If there’s a god in modern marketing, he is Seth Godin. And if there’s a god of influential podcasters – he is Tim Ferriss.
On one of Tim’s podcasts (No 343 Seth Godin on How to Say “No,” Market Like a Professional, and Win at Life), Tim talks to Seth. It’s a magical session, full of nuggets that are mind-bending if not mind altering. But there’s that bit at the end which I must share, when Tim discusses a section from Seth Godin’s new book This is Marketing, in which Seth writes about a three sentence template for a marketing promise. It is so simple that it is almost stupid. But, it is really a deal maker. It will make your brand.
Tim Ferriss: What is the three-sentence marketing promise template? Or I guess it’s a simple marketing promise. I can certainly read this, if you would like. If it makes it a little easier. But there’s a template that you have. The three-sentence marketing promise that you run with. And if you can pull it from memory, we can do that, or I can bring it up and we can explore each of these in turn. Do you have a preference?
Seth Godin: Tell me if I got it right. It’s for people who believe this and for people who want that, this might be what you’re looking for. Is it close to that?
Tim Ferriss: It is close, yeah. My product is for people who believe blank. I will focus on people who want blank. I promise engaging with what I make will help you get blank. But I think both what you laid out and that are very similar in intent. What is this? Why is it important?
Seth Godin: Well, what tends to happen is companies make a thing. Then they hand that thing to the marketing department, and the marketing department reverse engineers what they’re going to say about it to get people to buy it. And then they come up with a mealy-mouthed mission statement that says nothing, so that they can act universally so whenever the next new product comes in, they won’t have to change their mission statement. None of this is effective. The alternative is to say, “We’re not saying ‘We made this. Please come buy it.’ We’re saying, “We see you. We see who you are and what you believe.’ And we assert, right here, right now, we assert that if you’re the kind of person that believes this and is looking for this, we promise that if you engage with your time and money with us, you will get that.”
And if you can articulate that arc, then you’ve got a shot at engaging with the smallest viable audience. So when I think about, we’ve been talking about marketing for over an hour and we haven’t mentioned Apple once. When I think about what did Apple promise when you pay extra for a smartphone that is demonstrably not better than the alternative that another company makes? How do they get you to wait in line? Well, what they’re saying is, “For people who in some small way define their status among their peers by the device that they use, who will get pleasure out of being able to demonstrate to their peers that they have the resources to get the latest one, we have the latest one. Get in line if you want one.”
That is Tim Cook’s entire business model. That’s not what Steve Jobs’ business model was, but that’s Tim Cook’s. Which is they are selling a luxury good, which raises the status of insiders, and is of no interest whatsoever to people who don’t get the joke.
Tim Ferriss: Are there any other companies that come to mind that do a particularly good job of this? By company, that could be one person, it could be 10,000.
Seth Godin: Sure. I will stake my reputation by telling you that every successful company does this. They don’t do it on purpose necessarily, but the thing that made them successful is that they did this. That there is almost nothing that launched to the masses. I remember the first time I used Uber. I did not use Uber because I had no other way in New York City to get 20 blocks across town. I used Uber because I’m the kind of person that got pleasure out of taking a magical electronic device out of my pocket, pressing a button, and having my friends just agog at the fact that a minute later a vehicle showed up right where we were standing. That feeling is what I bought when I bought Uber. So at the beginning, Uber had almost no customers. But the customers they had were people who liked that feeling. Then it works its way through a curve, which we can talk about later, if you want.