Seth Godin on Marketing: Trends, AI, & Ethics

Introduction: Join marketing legend Seth Godin as he explores the craft of marketing, the importance of empathy and generosity, and the evolving landscape of the industry. Seth shares his insights on what makes marketing meaningful, how to navigate change, and the role of marketers in addressing broader societal challenges. Key Takeaways: Practical Tips: Final Thoughts: […]


Join marketing legend Seth Godin as he explores the craft of marketing, the importance of empathy and generosity, and the evolving landscape of the industry. Seth shares his insights on what makes marketing meaningful, how to navigate change, and the role of marketers in addressing broader societal challenges.

Key Takeaways:

  1. The Craft of Marketing:
    • Craft in marketing is about empathy, skill, and producing something better than expected.
    • True craft brings satisfaction and joy, and it’s about making a meaningful impact rather than just achieving a functional task.
  2. Generosity in Marketing:
    • Marketing should be based on generosity, which means applying emotional labor and effort to solve someone else’s problem.
    • Generosity does not mean giving things away for free; it means creating value that benefits others.
  3. The Changing Landscape of Marketing:
    • Convenience has become a major driver in consumer behavior. Marketers need to either be the most convenient or offer something valuable enough to be worth the inconvenience.
    • Society has become more cynical and divisive, influenced by media and technology. Marketers should focus on creating positive connections and avoiding unnecessary conflicts.
  4. Role of Empathy:
    • Empathy is crucial in marketing because it involves understanding and addressing the needs and perspectives of others.
    • Marketers should focus on solving problems for their audience by seeing the world through their eyes.
  5. Simplicity and Clarity:
    • Simplifying processes and communications can be seen as a form of kindness.
    • Consistent and clear messaging is essential for building trust and loyalty.
  6. Learning from Failures:
    • Embrace failures as learning opportunities. Each failure brings valuable insights that contribute to future success.
    • Distinguish between a project that is in a temporary dip and one that is a mismatch or failure. Adjust strategies accordingly.
  7. Impact of AI in Marketing:
    • AI can improve efficiency in tasks like writing web copy but should be seen as a tool to enhance human creativity, not replace it.
    • Marketers should focus on strategic decisions that AI cannot replicate, such as brand positioning and long-term planning.
  8. Marketing with Purpose:
    • Marketers have a responsibility to promote ethical practices and avoid manipulating consumers.
    • The role of marketing extends beyond commercial goals to include making a positive societal impact, such as addressing environmental challenges.
  9. Connection and Community:
    • Building genuine connections and communities is more important than ever.
    • Marketing should facilitate meaningful interactions and foster a sense of belonging.

Practical Tips:

  • Empathy and Communication: Focus on understanding your audience deeply and communicate with them in a way that resonates.
  • Adaptation: Stay flexible and be willing to change strategies based on new information and insights.
  • Generosity: Apply emotional labor to create value for your audience, enhancing their experience and solving their problems.

Final Thoughts:

  • Continuous Learning: Keep updating your knowledge and skills to stay relevant in the ever-evolving marketing landscape.
  • Human Element: Maintain the human touch in your marketing efforts, emphasizing empathy and connection.


Joe Glover: We’re live. There we go. Seth, it’s a real pleasure. It’s been running through my head for maybe the past two, three weeks. How the blooming heck I start a session like today because I’m just so delighted that you’ve spent the time with us. You are part of my marketing story with your writing and your speaking. I suspect that for the folks listening in today, you are part of their story too. Thank you first and foremost for A, giving us your time and B, your contribution to our industry in general, because I think there are so many people who just hold so many good emotions to you.

Seth Godin: That’s very kind. I will tell you honestly, I get more out of this than you do. It’s a privilege and a pleasure. Thank you for doing the work.

Joe Glover: I’m not sure about that, but I’m not going to get into a competition with you. Let’s get started. You’ve been in my ears for the past couple of weeks because obviously I’ve been trying to do my research and ask really smart questions. I couldn’t help but go back to a Tim Ferriss episode from 2019 where he was asking you about coffee beans and honey vodka and you sort of being involved in the craft of these things. He also looped in themes about audio equipment and how your answer sort of spoke about the craftsmanship of these things and sort of the joy and the beauty of being in them. Now the Marketing Meetup is a community for marketers, so I can’t help but sort of take this into our realm. I’m curious, like how romantic do you get about the craft of marketing? is it quite a functional sort of task or do you sort of get not weepy eyed at the idea of certain adverts, but how do you, how do you emotionally respond to the thing that we do?

