It all started here, nearly ten years ago now, with our inaugural DuetsBlog post called Dr. No and the Parade of Horribles. We used a Seth Godin post called Looking for Yes as our launchpad.
The rest is history. Seth revealed himself a fan of the blog on our 4th birthday, what a surprise. He generously has engaged with us since then, weighing in on topics ranging from branding to trademark bullying to Velcro’s fear of trademark genericide, with so much more in between.
Recently, Seth generously agreed to answer the 12 questions below. What should we ask next?
Steve Baird Interviews Seth Godin:
Baird: As you know, Duets Blog was designed to facilitate a more graceful collaboration between lawyers and marketers. What do lawyers need to understand most about marketers, and vice versa?
Godin: Begin with: Lawyers ARE marketers. Of course you are. You are using ideas to change behavior. That’s what marketers do. You seek to tell a story that will motivate a client or a judge or an examiner to alter behavior. That’s what marketers do.
Too often, marketers with a capital M get in a negative loop, a race to the bottom. They believe that they are entitled to strip-mine attention, to shade the truth, to interrupt and to selfishly annoy.
That doesn’t work in the long run, and lawyers have a role to play in giving these Marketers some boundaries.
In my experience, some IP lawyers hide behind arcana, or strict rule-based approaches, or superstition in working with clients to get them to change.
(“All rights reserved” anyone?)
The alternative is to find the empathy to realize that your clients don’t know what you know, don’t believe what you believe and might not want what you want. Given that, how can you go to where they are and help them use your skills and insights to achieve their goals?
Baird: What change were you hoping to make by revealing yourself as a reader of DuetsBlog on our 4th Birthday, almost six years ago now? What keeps you coming back to engage with us? What would you most miss, if we were gone?
Godin: It’s one of my favorite blogs! I’ve been an amateur trademark and copyright person since our trademark lawyer got us into trouble with some nuns in 1983. Long story.
DuetsBlog is erudite, refreshing and more far ranging than most people realize.
Baird: How much does the “who would miss you if you were gone” question drive the extraordinary and prolific nature of your day-to-day work that advances the projects and causes you choose to pursue?
Godin: I view my platform as a privilege. I’ve had headstarts my whole life, and I have the attention and trust of a bunch of people.
I’d rather not waste it on trivia.
Baird: Virtually every set of corporate trademark use guidelines on the planet forbids the “verbing” of a trademark (to avoid the risk of genericide), what say you about this risk/instruction, from a marketing perspective, and is following it a good trade-off or a mistake?
Godin: I think aggressive trademark guidelines are a mistake for a few reasons:
1. Aloha Poke! It doesn’t pay to own a name if that name is going to be hated.
2. It can be expensive.
3. Your brand should be so lucky as to be Kleenex or Hoover. The thing is, your enemy is probably obscurity, not genericness.
4. When in doubt, the real win is this: Use trademark the way it was intended. As the origin of goods or services. If people have a good reason to want YOU, the one and only, the better one, then you’re going to have the trademark winds at your back. But if you’re hoping for a legal protection for your generic commodity product, it’s not really much help.
Baird: What brands are most remarkable to you, and why?
Godin: A brand is not a logo or a word. It’s a promise and an expectation. If Nike opened a hotel, we’d know what to expect. They have a brand. If Hyatt made sneakers, we’d have no clue. They have a trademark, but no brand. Switch the signs in front of another hotel and we’d never know.
So, the question is more like: what humans are doing important and useful work?
Baird: Thinking about your Make Better Tacos blog post, under what circumstances do you believe a trademark is important and a valuable asset worth protecting? Any examples to illustrate?
Godin: I think a good trademark is a symptom of a good brand, not the cause.
Baird: What brands have visual identities that can truly standalone without words, and why? And, in thinking about these brands, could it be that the use of non-verbal logos adversely impacts “word of mouth” and the spread of ideas about those brands, or not so much?
Godin: I love non-verbal logos. What an achievement. It’s confirmation that you’ve made something worth remembering, and that you’ve told your story in a way that people want to hear more about it.
I don’t think you need a fancy designer to do this. I think you need longevity, frequency and emotional import. Most people can identify the flag of the country they grew up in.
Baird: As an alumnus of your AltMBA program, which emphasizes the importance of “making a ruckus,” if you were a lawyer, how would you most likely seek to make a ruckus? From your perspective as a marketer, what change would most improve marketing of the legal profession?
Godin: Stop being a commodity! “You can choose anyone and we’re anyone” is not a strategy.
What is the thing you do that others actually CAN’T do? I know that most lawyers didn’t sign up to answer this question, but it’s the secret to your happiness.
Baird: In your 2016 interview on #AskGaryVee, Episode 185, Gary never gave you the chance to answer his question: Where did you learn empathy? Could you share your answer with our readers now? What about another admirable trait of yours, generosity: Was that learned in the same way?
Godin: Empathy means not only realizing, but EMBRACING the idea that other people don’t know what you know, don’t believe what you believe and don’t want what you want. And being okay with that.
I think we each can learn it in no time. What we have to do is choose to want it. Which means setting aside so much of our insistence on being right, at least in service of helping us engage with others.
Baird: “Footprints on the Moon: What Changemakers Know,” described a scene that could have been right out of a movie — a cold October night around the campfire with Neil Armstrong; what was your most significant take-away from that out-of-this-world experience?
Godin: If there are footprints on the moon, is the next little argument you’re planning to spend an hour on really the best you can do?
Baird: Thank you for the opportunity to read an advance copy of your brand new book THIS IS MARKETING. It’s fabulous and brilliant. If I may repeat two questions that you’re famous for asking, and now ask them about your brand new book, “Who’s it for?” and “What’s it for?”
Godin: Who’s it for: Anyone who wants to change things for the better and is willing to learn how to do that better.
What’s it for: To give you a handy way to teach those around you that it is, in fact, possible to do work you’re proud of.
I made it into book form so that my readers could use it to teach their peers.
Baird: What thoughts about marketing, brands, or life in general, most consistently bring a smile to your face?
Godin: That people in every line of work, even lawyers (!), care enough to challenge the status quo for non-selfish reasons. To make things better.
Seth, thank you for your very kind words in support of our effort to keep making a ruckus!
Dear readers, here is where you can pick up Seth’s new book launched today, it’s a must-read: This is Marketing — You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See.