August 10, 2005

purple cow guy at hp

Purple Cowmeister Seth Godin is speaking to folks at HP this morning (well actually yesterday at this point), in the context of brand innovation and experience creation (huh, there’s a surprise). We’re sitting in a corporate auditorium in California; he’s beaming in live via satellite webcast from an undisclosed NYC location.

Seth founded Yoyodyne, the first online direct marketing agency. I wonder how he came up with that name, perhaps from the dynamics of a yoyo? (Up, down, plain, fancy, but always, always spinning?) [Update: Ah. Witty Pynchon reference, actually.

I enjoy reading Seth's blog, his online voice is witty and charming. It turns out that he's like that live as well. The following impressionistic notes from his talk were my best attempt to gather up the free-flowing stories, sound bites and interesting nuggets. It's a stream of consciousness capture; sensemaking will have to come later. As always, this stuff is not the official position of my employer and no seekrits are revealed.

Ok here’s Seth:

He’s wearing a conservative dark blue suit, white shirt, bright orange tie, +hp brand love button, sitting in front of a cluttered bookshelf.

He shows a kid’s bath toy that his son loved, with a big suction cup on the bottom. At one point while playing with his kid, Seth stuck it on his head, which got a ton of laughs, but the suction cup left a big ugly red circle on his bald pate that lasted for weeks. Companies need to hear the message: you can take actions that get everyone excited at work, but the fear is they will leave a big ugly red mark on your career. You need to get over that fear.

They guy who invented sliced bread didn’t do so well; no one needed sliced bread. It took Wonder to market it, tell the story, spread the idea.

Our culture is all about idea diffusion – we have organized society to disperse ideas more and more widely, more quickly than ever. Especially through TV.

Example – Revlon was the first cosmetics company to buy TV ads. These drove adoption in distribution channels, growing the brand. Revson bought more ads, fueling the cycle.

This is the “TV-industrial complex”.

Today, the TV-industrial complex is broken. We are saturated with diversity, clutter. How many varieties of soda? Oreos? How many new blogs every day? No one has to listen to you anymore. And marketers deal with the clutter by creating more clutter. Clutter is out of control. There is now a 180-page magazine (Hydrate?) about water.

Admit it, as marketers we are spammers. The old model of, we walk up to people, get in their face and demand money, is broken. It’s not working. Part of the reason why: everything is good enough. The buying criteria are now mostly “close and cheap”. HP can’t win this game. You have to be better, so that people want what you have. By the way, no one cares about you. We wanted people to care, but they do not.

“I like the model of brands and advertising and logos and all; I like that model, but that does not mean it is not going away.” Dunkin Donuts vs Krispy Kreme. United vs. JetBlue.

“My wife has transportation narcolepsy”, that’s a fictional disease where you fall asleep on any trip.

Cows are boring. But what if a cow was purple? It would grab incredible attention, because it would be remarkable – worth remarking on. By definition, people are going to talk about it.


- Hummer vs. Mini – had a lot in common. They did great for 5 years, because they were remarkable, edgy, unique.

- Lincoln Mercury has to spend heavily on marketing because they make average cars. BMW makes remarkable cars, and puts that marketing money into their cars.

- Little Miss Match sock company – Makes 11 year old girls go to school and say “wanna see my socks?”

Everyone is in the fashion business – it’s about changing something that is already good enough, and turning it into something worth talking about. When everyone has what they need, all that’s left is what they want.

At Tiffany’s the jewelry is free, it’s all about the little blue box. The box is the free prize, the bonus, the thing people talk about and spend 4x too much money on.

The Acer Ferrari laptop is one of the slowest ones they make, but one of their biggest sellers. It’s the story that people are buying.

Phones are fashion – ringtones.

So what do you do once you have a fan?

Why doesn’t HP build permission relationships with our customers? Market to people that want to be sold to. Seth really likes his HP printer, but HP doesn’t even know he owns it. Seth would be willing to bring some value to a relationship with HP, but there is no relationship.

Spectrum of permissions:
Situational permission – “do you want fries with that?”
Intravenous permission – “the doctor can inject anything she wants, and bill you for it.” The perfect business model ;-)

Sometime in the future, Ford expects to get 25% of its revenue from subscriptions.

Book editors spend their time finding readers for their writers. Magazine editors find writers for their readers.

The power of Google – 5 years ago, a search on “more evil than satan himself” returned 5000 hits for Bill Gates (actually, the Microsoft home page).

For certain things like phones, even the Macarena (?), the engine of the product’s spread is built into the product – viral/social connectivity, extensibility, personalization, remarkableness.

