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Ted Talk, How to Get Your Ideas Spread


In his invigorating talk at TED2003, Seth Godin shares on how the key to success is determined by how easily an idea can spread. He asserts that we live in a “century of idea diffusion,” and those who can get their ideas to spread will win the marketing game.


He describes the effect of TV and mass media on marketing as the TV-industrial complex, similar to the military industrial complex, in that a cycle of distribution and profit makes it very easy for products to gain recognition by repetitive exposure. However, nowadays, this model has stopped working, because people have learned to ignore most messages thrown at them. With more choices and less time, consumers have no choice but to tune out most of what comes their way.


Godin makes an argument for the remarkable, what is not just fascinating but “worth making a remark about.” He gives an example of seeing a purple cow on the road: such an anomaly would be more likely to get a reaction from a person. Mass marketing focuses on average products for average people, but Godin encourages targeting those at the fringes, those who are passionate and can become obsessed with a product, and therefore share it with their friends. He says to “find a group that really desperately cares about what you have to say,” and hopefully the idea will spread.


He ends with three key points: design is free when you get to scale, riskiest thing is to be safe, and being very good is one of the worst things you can do. To be safe, very good, conventional, is average, because no one will notice it. The key is to cinch an audience’s interest, by standing out, by making a statement. Better than bizarre than boring.


Those in marketing, especially in the San Francisco Bay Area where start-ups and innovations abound, should consider the unconventional path to garner greater publicity and exposure. Unconventionality is to be remarkable, noteworthy, so that ideas spread because something is worth talking about, worth considering, and worth stopping for.

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