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Placebos, manipulation and preying on the weak

Marketers make change happen. Good marketing can change governments, heal the sick and bring a new technology to the masses. Marketers spend money (sometimes lots of it), take our time and transform our culture. It's quite a powerful position to be in.

Who decides, then, what and how it's okay to market?

At a recent conference for non-profits, a college student asked me, "what right does a public health person have to try to change the behavior of an at-risk group?" That one was easy for me. How can they not work to tell stories and share information that will help those at risk change that behavior? 

And then, just a day later, I heard the story of a marketer who intentionally bankrupts the elderly by loading them up with worthless 'investments'. He said, "Hey, if it makes them happy in the moment and they voluntarily buy what I'm selling, who cares? I'm not doing anything against the law, and if it's not against the law, I'm not going to stop."

Shame.

Or the spam phone banks that steal brand names and generate tens of thousands of calls a day, tricking small businesses into buying fake SEO services, or the e-cig makers who market to kids, looking to build a long-term business based on addiction…

For me, the line is clear. If the person you're trying to change knew what you knew, would they want to change? And so the placebo is ethical, because in fact, it makes people better when they believe. And the expensive wine is ethical, because it's a placebo, purchased by people who can afford it. But the fraudulent penny-stock scam is wrong, because the withheld information about the fraud being perpetrated is a selfish lie. 

If you're okay saying to yourself and your family, "I tell selfish lies to the weak, the young and the uninformed for a living," then I guess we need better laws. I'm hopeful, though, that we'll figure out how to do work we're proud of first.

“You’re right, we were wrong”

This is the most difficult sentence for companies that stumble in doing effective customer service.

By effective, I mean customer service that pays for itself, that is a rational expense on the way to building a loyal brand following and generating positive word of mouth.

When someone in your organization says, "You're right, we were wrong," they're not saying that you're always wrong, or that you were completely wrong, or even that, in a court of law with a sympathetic jury, you would lose. It certainly doesn't mean you didn't try.

No, all you're saying is that you made a promise or set an expectation and then failed to live up to it.

Owning that and saying it out loud does two things: it respects the customer and it allows you to make more promises in the future.

If it helps, you can remind yourself that this is investment in your ability to make a promise tomorrow.

Would you please share my new book?

What To Do When It's Your Turn, my new book, is now shipping.

"It seems that Seth's books always find me at the exact moment when I need them the most. Many people label Seth as a great marketer (and he's the best) but after reading his books and working with him, I can tell you it goes much deeper. He's not asking us to be better marketers. His is a call to become more of what makes you, *you*. This book is a call-to-arms and a manifesto of personal art. It will be what everyone on my list gets this year. There are some books you read, and then there are some books you live by. This is the one to live by…"

Josh Long, Writer and Designer

I don't write this blog to help me sell books. I write books to help the blog make change happen.

My new book is just out this week, and I hope you'll take a minute to click here find out more about it. I've added some rare videos and other surprises to the page.

If you order a copy of the book, I'm going to send you two. (And if you order three, I'll send you five). The entire point of the book is to create an agent of change, a lever that helps you and the people you care about start doing even more work that matters.

"…a modern manual on what to do when you feel that psychic pain that comes while creating change. After reading it, you’ll know what to do about the pain, and I think you might be willing to give it all you’ve got."

Logan York, Designer

Deciding how to talk about my own work on the blog is a tricky thing. This is the most urgent, accessible book I've ever written, and in order to get all the details the way I envisioned them, I published it myself. If you haven't read one of my books, I hope you'll start here.

Seth's work is a gift. He doesn't write to write, or because he has to—he writes to change people.

Bernadette Jiwa, author and speaker

The book won't be in bookstores or widely promoted. It means that the only people who are able to spread it are you, my esteemed and trusted readers.

I'm going to make this post sticky and keep it on top of my blog for a few days, but the regular daily posts will appear below. I'll also be adding blurbs and such to the post this week. Thank you, for caring enough to share these ideas.

"…an intellectual tour-de-force, taking everything he has shared from his previous books and putting forth what I will call a geniune masterpiece. Read this book now, then write your name in it and share it with someone who deserves it."

Joseph Ratliff, writer

Every page is beautiful and deceptively simple.  Just a few words, images, ideas.  But every page I could spend hours, days, a lifetime on.  It makes my heart beat faster and gives me the encouragement to have the courage to create.  Anyone who wants to make a difference should have this book on their desk…and then buy copies for their colleagues.

Susan McCulley, educator

"This book, page after inspirational page, is a potent, visceral, unrelenting call-out to come out of hiding, engage your courage, unleash your art, and live with generosity and authenticity. It's a marvel. An absolute marvel. You can't help but be changed. I am."

Travis Wilson, coach

This book is a poke. And a shout. And a whisper. It is like having Seth Godin at your side, goading you on, encouraging you, telling stories of others who have done it and saying that you can do it to. It is a lightening strike. It is a punch in the gut. It is the voice of your fairy godmother who knows you came to this planet to be more and do more and give more.

You don't have to read it all in one sitting, or even consecutively. But you do need to stop when you get to the part that hits you in the heart and do whatever it is you know you are meant to do. Because that is the point. PS: I like to give this book to people with a card placed at the page that I think is especially relevant for them. The most recent book gift had a card at page 113.

Jule Kucera, author

PS All the details are here including a single-copy international option, a live audiobook pre-order and some translations.

Babies and bathwater

I got a call yesterday from a charity.

Actually, I got an unsolicited spam pitch from one of the worst charities in America. They give less than 1% of what they raise to the cause in question.

Therefore, some might say, it makes no sense to give to anyone, ever.

Which would be a shame, because it’s a mistake to fail to do the hard work of discerning the good from the deceptive.

The thing is, everything worth doing is done to excess, poorly, immorally, inefficiently, by someone. But that doesn’t change the fact that the very same thing done right is worth doing.

One way we make sense of the world is to put things into categories, and to label those categories. The mistake we make again and again is in picking the wrong categories, or giving them easy, but inaccurate labels. We don’t need to tar the ‘charity’ category with sleazy folks like these, they deserve their own category, ‘selfish marketers.’ Just as we don’t benefit by writing off anyone based on their appearance, gender or other easy but useless labels.

When we’re actively inclined to do something, we rarely let the bad actors get in the way. People don’t say, “some cars are poorly made, and so I’m never going to buy a car,” or, “some money is counterfeit, so I’m not going to accept cash…”

The trick is to label people and organizations by what they do, not by what they look like or what they call themselves. The more we reward the behaviors we admire, the less likely the selfish will be able to take advantage of our labeling errors.

The right charity changes the world, just as it changes us when we engage with it.

[Charities I’m donating to today: Acumen, Room to Read, charity: water, DoSomething, Afya, Build On and Pencils of Promise.]

Doing more, giving more, who’s in charge?

Have you ever worked as hard as you did during that Organic Chemistry class? Or pulled more all nighters than you did when you were part of that project team?

And have you ever given more to charity than you did when someone pushed you to do so? Why do we need ice buckets and galas to incite us to donate to causes?

Along the way, we’ve come to believe that external motivation is the key to our success. That we need to be part of a degree program or a sales contest or have a boss looking over our shoulder to do our best work, to push us.

Of course, we were taught this by the marketers, industrialists and institutions that make a living by providing us external motivation…

If you accept the bargain of doing work on demand, though, you’ve just handed your future over to someone else. You've committed your best work to the highest bidder and to the person with proximity and leverage.

As marketing decentralizes and more of us work with less supervision (and more upside when we find our own path) reliance on the external fails us.

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