Seth Godin: What a great place to begin. To catch people up who weren’t there five years ago, craft for me isn’t the idea that, it’s a misshapen piece of pottery, but a person made it so it’s better. Craft is deciding to acquire the skill, to demonstrate empathy, to produce something that’s better than you could have gotten away with. I love craft in all its forms. What I said to Tim is I don’t drink coffee, but I do enjoy the craft of finding the beans, roasting the beans, grinding the beans, serving the beans, watching if it resonates with somebody. I have two responses when I see different levels of craft in the world. The first one, the one you’ve highlighted is the one I need to focus more on, which is satisfaction and joy. When I see something in a field that I’m familiar with, like a book cover that is beautifully crafted, it does light me up. It makes me feel like better is possible because I’m in my sixties lately. It’s more of the grouchy get off my lawn when I see artlessness. Because artlessness is the opposite. In our field, to pick the most banal tactics to begin with, if I get an email that says, Dear First Name, in all capital letters, I roll my eyes. That when a vice president at JPMorgan Chase sends me a poorly crafted mail merge spam because he heard Tim Ferriss mention my name, I should just hit delete, but I can’t help myself. I’ll write back and explain. He probably jumped on the wrong lawn or the wrong guy on the wrong day. Maybe he wants to read one of my books because he is wasting his time and mine. He is undermining the craft. Part of, I invented email marketing a very long time ago. Part of my mission has been to remind marketers that it’s not a hack and erase the bottom, that eventually it’s all going to go to spam and we’re going to have to build better filters. Until that happens, there’s a chance to raise the bar, not lower it. That’s a motivation for a lot of the writing that I do. The work I do is to encourage people to see craft as an opportunity. For me personally, I just, if I go to a new retail establishment or watch a nonprofit raise money in a different way, I feel like humanity still has some legs in it.

Joe Glover: I love that. in your writing, you often speak about, you use words like joy. When you even spoke about the coffee beans there, you spoke about serving them, and to me that speaks to generosity. you don’t even drink the coffee, you find the joy in serving the coffee to others. Then you loop in the idea of like permission marketing and sort of thinking about this idea of, you’re trying to do something better than what you get away with, like what you just said. Is that the foundational element of marketing, your view on the marketing world, really, that it has to be based in generosity? Are there more applicable terms

Seth Godin: that feel relevant to what we explore together? Let’s get our words right. Marketing isn’t advertising, it’s not hype, it’s not hustle. Marketing used to be advertising, but the internet turned that upside down. Marketing is anything that touches the market. That’s the way you answer the phone, it’s your pricing, it’s the stuff you dump in the river, it’s the way your employees feel. Everything in the organization touches the market, so everything in the organization is marketing. If we begin from that, then if you’re asking me, what is the shortest, straightest route from here to where we seek to go, it’s empathy. Because other people don’t know what we know, they don’t want what we want, they don’t see what we see. If we can’t forgive that, then we’re going to be yelling at people. On the other hand, if we can see it, we have a chance to say, I’m not you, but I’m imagining people like you who want something like this might find that this helps them get to where they want to go. If we do that, you can call it generosity. Generosity is confusing to some people, because generous doesn’t mean free, generous doesn’t mean giving it away. Generous means applying emotional labor and effort to bring empathy to solve somebody else’s problem. I love that. I think it feels

Joe Glover: appropriate to point out those terms, because to give an example of a low-cost carrier, airplane, the empathy in that situation is not about presenting an experience which is first class. The empathy is about realizing that someone wants to get from me to be quite quickly or effectively, In that case, I can definitely see how generosity wouldn’t be a word that would apply in that. Actually, I love that. I love that you’re giving

Seth Godin: that example, because a lot of people like to pick on, Ryanair for being so straightforward about their brusqueness. I got to give them points for saying, if you want us to pretend that this is like British Air, you’re in the wrong place. We’re here to tell you we are running a bus line in the sky. We’re going to play all these games with you about money, because you flew this airline, because you want to play games around money. There’s a consistency there that is, in fact, quite generous. Yes. I agree. No, clarity is

Joe Glover: kindness sometimes. Knowing who you are, your positioning, beautiful. I, too, am very fond of them for that. Not that I would fly them, though. That’s the whole idea. Sometimes there is no choice. Maybe there’s an empathy in that as well. I don’t know. I love that. You’ve been in the industry, you pointed to being in your 60s now, so I don’t think it’s unfair for me to say you’ve been in the industry for a while now. What was interesting, so the first thing you need to know is that I went out to the community and I said to them, we’re going to be speaking with Seth. You should have seen the excitement from folks. There were so many folks who came in with lots of questions and I’m actually going to be lacing them in throughout the duration. I’ll make sure to. I’m sure they won’t be as good as

Seth Godin: your questions have been so far, but we’ll call it. Bless you. You’re very kind.

