Remixing the routes

Seth Godin: Sliced Bread, Ideas that Spread are Bizarre by Nature

Posted by annplugged on May 11, 2007

The success of sliced bread is whether you can spread the idea or not. Nowadays, we could say, the success of sliced books, mags etc. (selling chapters, or even pages separately, besides full books) depends on idea spreading too.

“In a world of too many options and too little time, our obvious choice is to ignore the ordinary stuff. Marketing guru Seth Godin spells out why, when it comes getting our attention, bad or bizarre ideas are more successful than boring ones. And early adopters, not the mainstream’s bell curve, are the new sweet spot of the market. Seth’s presentation at TED Talks is from 2003, yet it is still worth watching.” (from TED Talks)

The title of his keynote speech comes from Otto Frederick Rohwedder‘s 1917’s ‘invention,’ selling pre-sliced bread by means of using loaf-at-a-time bread-slicing machine. About ten years later the idea became widespread: after a longish time focusing on the patent and technology of the machine, the idea struck Rohwedder that the idea of pre-sliced loaves needs to be spread. What is its relevance today?

First, choose a presentation title that is bizarre, and yet show its relevance (even rhyme?) to your talk. 🙂 Ok, there is something more to it than this.

Seth Godin claims that we live in an era of idea diffusion, at the heart of which is TV and stuff like TV. It makes me think of Joost (the online peer to peer TV streaming technology by Skype inventor Niklas Zenströmm and Janus Friis, now still in the testing and program-database grabbing phase), and the buzz surrounding it, including advertisors, publishers, marketers, and yes, very much early adopters who are now either in the beta test already or pleading for an invitation. It makes me believe that this presentation has not lost from its freshness and validity. Especially that watching together a TV program and sharing ideas real time is part and parcel of Joost: letting people go for the fringes, spreading idea. Is Joost bizarre yet? I very much think so (but not for a long time).

The TV Industrial Complex simplified process is described by Seth Godin as follows:

  • buy ads
  • get more distribution
  • sell more products
  • make a profit
  • buy ads
  • get more distribution
  • etc., on and on

What makes the process outdated is that users have a lot more choices, but a lot less time (and let’s add: and a lot-lot less patience in the age of attention deficit).

Seth states that if you drive a car and see a cow next to the road, you will not pay attention, as you have seen hundreds of cows (now, my own experience is that almost anyone I know likes to shout out ‘cows’ ‘horses’ ‘sheep – your family, dude’ ‘hey, look, some kind of prey bird’ and stuff like that. So personally, we are not bored with normal cow-spotting from moving cars). Seth goes on to point out that you need a purple cow to come out of invisibility and ignorance: a purple cow is bizarre wnough to draw your attention (luckily, I have not see one, not even one for a Milka ad filming: it would have been eye-catching but somehow repulsive, too). So a purple cow is remarkable (in a sense that it is also worth ‘making a remark about’ – i.e. blogging about, or me-mailing about it).

The top-selling DVD in America changes every week, and not because there is a new top film, but because it is fresh, new, just heard about, “because people notice it.”

“Mass marketing is about marketing average products for average people, smooth out the edges: they would ignore the geeks, and God forbid, the laggards” (i.e. the two flatter parts of the bell curve: the early adopters and the late-comers). It is only for the central, the majority.

“But in a world where the TV Industrial Complex is broken, I don’t think that’s a strategy we wanna use any more,’ says Godin. He suggests targeting the early adopters, geeks, those who are obsessed with something. Simply, the central majority is very good at ignoring advertising. Products need constituencies with an otaku (obsessive fan). So it is of utmost importance to talk to the early adopters who really listen and make it easier for them to spread the word, to make it go thorugh the bell curve.

And his recap in light of the above:

  • Design
  • Don’t play safe, stay on the fringes by being remarkable

3 Responses to “Seth Godin: Sliced Bread, Ideas that Spread are Bizarre by Nature”

  1. […] Seth Godin: Sliced Bread, Ideas that Spread are Bizarre by Nature […]

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  3. Nan said

    Good post! We are linking to this great post on our site.
    Keep up the good writing.

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