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Book Summary: This is Marketing by Seth Godin

By James Razko

Without realizing it, many of us are marketing every day of lives, looking to gain likes instead of the dollars that advertising machines like Instagram and Facebook seek.

Getting ahold of what marketing is and approaching it with empathy and service as core values will help you see the world and others more clearly.

Seth Godin’s book, This is Marketing, gives tools, tips and practical advice on how to market like a professional and a kind human.

In this summary you will learn:

  • how to start marketing like a pro,
  • essential marketing strategies,
  • how empathy is the key to success,
  • and tips to find the people you’ll need to be successful.

Book Summary:

This is Marketing, Seth Godin

Everyone has a problem, a desire, and a narrative. Who will you seek to serve?

The essential

Marketing permeates society so deeply it defines the modern landscape.

Many people forget marketing and advertising are different because they are so closely related.

Mass marketing/advertising (think Super Bowl ads) is dying.

Ideas germinate from small peer to peer groups, spreading to larger groups. They do not spread from organization to consumer.

Today, (especially on social media) we are all marketers, and with it, we have the opportunity to create positive change.

Marketers can help people become who they wish to be.

If you can’t produce something of substantial quality, marketing will not help you.

Finding the smallest group of people who can financially sustain your life or business is central to success. This group is called the smallest viable audience. They are your people.

Creative people can and do change the world.

Where To Begin

Creating something from nothing is hard. So take other’s ideas that already work and fit your groups narrative, distilling them to their essential memes and using them as your building blocks to construct something new is, much easier, and more effective.

Make whatever it is you are offering easy to spread.

Free ideas spread most easily and build trust while giving you an opportunity to sell a deserving expensive version of that something.

To spread your idea, it must travel by word of mouth. Give your people something to talk about. This something, Seth calls a Purple Cow. To dive deep into this idea get Seth’s book, Purple Cow.


Marketing can be seen as a generous act of helping your people and an opportunity to cultivate positive change.

Changing your vocabulary from customers to students can have a profound effect on your attitude and success as a marketer. Ask yourself, who are your students and why?

Marketing is serving others and creating change by understanding what drives your people.

Empathy is key. Listen to your group’s dreams, desires, fears, etc. and focus on changing the culture of your group.

Shifting culture is a lasting approach to marketing.

The best marketers are farmers, not hunters. Plant, tend, plow, fertilize, weed, repeat. Let someone else race around after shiny objects.

Smallest Viable Audience

Positive change is best produced by finding a small group of people (who share a similar worldview) and changing the culture within that group.

As much as possible, understand the worldview of the people and culture you wish to serve and change. Be crystal clear who this group is and why you want to serve them.

After finding your group, tailor yourself, your life and your project around the smallest number of people who let you survive, Seth calls this the smallest viable audience.

Once found, get their attention by creating a niche for yourself, go to the extremes and focus your attention on their narrative, dreams, and desires. Serve them, by offering something they do not want to live without.

These early adopters, sneezers (those who spread the word), and hardcore fans can produce large amounts of change.

Very few individuals will account for most of your success. Do whatever it takes to keep your most loyal fans happy.


Sonder is defined as that moment when you realize that everyone around you has an internal life as rich and as conflicted as yours.

Humans are storytellers, and we all believe each of our stories to be true.

It’s more important what others say about you than what you have to say.

Understand your group and help them become better versions of themselves.

Aim for adopters (people who seek out the newest things) and avoid trying to woo adapters (the general population).

Tension motivates change. Every marketing offer is an offer to change your status or personal narrative. Some people want to move up in status and or change their narrative while some prefer to keep their status/narrative as is.

Like it or not, everyone is practicing semiotics (the study of symbols). The symbols we choose to show or not broadcast who we are and what groups we affiliate with.

Fully understand the symbols you choose or do not choose for your project. Do they fit your group’s worldview?

Storytelling (about your brand) requires repetition and repetition creates trust. Don’t make the common mistake of stopping before people get the message.

People don’t want what you’re selling. They want the feeling produced when they have that something. Use Seth’s Foundational List of Shared Emotions to get an idea of what you are offering. Usually, people are looking to meet their most basic needs like food, water, shelter, and status.

Seth’s Foundational List of Shared Emotions

Avoiding new things
Freedom of expression
Freedom of movement
Good looks
Learning new things
Peace of mind
Physical activity

Marketing Strategies

Direct marketing is using an ad to produce an action. Direct marketing is often unsuccessful because the market (most likely the internet) is over saturated.

Use Direct marketing if you can generate more money than you spend on any given ad. When using direct marketing, it is vital to measure everything. If you can’t, your wasting time and money.

Brand Marketing is everything you do including your pricing and your haircut. Brand marketing can be expensive, hard to measure and importantly, takes time. Consistency is key. If you can’t afford brand marketing ads- don’t use them.

Today, consumers easily ignore ads. So, build a permission asset like a newsletter that is built on a foundation of respect is the most effective way of marketing.

Platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram are not good assets. They own the platforms and all the users.

If you want to build a marketing asset, you need to invest in connection and other nontransferable properties. If people care, you’ve got a brand.

Again, concern yourself with your smallest viable audience and not your social media numbers.

The Funnel

A marketing funnel is a path at which your target audience flows. At the beginning of the funnel lies your general audience ( a lot of people ) and at the bottom of the funnel after dialogue, education and interaction are a select few who are the core of your project.

The people at the end of the funnel are consuming what you offer, spreading the word and coming back for more.

1,000,000 to 18,000 to 1,000 to 5.That’s what a funnel looks like. Your mileage may vary.

Your funnel should provide the path of least resistance for your targeted group.

“If you can’t see the funnel, don’t buy the ads.

If you can measure the funnel and it costs too much for you to afford ads, don’t buy the ads. Fix the funnel first.”

Long tail and short tail

Chris Anderson developed the theory of the long tail: in short, it is, any single (best seller) hit sells much more than any single product of specialized interest; however, the aggregate of products of specialized interest gross as much or more than the combined hits.

Amazon, Netflix, and iTunes rely on the aggregate of specialized products. Because they sell everything available, they make a lot of money. Those who are selling one specialized product, don’t often make a lot of money.

You should strive to make a specialized product so extraordinary that the people you serve will help place you among the hits via the network effect.

Ditch bad customers and go above and beyond for good customers, especially your true fans.

For the independent creator of intellectual property (a singer, perhaps, or a writer), it turns out that a thousand true fans might be sufficient to live a better-than-decent life.

Seth’s Marketing in Five Steps

1.)The first step is to invent a thing worth making, with a story worth telling, and a contribution worth talking about.
2.)The second step is to design and build it in a way that a few people will particularly benefit from and care about.
3.)The third step is to tell a story that matches the built-in narrative and dreams of that tiny group of people, the smallest viable market.
4.)The fourth step is the one everyone gets excited about: spread the word.
5.)The last step is often overlooked: show up—regularly, consistently, and generously, for years and years—to organize and lead and build confidence in the change you seek to make. To earn permission to follow up and to earn enrollment to teach.

If you like this Book Summary summary I recommend reading the book in its entirety. Click here to pick up a copy.

Compliment this summary of This is Marketing with: Book Summary: Atomic Habits by James Clear