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Using Marketing To Create Change

Keynotes and wisdom from Seth Godin’s book, “This is Marketing”

I’ve taken all of the wisdom nuggets and key messages from best-selling author Seth Godin and his latest book “This is Marketing — You can’t be seen until you learn to see” and have carefully and thoughtfully summarised in an easy 15 minute read.

"Great marketers don't use consumers to solve their company's problem; they use marketing to solve other people's problems. They don't just make noise; they make the world better. Truly powerful marketing is grounded in generosity, empathy and emotional labour" Seth Godin

Marketing is an important tool for creating change and should be used generously to improve lives. As a social entrepreneur/changemaker, your marketing is an extension of your mission and your values, so society needs you to be good at marketing. These key messages will change everything you’ve come to learn about what marketing is and how it should be used. You can buy the ‘This is Marketing’ book at Amazon via my affiliate link. I get pennies for your purchase which I use to buy more books and to share even more great wisdom with you.

What is marketing?

  • Marketing is the generous act of helping others become who they seek to become. It involves creating honest stories - stories that resonate and spread. Marketers offer solutions, opportunities for humans to solve their problems and move forward.

  • Marketing begins (and often ends) with what we do and how we do it, not in all the stuff that comes after the thing is designed and shipped.

  • Marketers make change. We change people from one emotional state to another. We take people on a journey; we help them become the person they've dreamed of becoming.

  • We are all marketers - we all have the ability to make more change than we imagined. Our opportunity and our obligation is to engineer marketing that we are proud of and learn more about how human beings dream, decide & act. Ultimately, it’s about how you can help anyone become a better versions of themselves (the ones they seek to be).

"The purpose of our culture isn't to enable capitalism, even capitalism that pays your bills. The purpose of capitalism is to build culture. Once you adopt a posture of service, of engaging with the culture to make change you're no longer asking "How can I get more people to listen to me, how can I get the word out, how can I find more followers, how can I convert more leads to sales, how can I find more clients, how can I pay my staff? Instead you ask "What would matter to the people I want to serve, what change do I seek to make?"

Society needs good marketers

  • Marketing is the landscape of our modern lives.

  • Old fashioned traditional marketing is done to the customer, not for her, him or they.

  • Because marketing has been done to us for so long we take it for granted, we fail to see what's actually happening and don't notice how it's changing us.

  • Marketing is important enough to do right.

  • Marketing doesn't have to be selfish.

  • It's time to do something else with marketing. To make things better, to cause a change you'd like to see in the world and to serve the people you care about.

  • Marketing is change and marketers make change happen.

What customers should be saying to marketers

"Your emergency is not a license to steal my attention. Your insecurity is not a permit to hustle me or my friends" Seth Godin

What people want is to be understood and to be served, not merely to witness whatever you feel like doing in a given moment.


  • It's time to stop hustling and interrupting.

  • It's time to stop spamming and pretending you're welcome.

  • It's time to stop making average stuff for average people while hoping to charge more than a commodity price.

  • It's time to stop begging people to become your clients, and time to stop feeling bad about charging for your work.

  • Time to stop looking for shortcuts and time to start insisting a long, viable path instead.

  • Time to use marketing for change.

Understanding your customers/supporters wants and needs > If you ask your customer/supporter what they want you most likely won't get a true answer. It's our job to watch & understand people, figure out what they dream of and then create a transaction that will deliver on that feeling...

Begin with assertions

  • What they need and want

  • What's on their minds when they wake up

  • What they talk about when no one is eavesdropping

  • What they remember at the end of the day

"People don't want to buy a quarter-inch drill bit. They want a quarter-inch hole. The drill bit is merely a feature, a means to an end. What people really want is the hole it makes and what they really want behind that is the shelf that will go on the wall once they drill the hole and behind that, they want the recognition and feel-good factor of how they will feel seeing the shelf up on the wall and the room clear. They want the satisfaction of knowing they did it themselves or the praise of their spouse for doing a great job. Or to have peace of mind knowing that their room isn't a mess, it's safe & clean. People don't want what you make. They want what it will do for them. They want the way it will make them feel.” Theodore Levitt (Harvard Marketing Professor)

Status is important

> Status and status roles play a large part in consumer decision making. Why people choose one restaurant over another, one college or another, why they drive a certain car. Humans spend a lot of time paying attention to status and the desire to change our status, or protect it, drives almost everything we do.

  • Status is our position in the hierarchy

  • Status is our perception of that position

  • Status protects us

  • Status helps us get what we want

  • Status gives us the leverage to make change happen

  • Status is a place to hide

  • Status can be a gift or a burden

  • Status creates a narrative that changes our perceived options, alters our choices, and undermines (or supports) our future.

Who do you seek to serve?

