real draw. Admission to the conference included a free copy of his latest book, The Icarus Deception. I’m reading it now.


Seth’s presentation was fantastic — quick-paced, image-driven, funny, thought-provoking and full of ideas (just like Seth).


Here are some takeaways:


Betty Crocker is the patron saint of marketers. In 1932, General Mills ran a 1/2 hour radio commercial. It featured a woman, the fictional Betty Crocker, reading letters she had received from “household engineers.” The promotion was so successful, General Mills kept it up.They were doing what we do as marketers: promote like crazy and make enough money so we can promote some more. As in any marketing: more eyeballs (or ears) = more sales, more customers, MORE.


Henry Ford was the Man of the Century. The Ford Motor Company was all about productivity, interchangeable parts and the assembly line. The industrial age made middle class possible. Working faster and faster (visualize the clip of Lucy and Ethel working the chocolate conveyor belt) was the goal. Workers were interchangeable. Everybody fit into a slot. The industrialists “pushed stuff” and fueled the economy for a long time.


That model doesn’t work anymore.


Even the “perfect” industry can fail. The record business did just that, in only five years. Music is doing fine, but not the record industry. Same thing with travel agents. It will happen to any perfect industry. No business is going to come along and hire 10,000 people. Ever.


Now the industrial revolution is being replaced– by an economy “for us.” Small businesses, which make up 99.7% of all U.S. businesses, are the wave of the future.


We’re leaving the commercial era. No more mass marketing – average stuff for average people. No more stuff that was designed for everyone. We’ve become a commodity economy — everything gets cheaper and cheaper. Now, it’s just a race to the bottom; lower your price and you might win. But things can’t get much cheaper.


This race to the bottom is the inspiration for the title of Seth’s new book, The Icarus Deception. In the myth, Icarus’ father, Daedalus, gave him the advice we’ve all heard: “Don’t fly too close to the sun.”  But, afraid that his son could get caught by the sea, he also said, “and don’t fly too low either.”


What we’re really good at? Connection. And Seth says that connection will dictate the businesses of tomorrow.


For example, not one person can create a computer mouse. The design, production and delivery require multiple talents and materials; they require connections.


The foundations of connections are:

  • Coordination
  • Trust
  • Permission (to talk to people who want to hear from you)


Connections, and these foundations, permit the exchange of ideas.


Connection is about feeling and emotion — not perfection.  Anyone that says they can connect someone with someone else, has value (hence the proliferation of social media followers, likers, circles and contacts).


We also have to listen…and watch…and be on the lookout for what’s new. It’s important to learn how to see what the possibilities are.


We have to be willing to fall down. We’ve got to go all in.


People are so afraid of screwing up i.e., failing, they don’t try.


Innovation — is the challenge of failing over and over again until you figure it out.


Don’t get caught up in desire to get it right first time – we hesitate for fear that we  might not get it right.


We need to create “art” – something new that is truly different and hasn’t been created before. It might not be for everyone. It’s for a small group of people who want to hear from us.


What we create is:

  • Anticipated
  • Personal
  • Relevant


The opportunity: smaller markets, where agile, small businesses become indispensable.


Art: human, risky, might not work.


If the critic doesn’t like it, they’re not for you. When we find the people that like it, we connect with them.


Make it better, not bigger.     


People don’t buy the product, they buy the story. Match your story to another story they are telling themselves.


Are you the original? Are you creating art? ASK: Who benefits from your work? They are your audience.


Seth really inspires his viewers and listeners to look and listen to what’s going on — to see what connections each of us can make to improve ourselves and our work.  No more business as usual. I see that these days, more than ever, successes are being born of those that venture out, try new things and feel that risk is preferable to safe.



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About the author: Martha Spelman is a Los Angeles-based business branding and marketing specialist (and a big fan of Seth Godin!). Check out my new book:  The Cure for Blogophobia: How to Easily Create, Publish & Promote Your Business Blog. Click to find out more about Martha Spelman and connect on LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+. Martha can be reached directly at: 310.266.6992 or


Martha Spelman is a Los Angeles-based branding and marketing expert and the co-founder of Packbands silicone storage and organization straps. Martha is the author of The Cure for Blogophobia: How to Easily Create, Publish & Promote Your Business Blog. Click to connect on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

To find out more about Packbands, visit the Packbands website. Martha can be reached directly at: 310.266.6992 or