4 Lessons from This is Marketing | Seth Godin

A Pretty Good Intro to Marketing

Jack Yang
4 min readAug 30, 2020
This is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See

Overall Impression

This is the first book I read from Seth Godin, even though I have heard about him countless times from various marketing courses and articles. He is often considered one of the best marketing experts and it is only right for me to pick up his book as I am getting into the field. I have taken some marketing courses before reading this book, it nevertheless still teaches me some valuable lessons. The book is structured a bit differently compared to other books since it is broken down into small sections that readers can just pick up and read quickly. Even though this is an interesting structure and I can see people reading a short section or two when commuting, I am not a fan of it because it makes the book feel loose and not centered. Nevertheless, there are some valuable lessons from the book. Different from most marketing courses online, where formulas and concrete steps are taught, Goldin divides more into the theories and psychologies behind marketing. In addition, Goldin not only talks about marketing in this book but also entrepreneurship and product management in general.

Score: 4.25/5

Recommendation: People who want to learn about marketing during commutes or only want to read for a few minutes a day


1. Market through Different Stories

One of the most common mistakes you can make in marketing is to assume everyone you are marketing to shares the same background, same experience, and same psychology as you do. With this false assumption, you are creating marketing messages that sound good to you, or people similar to you, but not all the potential consumers of your product. Another common mistake that you can make is that everyone is perfectly rational and well-informed decision-makers, and you try to persuade them to purchase your product by presenting logical explanations. However, most people do not make buying decisions out of rational thinking but with their emotions. The two common mistakes conjure up to make an important lesson for all the marketers: market through different stories that can trigger emotions. The emotions can vary from products to products but they are keys to pushing the consumers into the buying decision.

Story is another keyword in the sentence: people are more likely to be moved by stories than by plain logic. Sometimes for the sake of simplicity, people imagine what the stories of their customers would be like and build products according to the supposed story. However, it is important to interview and understand real consumers to fully connect with them. Instead of trying to align the customers’ worldview to our worldview, it is more convincing and effective to “dance with them” and connect with them on a deeper level.

2. Find the Smallest Viable Market and Be Special

The smallest viable market is often emphasized in product management, but it is also an important concept in marketing. Finding a small group of people that you can target your advertisement to gives you a focus point to make direct connections. Since there are so many people in the world with drastically different worldviews and preferences, it is impossible to satisfy all of them, marketing toward all of them is not only impractical but also makes your product mediocre at best. Too many compromises and generalizations eventually lead to a product that does not have an edge.

Being special is another key to achieve better marketing. Even though the ultimate goal of entrepreneurship is to solve a problem, we should not see our products merely as a patch to a hole in the market. If that is the case, we have to constantly worried about competitors and will lose sleep over how we can increase the market shares in a sea of similar products.

These two concepts of the smallest viable market and being special nicely tie with the previous point of telling different stories. To succeed in marketing, you should find a specific need and create your own story that fits the narrative of your target audience.

3. Marketing through Psychology

After all, the best marketing is emotional marketing. In other words, the ideal marketing targets the psychology of their consumers and nudge them toward the purchasing decision. There are many mental tricks that are available but the most common and effective ones are the ones that trigger our primal instincts. The first one is humans’ desire to fit in. People like to do things that other people like them do. Therefore, it is important to generate a belief that those who are similar to the targeted audience use your product. The second one is the perception of our status: affiliation or dominance. Affiliation creates a network effect where your product is populated through word of mouth. Dominance creates a sense of superiority and often focuses on scarcity, such as supercars and designer clothes. You should choose one of the two statuses and combine them with the desire of fitting in to create tension between the two.

4. The Five Steps of Marketing

Combined with the core concepts of the story with the timeline of marketing, here are the five steps recommended by Goldin that you can apply to your next marketing project.

  1. Invent a thing worth marketing, with a story worth telling, and a contribution worth talking about
  2. Design and build it in a way that a few people will particularly benefit from the care about
  3. Tell a story that matches the built-in narrative and dreams of that tiny group of people, the smallest viable market
  4. Spread the word
  5. 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