  • Psychographics vs Demographics — Talk to customers dreams, beliefs and wants (psychographics) not what they look like or their demographics.

  • Group people (audiences) by the stories they tell themselves.

  • Market to their worldviews - the lense we use when we see the world, it's our assumptions and biases.

  • Everyone has a problem, a desire and a narrative - who will you seek to serve?

Concept #1: Smallest Viable Audience

"The restless pursuit of mass will make you boring, because mass means average. It requires you to offend no one and satisfy everyone. It will lead to compromises and generalisations" Seth Godin
  • The goal is to be known to the smallest viable audience

  • What's the minimum number of people you would need to influence to make it worth the effort?

  • The smallest viable market is the focus, that ironically and delightfully, leads to your growth.

  • Getting specific is brave. Others are hiding behind the "everyone and anyone".

  • Find a corner of the market that can't wait for your attention.

  • Meet them at their extremes, find a position on the map where you and you alone are the perfect answer.

  • Overwhelm this group's wants and dreams and desires with your care, your attention, and your focus.

  • The goal of the smallest viable audience is to find people who will understand you and will fall in love with where you hope to take them.

  • Loving you is their way of expressing themselves. Buying from you is an expression of who they are.

Positioning to the Smallest Viable Audience

"You don't need to compete when you know who you are" Bernadette Jiwa, Story Driven
  • Stand for something (not everything)

  • Develop a point of view

  • Find an edge

  • Know who you are for and who you are not for

  • Know where you wish to take your customers and why

Making a promise

  • My product is for people who believe X

  • I will focus on people who want X

  • I promise that engaging with what I make will help you get X


  • Shared interests, shared goals and shared language.

  • A tribe doesn't have to have a leader, it is often populated with people who share interests, goals and languages.

  • Your opportunity as a marketer is the chance to connect the members of the tribe. They're lonely and disconnected, they fear being unseen, and you, as the agent of change, can make the connection happen.


Good stories & gaining attention

Bernadette Jiwa of Story Driven shares 10 things that good stories do. If the story you're telling yourself (and others) doesn't do these things you might want to dig deeper.

1. Connect us to our purpose and vision for all aspects of our life 2. Allow us to celebrate our strengths by remembering how we got from there to here 3. Deepen our understanding of our unique value and what differentiates us in the marketplace 4. Reinforces our core values 5. Help us to act in alignment and make value-based decisions 6. Encourage us to respond to customers instead of reacting to the marketplace 7. Attract customers who want to support businesses that reflect or represent their values 8. Build brand loyalty and give customers a story to tell 9. Attract like-minded employees 10. Help us to stay motivated and continue to do the work we're proud of

Gaining attention

"Each person has a story in his or her head, a narrative used to navigate their world. The extraordinary thing is that every person's narrative is different"

Different stories for different people:

  • Your marketing has to resonate with your audience, it has to tell them something they've been waiting to hear, something they are open to believing in. It has to invite them on a journey where a change might happen. Once these doors are opened, it has to then solve the problem and deliver on the promise.

  • Don't begin with your machines, your inventory, or your tactics. Don't begin with what you know how to do or some sort of distraction about your mission. Begin with dreams and fears, with emotional states and with the change your customers seek.

  • Customers scan instead of study.

  • When they are scanning they are asking, "What does this remind me of?"

  • Use messaging that feels like messaging that's trusted (seen before) then change it enough to let your customer know it's new and that it's uniquely yours.


Enrolment, frequency & price

"There's no such thing as mandatory education. It's almost impossible to teach people against their will. The alternative is voluntary education: gaining enrolment. We ask people to eagerly lend us their attention. The promise is that it's worth their effort because, in exchange, they're going to get the insight or forward motion that they want."
  • Enrolment is what you need to earn permission to engage

  • Enrolment looks like hands raised, eyes on the board, notes being taken

  • Enrolment is the first step on the journey where you learn from the customer and she learns from you


"People don't remember what they read, what they hear, or even what they see. If they're lucky, people remember what they do. but they're not very good at either. We remember what we rehearse. We remember the things we see again and again. That we do over and over"
  • The market has been trained to associate frequency with trust


  • Pricing is a marketing tool, not simply a way to get money

  • There are two key things to keep in mind about pricing:

  1. Marketing changes your pricing

  2. Pricing changes your marketing

  • People form assumptions and associations based on your pricing, and your pricing shapes what people believe about your service, it's important to be clear about how you position yourself. Your price should be aligned with the extremes you claimed as part of your positioning (e.g. your worldviews of your smallest viable audience)

  • When people are heavily invested (cash or reputation or effort), they often make up a story to justify their commitment. And that story carries trust.

  • Lowering your price doesn't make you more trusted. It does the opposite.

Generous marketing acts

'In a world that scans in