Joe Glover: A lot of the questions, if I was to pick up on the theme that folks were interested in, was about change and this idea of what has changed. I think what we’re focused on in the 11 minutes that we’ve had already is about the things that have stayed the same. I don’t want to get too lost in this because we all know the Jeff Bezos quote, focus on the things that stay true in 10 years. That’s the thing that you can build a strategy on. There are some things that have changed in recent times. Just reflecting on perhaps the last five to 10 to 15 years, whatever timeframe you think is applicable, what have you seen that’s changed in the marketing space that is observable and meaningful in terms of the day-to-day for our

Seth Godin: roles? Let me start with two. The first one is the triumph of convenience. Tim Wu has written eloquently about how human beings in the privileged world will trade almost anything for convenience. They’ll trade their privacy. They’ll trade money. They’ll trade lots of patience if something’s going to be more convenient. The thought that I can click a button and get a custom-made whatever delivered to my home tomorrow, when it used to take two months, is just astonishing. The reason that’s useful for a marketer to know is if you are counting on winning by being the more convenient one, you have a problem because it’s very hard to be the most convenient one. That creates the conditions for you to win by being less convenient but worth it. That’s never going to get you giant scale, but it might get you loyalty. It might get you some of the other things that Then the second thing I would say is that we have been indoctrinated by a media industrial complex to become cynical and short-sighted and divisive. People view a lot of these interactions as sport. One of the things that I’ve been telling people lately with some of my new writing is don’t enter a game you can’t win. If you have a prospect or a customer that wants to have a fight, it’s entirely appropriate to say, I hear you. We’re not for you. Thank you very much. Here’s the phone number of someone who might be able to help you. It’s so much better than you trying to persuade them that they shouldn’t want to have a fight because getting someone to change their mind is really hard.

Joe Glover: Yes. Thank you. That’s really lovely. I can’t help but follow on from that second point and ask what’s bringing you joy at the moment in our profession? What’s putting a smile on your face? Because there is a lot of divisiveness. I’m picking up on joy as a word you use or seem

Seth Godin: to use. What I remind myself of is in every survey in almost every country, people say they don’t like the elected representative body that is running the country. They are very fond of their particular elected representative, regardless of which district they live in. That people have very little trouble yelling and screaming at a stranger who cut them off in traffic, but are hesitant to yell and scream at their neighbor. I think part of the reason for that expansion is we are now encountering far more strangers than ever before. That when you take a social network and decide that for fun you’re going to spend your $42 billion to create a punching match, don’t be surprised if strangers show up to punch each other because that’s what you invited them to do. For me, I find more joy by just walking away from that, ignoring that, pretending that they’re over there, they can do it. There’s always been bare knuckle, illegal boxing matches that you could visit or not visit. Instead, I think about people I know who are running institutions, some nonprofits, some people like you, who are showing up to make connection happen and are doing it with right mind, right spirit, open heart. That’s happening more than ever before, not less, more. It just doesn’t get a lot of publicity. There are fewer people percentage-wise at the worst levels of poverty on the planet that have ever been there before. There is all these threads of possibility, it’s just the narrative is missing. The opportunity is to find your people, organize your people, connect your people, and then create the conditions for it to happen again. To just walk away from the bare knuckle fighting, because they need an audience, but it doesn’t have to be you.

Joe Glover: Thank you. I can’t help but reflect on your answer as you give it. When I mentioned I’ll be speaking to you, one of my closest friends, Max, said, ah, I listen to Seth’s podcast all the time. Then he stopped doing it. It strikes me in your answer, there’s a single-mindedness in you or a willingness in you to walk away from something, even if there’s apparent benefits in other ways, if it doesn’t feel like the right thing to do. I’m curious, on a very personal level rather than sort of the marketing world, how you found comfort with that? Because it’s actually quite an enviable character trait that I think a lot of people would like to pick up for themselves

