I’ve just got done finishing my friend, Seth Godin’s new book, “Meatball Sundae”, which his publishers kindly sent me a complimentary copy. I loved it. It was just great. Seriously.
As is our usual custom, I sent him ten questions [shown in italics], which he answered. Rock on.
1. For the benefit of gapingvoid readers: What’s a Meatball Sundae?
Meatballs are commodity products, built in a factory, advertised all over. Stuff we need. All the same. Average products for average people. Unremarkable, but important. The backbone of our world so far.
The sundae is the new marketing. Blogs and Facebook and google and crowdsourcing and all the stuff that we get excited about. It works great if you’ve got a social object or a purple cow. But put the sundae on a meatball and…
But the book is not so much a negative rant about the combination that DOESN’T work as much as it is a realization that we are in the midst of a revolution, the new industrial revolution, one that changes the two basic rules of business of the 1900s: Factories and advertising. Now, neither one matters so much. That’s the biggest change any of us has ever seen. What you going to do about it?
2. I may be wrong, but this book kinda reminds me of another book of yours, “Free Prize Inside”, in that a big part of its schtick seems targeted to people already working in [large] organizations. Am I the only one who’s spotted that?
Here’s my challenge: I want to change things. Sometimes, the best way to do that is to reach out to committed individuals and give them some ideas to run with. On the other hand, big changes, sea changes… those happen in larger organizations with leverage. So, my books have sort of struck a balance, sometimes emphasizing one more than the other. In this case, it’s clear that the digerati ‘get’ what’s going on with the new marketing. But we’re frustrated. I wrote this book to help us out. The phrase, “meatball sundae” is designed as a rallying cry, something to sneer at in a big meeting.
The book, in other words, is a tool.
3. There is a myth that all a writer has to do is sit at his keyboard, crank out some chapters, send them over to his publishers, maybe do an edit or two, and then wait for the checks to arrive. But as we’ve talked about before, there’s so much more to being a book author than just the book. Would you care to elaborate?
I think it’s possible, and for some people, even desirable to write a book the way you said. That might be a nice break! I view the book as the souvenir, the appropriately priced artifact of the idea. But it represents just a piece of fruit on the whole tree. The blogging and speaking and most of all, the endless conversations are the real work, the real craft and the part that I love to do. Even if books didn’t exist, I’d still do the rest of it.
4. As “Brand Seth” keeps on growing, how do find dealing with the “public” side of things? “Seth as Social Object”? Is it getting harder?
Facebook is pretty much the only hassle right now. I joined to check it out, but I don’t use it, and I end up disappointing a lot of people I don’t ‘friend’. I should just turn it off, I guess. (Once you friend someone, I figure, you really owe them quite a bit of interaction). Other than that, the challenge for all of us (not just me) is to make appropriate promises. Permission marketing goes both ways. If you hold yourself out there, at some level you’re giving people permission to contact you, to ask for things, to converse. I try to have bright lines (no consulting, no boards, no investing) so I don’t mislead people.
The thing is, I really enjoy the interactions. I just worry about overpromising and undelivering.
5. The fact that blogging changed your book writing style over time is well documented. Has anything come down the pike recently that’s affected your blogging style?
I have to be careful that I don’t watch the trackbacks and stumbles too closely. If I did, I’d write nothing but short posts about blogging!
6. A lot of your books seem to be continuations of conversations you started with your seminal book, “Purple Cow”. Meatball Sundae I’d say would qualify, as would “Free Prize Inside” and “All Marketers Are Liars”. But then your last book, “The Dip”, was about something relatively unrelated. Do you find yourself, as an author, often feeling pulled in two different directions?
I worry about Neal Stephenson and I worry about Robert Parker.
Snowcrash and Diamond Age were brilliant books, seminal stuff that actually changed the world. That gave Neal the power to pretty much write what he wanted, but what he wants to write, it turns out I don’t want to read. I think he lost a great opportunity and I feel the loss.
Robert Parker hit it big with Spenser novels, but every one is so similar, I can’t remember which ones I’ve read and which ones I haven’t.
I don’t want to be in either camp. So, I write what’s important to me, I write what I think will reach an audience and I write what I think will cause change. I honestly don’t worry a bit about sales. The selling of the book is just a tool to spread the idea to people who like buying a book.
7. With your book writing, your speaking gigs, Squiddoo and the myriad of cool free stuff you like to put other there on the internet, you’re a very busy guy. Because you’ve got so much going on, do you ever find that sometimes you don’t have enough time to fully investigate all the cool stuff you like to write about? Seems to me an author, if he wants to be successful, has really got to learn how to multi-task. Discuss.
Actually, I’m a multi-tasker who discovered that he could get away with it by being an author!
The web is like crack for someone with ADD, I’ll tell you that.
Jim Collins is the guy to go to if you went serious research and depth. I’m the guy who notices things.
8. A common complaint I hear is, most business books say everything they need to say within the first two chapters, with the rest being filler. You seem to like fighting this trend tooth and nail. Has it been an easy fight?
It’s a lot easier now, I’ll tell you! I won’t take full credit for the great business book diet, but for anyone who ever slogged through Michael Porter, I think you owe me one.
The last vestige of this is some of the second-tier book publishers who insist on books being long, organized, boring, vetted by peer reviewers and tiresome. They won’t last so long, I think.
9. With the advent of certain Web 2.0 media coming along in 2007- Facebook, etc, suddenly the “Blogging is Dead” meme keeps popping up all over the place. I think they’re kind of missing the point. You?
