Seth Godin and the “meatball sundae”: Can new marketing live with old?

Seth Godin has  always been good for some incisive commentary — not to mention some colorful metaphors. Now, I’d argue that what he says is seldom blindingly original, but he does articulate trends in a language that even hidebound marketers can understand.  In short, he makes i-marketing seem simple and intuitive (not an easy feat).

Godin’s latest concept is the “meatball sundae“– an ungainly mix which happens when companies try to blend well-understood traditional marketing (the meatball) and cutting edge/viral/social media marketing (the sundae toppings).  While both leading-edge and traditional marketing are fine, many companies fail when they try to mix them, he says.

You know, though, I’m not sure I agree with him that there’s a huge dichotomy between new and old media marketing. I’m sure that many companies that try to market virally (say on YouTube) end up sounding a grandpa trying to blend in at a high school dance. On the other hand, communication is communication; if you speak to a person on their own terms, they’re going to listen. It’s just a matter of understanding those terms.

Sure, social media messaging calls for different skills (outreach, particularly) and different sensibilities. But as long as you don’t try something totally inppropriate (like reading some dorky PowerPoint in a video), who says companies can’t create a traditional DM piece, a video blog and a social networking destination page for the same campaign? Like any other integrated marketing initiatives, it takes careful thought–and in this case, it’s particularly important that your message be authentic for the medium–but it can be done. 

Here’s hoping Godin’s book doesn’t scare more of my clients into thinking they can’t try anything new online! Too many believe that already.

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One response to “Seth Godin and the “meatball sundae”: Can new marketing live with old?

  1. I think that Seth’s point is that new approaches should be used when and where they make sense. Your audience not only has to understand they have a need for say, social networking — they have to be ready, willing, and able to participate.

    Your efforts have to fit well with your product push as well – like in Seth’s Blendtec, “What will you blend” example.

    So I think it’s a good “checklist of rules” to review when considering a marketing push involving a new technology. Mostly he’s saying, “don’t just build it and hope they come.”

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