Digital cameras – 3-4 years ago, photo finishing was a $14B industry, bigger than music. It was a bad experience. Digital says, you can already see the pictures without spending money, so share the best ones on the web. It’s about sharing. Blogs are about sharing. Starbucks is about a place to meet. FedEx is about a sender and a recipient working together.

Giant thought: You may no longer target customers. Now: Step 1 - Make something remarkable. If you can’t do that, go back to step 1. Step 2 – Talk to people who want to hear from you. Step 3 – Make it easy for those people to tell their friends. Everyone in HP is in the Marketing department. Step 4 – Make it easy for people who found out about you from their friends, to raise their hand. Give them a way to give their permission to talk to them.

Example: Apple, Steve Jobs Macworld keynote is a global word-of-mouth event. They are a fashion company (but they don’t put out enough fashion – another story). iPods – the music is the same, the ipod is in your pocket, but everyone has those white headphones on. Must…buy…the white headphones. Apple did an audible audiobook for people who wanted to hear about it. Or they should have done, not sure.

People want to hear a story.

Riedel wine glasses – expensive ($35), each glass carefully shaped for a specific varietal. The wine experts agree, wine in a Riedel glass tastes better. Except that in a blind test it tastes exactly the same. “Marketing makes wine taste better.”

People want to believe in the story. You can’t trick people into believing, like GM did with SUVs. You have to make the lie true, not a manipulation.

3 rules and a story

1. Cheap teapots. Target invests in teapots at $30, and it is remarkable. Kmart sells a boring but serviceable teapot, no one ever talks about it. The design pays for itself, over and over again.

2. Safe is risky. The safest thing you can do is be risky, and the riskiest thing of all is to be safe.

3. Very good is worthless. Being in the middle does nobody any good. It is only at the edges that real growth comes.

Story: Hallmark has about 1000 stores. July is a lousy month for Hallmark. Core Hallmark users buy 52 cards a year. Don, a brand manager, started selling collectible Christmas ornaments in July, for just one week. Most people thought this ridiculous. A very few people wanted to hear a story about this, bought into the collectibles concept, bought the ornaments. Hallmark took their names and addresses, in order to send them an alert for next year’s ornament. The collectibles story is something the person then talks about at Christmastime. Don sent out a postcard to his list, and in 24 hours, sold $100M worth of junky ornaments. He’s now the chairman of Hallmark.

When Seth finishes, people clap. Can he hear it over the link? Apparently.


Q: Are all your examples true?

A: Yes, they are all factual. Getting someone to change their mind is really hard. His stories are true, but they don’t always resonate.

Q: Does this apparently consumer oriented marketing approach work for the enterprise?

A: Corporations buy what they want, what makes them feel powerful, what will make them look good etc. It’s still about telling stories that they want to believe.

Q: What would make our printers be more fashionable or remarkable?

A: Creating an emotional connection drives people’s need to talk about it. It’s hard to talk about printers. What are we buying – the print? Would we talk about where the print came from? How do we re-invent what it means to get something from the screen onto an object, in such a way that people want to talk about where it came from?

Q: HP has a reputation as being safe, how do we get out of that perception?

A: HP doesn’t have as much of a reputation as you think, for anything. The slate is blanker than you think. Safe is an ok story. But small is the new big… the big HP brand makes it harder to tell stories around the edges (like Mini and Hummer). How to reinvent things so that we can innovate at the edges of the brand?

Q: HP is going through internal changes, yada yada.

A: The Buffalo Sabres would pull their goalie when they were tied, in order to get more talent on the ice. This is the moment when we should pull the goalie and go on the offense. We don’t need another idea, take the scary ones we have and go do them. We don’t have a lot to lose in trying new things, just need to go. Web 2.0 is being invented by unemployed folks in a garage, with nothing to lose.

Q: Would you agree Dell’s story is about low price?

A: Dell’s story has nothing to do with low price. Dell’s story is being able to tell your friends you didn’t fall for a fancy story. It’s just a computer, it’s a commodity and you don’t need all that fancy sales stuff. It’s OK to be a cheapskate. But there are people who want a different story too. Apple – “this is who you are”

Q: Lexus is just “very good”, why isn’t that bad?

A: When Lexus came out, it was completely remarkable, and had a big story. “The smart man’s Mercedes.”

Q: What’s the difference between a trick and a story as you describe them?

A: When people find out the trick, people feel ripped off. Nestle told 3rd world mothers to use formula, and children died. A story makes you feel good about what you bought into. The iPod is a story – even though you can get the same music from a Rio, you don’t feel ripped off. Seth didn’t get the HP iPod story -- what were we adding to the experience?

Posted by Gene at August 10, 2005 07:35 AM

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