It’s not a new message. It’s been said and acted upon many times and in many ways before. But Seth Godin has an attention-grabbing way of putting it. To achieve success now you can’t be invisible, you must be remarkable. That means your products and your company must have attributes that cause people to remark about them. One customer or potential customer tells another and so on, spreading the word until millions of people are clamoring to have whatever it is you’re offering.
That was Godin’s message to marketers last year in his book Purple Cow, which spent time on both the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller lists. It’s his message again in his new book, Free Prize Inside: The Next Big Marketing Idea (Portfolio, $19.95)–but this time he’s aiming it at employees at all levels of a corporation, up and down the line. You, too, he tells us, can be remarkable and come up with remarkable ideas if you set your mind and energy to it.
The book, which arrived in my office inside a cereal-type box emblazoned with the words “Free Prize Inside,” is easy to read as well as inspirational. “Here’s how to do the work you must do to make innovation happen,” writes Godin, taking the reader by the hand.
The corollary of Godin’s message is that putting vast sums into advertising an ordinary product will no longer increase profits as this strategy once did. People are now so inundated with messages–noise–that they no longer pay attention. The dollars should go instead, says Godin, to improving the product itself, to making it address the customers’ problems more effectively.
He cites Jeffrey Bezos’ decision to put dollars that could have gone for advertising into free shipping instead for Amazon.com (nasdaq: AMZN – news – people ) customers. The result: a 37% increase in sales and a long-awaited profit.
But how can the average employee make anything happen in a big company with layers of innovation-resistant managers? It’s not easy, admits Godin, but it can be done.
First, he says, think in terms of soft innovations. By that he means a free prize for the customer that doesn’t involve millions of dollars in research and development. One example is William Wrigley, whose company originally sold soap. Wrigley decided to provide free baking powder as an incentive for stores to carry his soap. When the baking powder proved more popular than the soap, he quit selling soap and sold baking powder. Later he offered stores free chewing gum with each can of baking powder. These days, of course, the William Wrigley Jr. Co. (nyse: WWY – news – people ) is the world’s largest chewing gum company. The chewing gum wasn’t a gimmick, says Godin, but a free prize.
The difficulty of following this approach is that companies have a natural resistance to change. If you want to create a free prize, you have to champion the idea and that means sell it. If you’re not a power within the firm, you have to find a person who is and ultimately convince him or her that your idea is good and that you can implement it. Then you need to create a fulcrum to leverage it. Godin provides readers with a list of tactics to use in a variety of situations to get an innovation moving.
Godin recommends looking at what you are selling and, as he puts it, going to the edge. What’s on the edge of the product or service that could be turned into a free prize? He calls this “edgecraft.” Edges fall into numerous categories: ones that confound expectation, ones that satisfy real needs and desires, ones that address overlooked senses. He provides examples in each category. FedEx (nyse: FDX – news – people ) is a company that satisfies a real need by saving the user an enormous amount of time. Krispy Kreme Doughnuts’ (nyse: KKD – news – people ) products appeal to overlooked senses.
Buy this book and use Godin’s ideas to remake yourself, your product or your company. Then pass it on to your boss or your employees. Tell them they’ve just won a free prize.