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Lessons from Seth Godin

OK, I’ve just finished reading Purple Cow by Seth Godin. He is one of the the new gurus of marketing. He’s recognised that marketing has fundamentally changed now we’ve moved out of what he calls the TV Industrial Complex, where mass products and mass marketing dominated, and into a world where people don’t need new stuff.

There are lots of things to dislike in his books – not least that he knows that consumers don’t need any more so he says businesses need to provide what them with things that are not about need but enable them to define themselves (you know, ridiculously expensive cars, watches, bags, coats etc etc). And he’s all about individual wealth and accumulation.

But there’s also lots of interesting ideas in there for those of us who want to build an alternative economy – ideas for how our organisations and campaigns can win over new audiences.

The big useful things he points out are:

  • There’s no point in selling a product or idea to everyone – most of them aren’t listening. You need to focus on getting innovators to take it on, people who like new exciting different things. They might then pass it on to others who like new things and gradually it will catch on. It’s through innovators and ‘sneezers’ that you get ideas to spread. So, for the alternative economy, let’s start with people interested in this area and then spread out through people interested in reducing consumption, in open source software, in transition and local community, in Fairtrade, in hyperlocalism … .
  • Micro-enterprises can flourish by developing a product for niche markets – this is perfect for those who think small is beautiful, who support what Kevin Carson calls the low overheard revolution or who have a vision of local enteprises, workshops, factories and fields.
  • Marketing is no longer just about spending lots of money on advertising, it’s about creating a great product or service that stands out from the crowd – that’s remarkable, a purple cow in the midst of a load of normal cows. What’s the alternative economy if not a purple cow in the middle of a mundane samey economy.

If you’re interested in developing alternative economy, getting it out there and getting new people to use and be part of it, then Seth Godin is a useful read.