Seth Godin: if they could. First, thank you, Max, for listening. The podcast will be back in the fall. I made five years’ worth of episodes. By the time you’re done listening once a week after five years, you’re not going to remember what I said in the first one, so you can start over again. I put it on hold because COVID was tough for me, and finding the breath to be able to do it was consuming a lot of me. What I realized was there were five years’ worth, so let’s just let that go so I will find empty space to go fill with something else. I think that opportunity cost and sunk costs are two things people don’t really understand. Opportunity cost says if you’re going to have a fluffernutter sandwich, you can’t also eat a chickpea sandwich at the same time, one or the other. When you choose anything, there’s all these other things you’re not choosing. Opportunity costs are real. Sunk costs, on the other hand, are not. Sunk costs are decisions you made yesterday, gifts from your former self that you worked really hard to get a law degree. Seven years later, you hate being a lawyer. It doesn’t matter that you have a law degree. That was a gift from the you of yesterday. You can say thank you, I don’t want it. Five years of akimbo is a sunk cost. I don’t have to keep doing it just because I did it. It was a gift from my listeners and me back and forth. Knowing that I can pick it up again in the fall because I have new work coming out, that makes me happy. If I couldn’t, that’s okay too. You need to make new decisions based on new information because

Joe Glover: you don’t get tomorrow over again. I quite often will say a life lived without regret is just making the best decisions you can with the information that you have at the time. The fact that you’ve allowed yourself to do that on a day-by-day basis is pretty incredible.

Seth Godin: It’s not that I allow myself, it’s that I cajole and often force myself to do it. That this is a discipline. It’s a discipline like someone who runs every day. If you wake up every morning thinking, oh, I have to do X, Y, and Z. What I learned from Kevin Kelly is if someone invites you to do something in three months, don’t put it on your calendar if you don’t want to do it tomorrow. That if I can fill my day with things that I scheduled a long time ago that I’m looking

Joe Glover: forward to, that’s a good day. That is a very good day, like today. We’ve done well. It actually reminds me of a quote from a friend, Jeremy Connell-Waite, who is a storyteller at IBM. He crafts the stories at IBM. He says, sometimes you got to make the space to just stare at the clouds. It strikes me when you’re speaking about the story about just stepping out and stepping back and giving yourself or forcing yourself, cajoling yourself to give yourself that opportunity to think. That feels important and not easy to do, but when you can, absolutely fantastic. Almost as if I planned it, Jeremy actually donated the question as well. He asked about Purple Cow. Jeremy is a fantastic marketer in himself, but there you go. Honestly, I love that. You sent those out with every book, didn’t you, in the first instance?

Seth Godin: The book is inside it.

Joe Glover: Amazing. That’s fabulous.

Seth Godin: I don’t think you’re not from around here, but this is what milk comes from in the US, not in Canada. In Canada, it comes in plastic bags. Now I think in Europe, it’s mostly in aseptic packaging, but this is the way it comes in the US. All right, so here’s the deal. This container, in order to make one of these, printing them is very cheap, but you need a million dollar machine to fold it and glue it. You can’t buy one. I’ve been kicked out of the publishing world from my previous book. That’s a whole other story. My friend Lionel Poulin died in a tragic helicopter crash. His wife died as well. I wanted to dedicate a book to him because it was the best way I could think of to honor him, but I didn’t have a book and I didn’t have a publisher. I wrote Purple Cow in a few weeks, but I still didn’t have a publisher. I decided to publish it myself. I made 10,000 copies, but I decided to take my own advice and mail it in this as the envelope. You can see right here, for people who are listening, I’ll just describe it. It’s got the return address and says first class mail, and there’s a big spot for the label. I had a column in Fast Company, and in the column, I reprinted a couple chapters of the book. I said, if you want a book for free, $75 for postage and handling, I’ll mail you the book. I was going to break even on that. Now I had a problem, which is I needed to figure out how to get the milk carton folded with the book inside. You can’t do this at a dairy because dairies are wet and clean, and books are dry and not clean. I looked and I looked and I figured out, at least in the US, Epsom salts come in milk cartons. I found an Epsom salt factory in New Jersey, and I paid the guy to shut down the Epsom salt line for a day and put my books in instead. Then the other part of the story is, I’m very proud of the copy on this thing. I wrote the copy a very long time ago, but I have on it things like, while this is a natural product, human consumption is not recommended, except for page 32, which is actually pretty tasty. I have all this milk reference on there. On the package, it said, unlike your organization, this milk is not homogenized or pasteurized or something like that. I put it in a line that made fun of homogenization and pasteurization. I get a call from the people who are printing the thing, international paper, who print most of the milk cartons. They say, and it’s only two days before the deadline, they say, we’re not going to be able to print your milk carton. I said, what do you mean? They said, well, we don’t like what you wrote on the side of it. We think you’re making fun of the milk industry. I said, oh, I didn’t realize international paper was in the censorship business. They said, oh, we’re not censoring it. We’re just not going to print it. I said, all right, I’ll take that line out, but I’ll be able to tell that story for the rest of my life. That was the trade-off. Anyway, you had asked a question about the milk carton. There you go.

