This is Marketing

Posted on February 21, 2019 by Joseph Lamport

This Is Marketing is Seth Godin’s new book.  As you would expect from a great marketer like Godin, the title pretty much nails it.  If you want a book that will provide a crash course covering the keys ideas in the field of digital marketing today then this is a great place to start.

Godin is indeed one of the real giants in our business.  To call him a thought leader would be to diminish his stature and understate the influence he’s had over the last twenty-five years.  Going back to the early days of Internet 1.0, he was one of the very first to pioneer the concept of permission marketing; he launched and sold his first Internet marketing agency to Yahoo before most of us even knew that the field of digital marketing existed.   And he’s continued to play a pioneering role ever since, as a prolific blogger and author, and now master class teacher, he has been instrumental in shaping our vision of the role that marketing can play in our lives and our digital culture.   

It’s a generous vision indeed.  For those of us who grew up in the era of broadcast television and mass advertising, it can sometimes be a little disorienting because we’re simply not used to thinking of marketing, in general, as a force for positive change in the world.  But for Godin, that is the precisely the transformation that he has seen and helped unfold over the last twenty years.  You can think of him as a sort of anti Don Draper.  “Marketing is one of our greatest callings,” as he claims, with utmost sincerity.  “Marketing is the generous act of helping someone solve a problem.  Their problem.” 

For professional marketers, this is certainly a refreshing way to think about what we do.  But Godin is not merely preaching to the choir, as it were, nor are his observations merely directed towards those who happen to hold a marketing title at work.  One of the fundamental shifts in the digital era, as Godin sees it, is that the role and need for marketing has been democratized; it’s no longer just for the specialists.  In the old days, when advertising and marketing were basically the same thing, marketing was an activity reserved for the corporate VP of marketing, who had a million dollar budget to ply his craft.  But in the digital era everyone is a marketer because all of us must build our networks and cultivate our personal brands.  And an essential characteristic of the era of social media is that, for better or worse, it puts at our disposal the tools we need in order to relentlessly market ourselves and our projects all the time.  In that way, Godin’s book and its many insights are just as valuable for the practicing lawyer as they are for the law firm CMO and business development specialist.

My only compliant about Godin’s book is that, being the consummate marketer, he can’t help but think like a creative director and express himself like a copywriter, so much so that his sentences tend to have the short and punchy style of ad copy, and his chapters often have the brevity of a blogpost but lack the full development you expect or look for in a book.  I mean short and sweet is great but not always adequate when you’re addressing yourself to such big ideas.  And there were more than a few times when I found myself wishing that Godin had been willing to be less pithy and a little more discursive in his approach.

But otherwise there is much to recommend itself here, for marketing professionals and novices alike.  And even though Godin doesn’t directly address the peculiarities of the legal market, a number of his observations have direct relevance to the marketing challenges faced by lawyers and law firms, as I will discuss further in the second part of this review.     


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