TIME Magazine takes a heaping helping of Seth Godin's book "Meatball Sundae"

February 22nd, 2008

Is Your Marketing Out of Sync?

By Andrea Sachs
TIME Magazine

Why would an author choose a book title that conjures up such a noxious image? Because that's how annoyed Godin is with corporate America's attempt to co-opt Web-based selling, via sites like YouTube and MySpace, and permission marketing (that's the sundae) for their stodgy businesses (the meatball). “It's not an accident that almost all the brands, products, and careers that have succeeded with New Marketing are brand-new and fresh,” writes Godin. “It insists on a reinvention of the entire organization and the products it creates.”

You may not have heard of the companies that Godin, in his distinctively tangy style, chooses to single out for praise. After all, CafePress.com which sells millions of dollars' worth of imprinted items every month, and Etsy.com a site specializing in handmade crafts and artifacts, are hardly General Electric. But being small yet scalable is the springboard of Web companies. “Why didn't American Express invent (or buy) PayPal?” Godin asks. “Why didn't Barnes & Noble become Amazon?” Because they were busy running multibillion-dollar businesses?

Godin, 47, recognized the potential of the Internet way back in the mainframe era. The author, who got his first e-mail address more than 30 years ago, when he was a precocious high school student, sold Yoyodyne, a direct-marketing firm he founded in 1995, to Yahoo! three years later for a reported $30 million. Now on his 11th best-selling business book, Godin is a Web legend with a cult following and even a Seth Godin action figure. His talent as a writer is to impart his techie zeal without the baggage of geek jargon. “When I send a note to your CEO, who gets it?” he asks wryly, to make a point about eliminating barriers in communicating with customers.

In his latest book, Godin elaborates on 14 new-media marketing trends that, he says, have “fundamentally changed the dynamic of running and growing an organization.” Some of the trends, like outsourcing and the Long Tail, are old news. Others, like “the need for an authentic story as the number of sources increases” and “the shift from 'how many' to 'who,'” are fresh and helpful.

Godin can be light on details; he's better at painting the big picture. But something is happening here, and you had better know what it is. He sounds the alarm for those whose idea of New Marketing is a gloppy company blog. “There's a whole new set of rules,” Godin told TIME. “Let me not just try to buy some sizzle. Let me rethink what it means to be in business, to run an organization.” A tall order, but this clever book is a good place to start.

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