Joe Glover: That’s the story of the milk carton. I love that. I think it reminds me of, I know that Derek Sivers and the confirmation email that he used to send out after someone ordered from CD Baby. For those listening in who haven’t heard this, Derek sent the most elaborate, beautifully written, over-the-top email confirmation when someone ordered a CD from his business. It was absolutely fabulous. It went viral on Reddit and Derek’s story is fabulous because eventually he went on to sell CD Baby and has done all sorts of good stuff since. The thing I love about that and the thing I love about the carton is that it’s easy to miss these things. It’s easy to miss these moments and go, okay, we’re just going to send an envelope. Oh, we’re just going to do an order confirmed, but to have that little bit of lateral thinking and go, okay, we’re going to make the most of

Seth Godin: this moment. That’s fabulous, This is very important. This is not a gimmick and neither was Derek’s email. This was a service. The reason it was a service is I discovered afterwards that many of the people who got the milk carton left it on their desk. Why would they leave it on their desk? They weren’t rooting for me. They didn’t know me. They left it on their desk because if their boss asked, what is that? Their status would go up because they were a pioneer. If their coworkers said, what is that? They could teach them about the purple cow. Their jobs would get better. They needed a flag to fly. The thing about CD Baby, CD Baby before streaming, it was the place to buy obscure self-published CDs. If you’re the person who likes music like that, you tend to be evangelical about it. You want your friends to like it too, but it’s hard to email them a note without music attached to it. When Derek’s note was so clever and funny, it gave the recipient a chance to show their status and earn affiliation with others by spreading it. That’s why he did it, not because he was showing

Joe Glover: off. No, absolutely not. No. Yes. You’re so right. it’s those shareable moments, exactly to your point, which is fabulous. I’m just jealous. I’d like a milk carton. It works. I’ve actually, because I ordered Purple Cow last week on Amazon and it just came as the book, it’s only 5,000 of them. Yes. Let’s get to Jeremy’s question because it is a good one, which he says, since you wrote the book Purple Cow 22 years ago, which he puts in brackets, one of the best marketing books ever written. What does a Purple Cow look like to you in 2024? It’s exactly the same. It’s an idea worth talking

Seth Godin: about. It’s not a gimmick. Will it raise my status, my affiliation or my utility if I tell other people about this? Why do I talk about Because Claude won’t work better if other people use it for me. In my role as a teacher and a guide, me telling you about this thing that will change your life for the better makes me look good. That makes it remarkable. On the other hand, when I get, some giant box mailed to me unsolicited, containing a pretty good book and a lot of junk inside, I’m not going to tell anybody about that. Why would I, right? You went to a lot of trouble to gimmick it up, but you didn’t serve me. A Purple Cow remains. It’s not just selling a book. It’s how do you get, your local government to change its policy about leaf blowers, right? You will do that by coming up with something that the people who agree with you can talk to get the other people to go along.

Joe Glover: No, perfect. I love it. I think, again, sort of speaking to the Jeff Bezos quote, these things stay the same, which is just lovely. It’s reassuring, if anything, because I think we are living in a time which feels like we’re moving between ages. To be able to sort of point to these principles time and time again feels reassuring. It feels like your shoulders can relax a little bit, which is really quite lovely.

Seth Godin: the interesting thing, just to put a small aside, I think that Jeff understood that you can gain velocity by having a plane fly lower, and then it will take you higher. His most important work at Amazon was a series of those, a series of how do I a trade to the bottom so I can get enough momentum to scale up? The problem is that less imaginative management will just race to the bottom. They will not serve their workers. They will not serve their employees. They will just serve the stock price. That will work for a while, and then it will stop working. That’s what always happens. We have to be very careful not to conflate that wise piece of advice from Jeff with the temptation that bureaucracies and systems have to just keep ratcheting in one

Joe Glover: direction. That’s very true. In that same interview with Tim Ferriss, I heard you speak to the willingness to acknowledge that you’ve been wrong at points, and you seem really proud of your failures, almost more proud of your failures than you are of your successes in many ways. Is there a common theme in when you’ve realized things need to change? That whatever idea you’ve had or those moments of failure are actual failures versus a moment where you just need to push through and keep going for the next 10 years? Because I think there is that race to the bottom, but then that could also be an adjustment period, or that could be just a dip in the economy or something like that. has there been a common theme in those failures where you’ve been like, okay, now’s the time to stop? Indeed, now is the time to push and keep