Who the hell knows what ‘blogging’ means? People say, “that’s not a blog because” it doesn’t have comments or because it has three authors or because it’s got video or who knows what… What’s a book? a blog? a speech? Who knows?
I think it’s entirely possible that the ego-driven, comment-driven water-cooler blog is being replaced by Facebook and Twitter. I don’t think, not for one second, that the inherently closed communities of social networks are a replacement for the idea-driven blog designed to be read by surfers, strangers and the masses.
10. Besides the fact that you pretty much OWN the word, “Remarkable”, I think if there’s one big idea you’ve gotten across to me, it would have be the fact that yes, when you think about it, Marketing is one of the most powerful things we human beings have ever invented, and yes indeed, it can be a force for good. Is perhaps one of the reasons the web attracts you is, it’s a place that validates this idea more quickly than other parts of the business world?
If I had real talent, I’d probably be a computer programmer (what I studied, but failed to understand, in college). Programmers need computers and compilers because without them, they can’t see if the program works. The web is a giant compiler for marketers. You can experiment here for less money, in less time, than anywhere else. If Al Gore hadn’t invented it, I’d be seriously bummed out.
[Seth’s Amazon.com page, for all his books can be found here.]
It doesn’t get much better than one of my favorite bloggers interviewing another – about the ‘Future of Blogging’.
Wish I had a copy of ‘Meatball Sundae’ already. Not yet in bookstores in India, Amazon.com takes 3 weeks to ship. So…
Those are some great answers. I especially liked #3.
Glad to have found your blog, through a Google image search for “money,” strangely enough.
I was fortunate to receive an autographed copy thanks to a co-worker who attended a conference where Seth was the keynote speaker. Needless to say, I devoured it. Classic Godin is all I can say.
Also, was fortunate enough to sit in on a webinar today sponsored by Marketing Profs where Seth shared the concepts contained in the book.
Thanks, Hugh. Great interview.
I got my copy of Meatball Sundae and I’m stoked. Here’s why.
After purchasing every Seth Godin book available at Amazon.com and reading & rereading them (including his old “clueless” books), and reading all the free eBooks, I spent much time trying to apply the the observations, principles and truths Seth explains and illuminates, to the marketing of non-web, non-sexy, durable good, old school products & services.
Just trying to figure it out through doing: experiment, test, adjust, etc. But I was only seeing shadows, silhouettes, ill-defined yet vaguely familiar images.
Well, Meatball Sundae is the light. My thoughts have been mere shadows on Plato’s cave.
I too often was whipping up meatball sundaes.
So, then, here I am, musing about the book, about Seth marketing Seth, about the intimate conversation Seth has with those who’ve given him permission to enter their intellectual lives… and I begin to associate Seth’s care, custody and control of his permission asset with your style, Hugh.
And then, with a John-Madden BAM! I get the feed of your 10 questions with Seth. Well timed and very helpful. Thanks a ton!
Seth is indeed remarkable. I just devoured his first book permission marketing, now I’m on to purple cow and the Big moo. His blog is definitely one of the best to read!
Great work here btw Hugh!
This is a treat, two of my fave bloggers interviewing each other.
I love how you address the sameness that is typical of most writer’s works. Each of Seth’s books has something “new” yet builds on the others. Which makes sense.
What doesn’t make sense is the opposite. When you read two books from the same author published in a row and they contradict each other.
Seth & Hugh, thank you for giving me permision to share in the modern marketing dilemma. Being in the CPG Industry, I struggle with being able to share my personal enlightenment to the concepts far enough up the ladder to spark change. Everyday I strive to capture the nuggets of insights through blogs and books such as Seth’s. So why can’t people in the positions of influence see the same things I do in the numerous “show, not tell” stories you provide? The examples displayed in this book may just be the tipping point I need to discover the potential entrepreneur I can become. Thank you! – Corey
Great interview, Hugh. You two are my favorite thought starters. Thanks for everything!
Fascinating, I’ve pumped this into my thinkblender. Thanks for the Q & A Hugh.
Also I’m glad Stephenson can write whatever he wants as I much prefered “Cryptonomicon” and “The Baroque Cycle” trilogy.
I’ve read six of Seth’s books and I they really have made a difference in our nonprofit.
I think he gets a lot of credit for what he does in the biz. world, and doesn’t get enough credit for what he gives to nonprofits such as free seminars and promotion on his blog (ie. Acumen Fund).
As for question no. 4, I heartily disagree about the view taken on Neal Stephenson: “Cryptonomicon” is a gem and “The Baroque Cycle” just the ticket for the Stephenson junkie. I think they will stand the test of time better than both DA and SC, which are predicated on technological predictions that at some point will seem either mundane or wildly inaccurate.
Bravos to Seth and Hugh. Well done, thanks for sharing.
I am such a big fan of Seth’s. I met him when he came to speak in Tempe and he was very kind as well. We are going to be showcasing one of his great speeches on Club E Network later this month!
I’m amazed that Seth churned out another book so fast!
Can’t wait to read the book……Great post!
i’m adding in RSS Reader
Seth’s answer to question 1 raises an interesting paradox “factories and advertising, neither matter so much”. So why are many of the internet Search giants in the UK using traditional “interuption” advertising campaigns on TV to create awareness of their brands. Classic example last night at prime time 30 sec ad for Travelsupermarket.com/Moneysupermarket.com followed a minute later by a 30 sec ad. for Direct Line Insurance( a major non web competitor espousing the message “cut out the middle man-you won’t find us on search engines”