Every day I learn something new and am inspired by brilliant minds in a variety of places – articles, conferences, books, seminars/webinars, you name it.
But there’s a group of people I’ve been scratching my head about to understand the appeal. One of them has come to symbolize this group. We’ll just call him…Seth. Seth’s written many books and given thousands of presentations. There are disciples of Seth and he seems like a likeable fellow.
Yet something has always bothered me about Seth and I have to say it: I don’t get how what Seth’s saying is all that remarkable or mind-blowing. At all.
I really don’t mean to pick on him alone. There’s something that’s been bothering me about people who write and say things like, “The key to success is to make your content remarkable.” Or in Seth’s case, “Remark-Able.”
I get this. But if they don’t help people by showing them the path to being remarkable, I have to call BS on them. Every single one of them.
Here’s why. They make a lot of money for telling people really basic things. Telling someone to produce remarkable content is like saying if you want milk, you need a cow.
DUH. No kidding. You mean if I have to stand out from others, I have to create something different? WOW. Who should I make the $1000 check out to for this wonderful insight?
Come on. Don’t give people little steak medallions and charge them for a 23 oz. steak.
I’m just tired of the cute mottos, the pithy lines, the haikus posing as books and the anecdotes about, “What if there was a magenta giraffe at the zoo? You’d surely remember that among the other ordinary giraffes, wouldn’t you? Be the magenta giraffe.”
Yes, we have to think different to succeed. But a lot of people don’t know how. And it ticks me off when people get up in front of a stage, yell at the audience about the need to think different and then leave. Audiences with budgets and hard choices about where to spend their quality time deserve better than that.
I have gone to seminars full of wonderful speakers who have gotten me pumped about everything from metrics to culture to the future of social media (while they’re at it, if they can use a few compelling charts and graphs, I’m a sucker for those as they usually crystallize the point further).
So after reading a couple of his books, I finally had the opportunity to see Seth. I thought, “Maybe what I’m not seeing on paper will translate better in person.” I was rooting for him to be different. Come on, buddy. Don’t just give the same talk I’ve seen you give on TED. Give the people something original. Something that speaks to this year, not 2009.
Sigh. Nope. It was the same presentation was probably given a million times about thinking different.
But I STILL wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. So I read another one of his books – his latest. After all, maybe it was me. And the whole thing was basically about…thinking different and why it’s important to get off your butt to think different.
Feeling alone in the universe, I took to Amazon to read some book reviews and see if I could understand what I was missing about Seth.
And then I saw it – as it turns out, I wasn’t alone. There were a lot of people feeling like they didn’t get Seth. There was a great divide of people giving a 4-star and 5-star review to his books but then a lot of people giving 1-star and 2-star reviews. And those people on the low end were saying what I was saying – “An experiment at the reader’s expense.” “I feel like a lemming following the crowd over the cliff.” “The same message rehashed.” “A colossal waste of time for a person who has any entrepreneurial experience.” “Not worth a walk to the library to pick it up.”
Again, my point isn’t to take aim at one person in a mean-spirited way. My point is I’m troubled at the idea of a management guru who oversimplifies life and thinks his or her theory, now available on Amazon for $19.95, is the real key to success rather than a customized strategy. Sorry. It’s not that easy. Oh, it’s easy for you if you’re that guru. You talk for 45 minutes, use some cute slides, take no questions, get your check for thousands and then get whisked away to the next presentation.
But it’s not easy for the people out in the audience to naturally do what you’re saying. I completely agree that being “safe” rather than being different is far more dangerous. Yet we have to understand that change is not always impulsive in a “go, go, go!” way. It’s planned. Rather than slammed through, it has to be carefully massaged through twists and turns in a sophisticated way.
It serves as a reminder for those of us who are in Advertising, Marketing, PR, Social Media and more that, just because it’s so obvious to us that the idea we’re trying to sell is the right one, we have to do more than say, “You need to be different. You need to be remarkable. You need to stand out. Can’t you see that, dummy? Now go do that.”
That can call for things like a really good creative rationale. Speaking to how this concept resonates with the specific audience and is designed to improve upon a previously discussed set of metrics. And constantly communicating how the brand can move a little farther down the path internally too (customer service, identifying social media ambassadors, etc.).
It’s time to demand better. We need to be better guides in the new frontiers of social media. We have to go further than telling people to be different and calling it a day. We have to show them on a regular basis. Jay Baer does this. Jason Falls does this. John Jantsch does this. Michael Stelzner does this. Mari Smith does this. HubSpot does this. And more. These kinds of people and companies are giving concrete examples of tools we can use to convey our brands in different, compelling ways. They’re not just saying, “Be remarkable.”
The “get off your butt, change and be remarkable” stuff is crucial – absolutely, positively no doubt about it. But if that’s all you suggest and you’ve got loyal followers anyway, I suppose I have to tip my hat to you as you must be some kind of marketing genius of your own brand. Like Seth.
Remember, if you can, that the view from the top is completely different from the view behind the herd of elephants trudging up the mountain ahead of you. Sometimes I don’t get the “Seth’s” of the world, but then I take a glance at my position on the trail compared to others well up the path. I say, keep your head down, stay humble and keep trekking, forever forward, upward and onward. Let the Seth’s be Seth.
I heed what you’re saying, O Over-Caffeinated one. I’m actually quite humble in my trek (I have a spouse who ensures my head doesn’t get too big). And in that spirit, as I mentioned from the very beginning, I have much I continually learn from others, yourself included. But from time to time, some of the advice I hear from the people on the mountaintop isn’t perfect either. There’s no reason we can’t occasionally speak our minds and say so. They may have made a few more appearances on Good Morning America than I have, but hey, they put on the same pants. Well, maybe they get their pants at Hugo Boss and I get mine at Target, but anyway you catch my drift…
Amen, my brother, amen.