Seth Godin: on going with a particular idea? Okay, so I think we’re conflating two things here. There is the dip, which is, there’s a hard part between where you are and the other side. What I wrote about in the dip is that the most practical way to think about that is someone else before you has been on this road. If you’re in the gym in February, there is a dip, and most people quit, and the people with six-pack abs are the ones who make it till April, right? If you’re in organic chemistry and it’s completely beating you up, every doctor you’ve ever met has made it through. There’s a dip. It’s there on purpose. That’s different than project mismatch, project failure, where you made a series of assertions about something that might not work and something that might work. You executed on those assertions pretty well, and it didn’t work. Now it’s a sunk cost. Now every day you stick with it is an opportunity cost. I’ve done a lifetime of projects, and the thing that I’m proud of is that I never fail exactly the same way twice, and I try to fail with grace. The way I got kicked out of the book publishing world is my book Survival Is Not Enough, which came out two weeks after 9-11, was ornate and sophisticated. It took me eight hours a day for a year to write. Charles Darwin wrote the foreword. There were sophisticated metaphors about evolution in it, and it just didn’t match what my audience was ready for. I learned something about the limits of what a publisher could do to bring something like that. You turn around and you follow that with Purple Cow and The Dip, and those books transformed my career because I wasn’t trying to be the fanciest author in town. I was trying to give service, right? I was a pioneer in the DVD world, but once it became clear that the internet was going to be a more convenient, resilient alternative to making expensive DVDs, I was like, yes, I have a great DVD team, but no one wants to buy these things, so we’re not going to do that anymore. If I hadn’t built the DVD team, then I probably wouldn’t have been smart enough about the way the world was working to build Yo-Yo Dine. I regularly shut down projects. I have seven half-written books on my hard drive. That’s okay. You can’t have a finished book unless you’re willing to have a

Joe Glover: half-finished book. That’s fabulous. I just think it’s making me smile as you speak, because I think there’s a lot of clarity in your thought, and that much is obvious, because you’re Seth Godin. Nonetheless, to hear you speak in that way about those things, it’s one of those things that makes sense. Thank you. Thank you for speaking to that, and clarifying as well, and bringing me on that journey. Inevitably, a lot of the questions, and I think because of who you are and the place you hold in the industry, people look to trends and are interested in what people think. I don’t know how much joy you find in speaking about AI, but it is what the people want. I think if there’s one thing I heard in your answer there is, you can be the person who creates something that nobody wants, or you can also do something which folks want to engage into. With that thought, AI has come into the industry, and it has hit every industry in lots of different ways. I’m going to ask a terrible question, because it’s too broad. It’s way too broad. AI in marketing, thoughts?

Seth Godin: It’s not too broad. Just read a stat yesterday. Web copy written by AI outperforms human copy in a straight up click test. Why is this surprising? Of course it does. Because web copy, on average, is mediocre hack work that isn’t conceptual in shifting the narrative of the brand. It’s just, how do I make a word salad that people click on? If you’re not using this free, always on, thoughtful assistant to make your work better when you are doing mediocre work, that’s malpractice. If you’re a mediocre radiologist, I’ve got an AI that can read a wrist x-ray better than you can, for free, instantly. You can argue all you want about this. You can go to the licensing board about this. You can say, oh, maybe my job is now to use this tool, not to fight this tool. I was here when fonts arrived, when they used to be called typefaces. All the typographers freaked out. My life is over. This is not fair. What are you doing? They didn’t stop it from happening. The smart ones said, oh, look at this great new tool I’ve got. I’m going to use it better than all the amateurs that are just going to hack away at it. The first place I begin is the history of technology is that it invents jobs. It doesn’t destroy them over time. We’ve invented six billion jobs since I was born. Where’d they all come from, right? Your competence, your skill, your professionalism shouldn’t be based on the fact that there isn’t a cheap computer that can do your job instead of you. You have to figure out how to restate what you do. Most people I know who work in marketing organizations use the word branding wrong. They’re actually talking about their logo. They misunderstand what it is to be a strategic marketer. It’s going to be a very long time before AI gets around to solving the strategic marketing problem. when Eve invented the strategic marketing decision that Patagonia wasn’t going to be in the warmth business, they were going to be in the community of people who care about the climate business and who demonstrate that feeling by wearing a logo, that’s a strategic marketing decision. You can ask Claude all day long to come up with one of those for you. It will not do so. If you have tools that can take care of the mediocre tasks and chores, you better spend your free time becoming focused on strategy. Strategy is a philosophy of becoming. It is the hard work of deciding what tomorrow is going to be like, not doing your job.

Joe Glover: Love that. Love that. Thank you. You mentioned Patagonia as part of that answer. I know that you wrote a forward. I think it was a forward for the Carbon Almanac as one of your many servings to authors out there to help them get a foot on. Far as I’m aware, having spoken to Thomas Barter last week, then you’re spending a little bit of your time thinking about how marketers can be addressing and playing a role in the environmental challenges in the world at the moment. There is a school of thought, particularly in the UK, and I don’t know whether this is reflected in the US, but there’s a whole debate around the idea of marketing purpose. The purpose of marketing is 99 times out of 100 to further commercial goals and to build a business that makes more money, because that is how most organizations are set up, and that’s fair. Nonetheless, I’m interested when you are looking at these two interests that you have, how them working together and whether indeed it is part of marketing and marketers responsibility to be thinking about these things or whether that’s just a human responsibility in general that we should all be holding. I spent a year and a half as a full

Seth Godin: time unpaid volunteer organizing the Climate, the Carbon Almanac. There were 1900 of us in 90 countries. It was the most thrilling project of my career. These people are still my friends and will be forever. It was extraordinary to be able to work on it. It helped us find solace and understanding and empathy and also collect 97,000 words worth of facts, charts, graphs, and tables. The book has been a bestseller in six or seven countries, really proud of the work that we did. You are highlighting the fact that 110 years ago in Texas and Pennsylvania, they started to find really cheap oil coming out of the ground. We have built the world we live in today, basically turning cheap oil into stuff that makes people’s lives more convenient and productive. It has made the world rich, but we have underpriced that cost of that fuel the whole time. We’ve underpriced it because it has a huge impact on everybody. We are now at this point where organizations have so many more people to sell to and so many more tools to make the stuff they make, that hopefully we can stop seeking the shortcut of making crap for large numbers of people that then just gets thrown out. You asked whether marketers have a responsibility. I think if we were having the following conversation, one, does advertising and marketing work? I hope we can agree the answer is yes. If not, then you’re stealing your company’s money. Two, is it okay for a marketer to run a nationwide lobbying and advertising campaign to make crack legal, even for children? Because they would make a lot of money as a crack manufacturer if they could get people addicted to it. I hope we can all agree that no, that would not be ethical. Even it might be legal to run these ads, legal to do this lobbying. You shouldn’t be proud that you want to do that. My whole mindset is if you’re not proud of it, don’t ship it. You say you need a job, I get it, but you don’t need this job. You don’t need to be selling Juul vapes to 16-year-olds to get them hooked, scramble their brains with nicotine for the rest of their lives. Getting all animated here, I gave a talk years ago. There were 2,000 people there. I said, any questions? This guy in 40 rows back raises his hand and says, I’m a cigarette marketer, Philip Morris. Do you have any advice for me? I was like, yes, quit. No, I’m not going to give you advice on how to get people addicted to something that’s going to kill them. Here’s what we know. If you haven’t read Ministry for the Future, I hope that you will. It’s a novel. Novels can propel you more than a book like the Carbon Almanac, but by both. It’s completely based on things that we know to be true. That in the next 5 or 10 years, 15 million people are going to become climate refugees. They’re going to lose their homes and the place they live is going to be underwater. The list of all the bad things keeps going on and on. You’re saying, yes, but I need to make a living to feed my family, so I’m going to keep lobbying against this or fighting for that. I’m like, no, please don’t do this. You have enough skill and talent. You have enough privilege to show up and actually do marketing that makes things better. What would better look like? I think there are two things that marketers can really think about. One is we have the chance to sell people, to cajole people, to connect people to brands and ideas that actually don’t use a lot of carbon, but give people a lot of joy. What was the point of all the damage we did and all the wealth we created if we can’t sell people on something that gives them connection and joy? Then the second one is, this is me speaking personally, not for the Almanac team, is the market caused this problem and the market can solve this problem. The way to do it is to charge a fair price for carbon and to distribute all of the money we collect in a dividend check. If we just did that simple thing, all the people who make things that use carbon would instantly shift their posture because price is a signal. The market would go to work overtime to fix this problem. We need more marketers to help because if marketing can’t save the world, I don’t know

Joe Glover: what can. I love it. Thank you very much. That was a rant, but I’m happy to share it. No, a rant is good. Actually, I’m speaking personally here, but I think when you’re exposed to certain sets of information and you always take it in, then sometimes it takes something like what you’ve just said to sort of jolt you a little bit. Thank you. You may characterize it as a rant. I characterize it as a series of thought provoking provocations. Thank you. We’re drawing to the end of our time, but I’ve got a few general questions that I’d like to throw your way before we do. What marketing lesson do you think has stood you in the best stead throughout your career?

Seth Godin: I think it’s a coin with two sides on it. One side is every time I’ve been tempted to hustle or look for a shortcut, I have regretted it. The other side is every chance I get to make connection and turn on lights with generosity, I’m glad I did.

Joe Glover: I don’t think that’s two sides of two different coins. I think that’s a very similar coin. That’s a one-sided coin with two sides. Oh, I don’t know.

Seth Godin: It’s a Mobius coin. It’s a Mobius coin with a twist in the middle.

Joe Glover: I’m glad you saved me there. Thank you. Thank you. That’s lovely. I think true, certainly true to our experience as well with everything that we’ve ever done. I don’t think honesty or helping has ever really, ever really failed to help, which is really fabulous. That sounds like a lesson that you’ve learned from experience. I guess, similarly, one of the questions that was offered from the community was, who were your mentors or who are your mentors? What key lessons did they impart on you that you still find valuable?

Seth Godin: I wrote a blog post 15 years ago called Mentors and Heroes. Mentors are a clever idea, but they don’t scale very well. They’re a great place to hide because you say, if I only had a mentor, I would be safe. I had accidentally, my first boss, boss’s boss, became a really important figure in pushing me when I was ready to be pushed. Most bosses wouldn’t have done it. I’ve always been grateful to David for that. Most of my lessons have come from heroes, not mentors. I’ve been lucky enough to meet and sometimes work with my heroes, but that’s not required. The hero is somebody where you can say, what would so-and-so do? What would Zig do? Zig doesn’t even have to know you exist. That’s beautiful because it allows you to remove one more excuse. I got to work with Tom Peters. I got to publish Zig Ziglar. Jay Levinson and I wrote a whole bunch of books together. There are people who I call my dear friends, like Aveline Morse or Maria Popova, who aren’t as famous, but I can ask myself what they would do. I would spend very little time hustling for a mentor and a lot of time thinking, oh, all the models I need are right here. I just need to ask myself what this person

Joe Glover: would do. That’s fabulous. Thank you. Final question. I think we’ve covered quite a lot of this throughout the course of today, but you’re here. As I said, you played such a formative part in my career. Ended up rebuying this the other day, having listened to This Is Marketing, having listened to the audio book on my dog walks for many years ago. I think it’s page 248. One of the last pages in the book. One of my favorites, page 248. What does it say on page 248? Problem with having so many books. This one’s in a language I don’t speak. Okay, yes. I’ll start to read it to you, but really it’s sorry, 246. You’ll have to forgive me. Terribly wrong. You simply ask this question, which is, and it’s only three words that I’ll read out, which is marketing evil? That’s something that has sat with me ever since I started marketing and something I check in on regularly. I can’t remember the year that This Is Marketing was published, actually. I think it’s like three years ago, two years ago, two and a half. Okay. The conclusion I gained from your little few paragraphs on is marketing evil is there’s a tool like anything else, and it can be used for good and it can be used for evil. As I say, I have revisited this thought time and time again over these past few years. Does your view remain true? I guess you alluded to this earlier about seeking joy. Are you generally more positive or generally more negative about the opportunity

Seth Godin: in front of us? Let’s use a different word to help us decode this, which is manipulation. Manipulation is when a marketer uses asymmetrical information to get you to do something that if you knew what they know, you would never do. That’s tobacco, right? Tobacco manipulates 16-year-olds into a life of illness. If a 16-year-old was capable of processing all the information, they would never do it. Marketing is evil when it manipulates people into paths that they will regret. Marketing is generous and positive and important when it opens the door for people to do this generative work that they’ve wanted to do all along, to help them get to where they want to go. If you don’t want to be an evil marketer, then don’t manipulate people. Instead, figure out how to find the better angels of our nature and amplify them so that when people get to where they were hoping to go, they’re glad they got there.

Joe Glover: Love it. Love it, love it, love it. What a wonderful way to end 51, 52 minutes with you.

Seth Godin: This has been great. Your press shows through, so does your heart and soul, and I really appreciate the work you’re doing. Goodness me. That’s the clip for social

Joe Glover: media as well. Thank you very much. I really appreciate you, Seth, and thank you for taking the time today. You said you didn’t need to meet your heroes, but here we are. There we go.

Seth Godin: You made my day. Enjoy yourself. I appreciate it. Thank you. Thank you very much.