This morning I live-blogged Seth Godin's presentation in New York City on his new book, Tribes. You can see all of my notes from the event, as well as Seth's slides, below.
Here's a quick summary of my thoughts on the event:
Seth is a professional. As a marketer, you can learn as much from the way he markets himself (his presentation, the group of people that showed up and the venue were all remarkable) as from his writing and speaking about marketing.
A lot of Seth's advice seems like common sense.
Who would argue with the idea that too many people are "stuck acting like managers or employees, instead of acting like the leaders we could become."
Here's what was new, and really important: Marketers need to be leaders.
Traditional marketing -- think tv and radio ads -- is about yelling at a crowds. Today, the people and companies that succeed won't be yelling. They'll be leading tribes. Tribes are better than crowds because they're longer lasting and more powerful.
My notes below have lots of details about ways to lead your tribe. But the most important thing is to understand the difference between a tribe and a crowd: "A crowd is a tribe without a leader. A crowd is a tribe without communication."
Seth used Whole Foods to make his point. I admire Whole Foods for their inbound marketing and their content , but Seth argued that despite all this content and communication, they haven't given customers the tools to communicate with each other - no meeting places in stores, online communities, or anything else. Instead, he says, they've created an amusement park for food.
They've created a crowd, not a tribe. Fair point.
With that, here are the slides Seth presented. (I had planned to shoot video as well, but was told that I couldn't use my tripod in the theater. If you were able to shoot video of the event, please link to it in the comments.)
For a few pictures from the event, check out John Wall's summary
#Q: Can a tribe be created in a big company?
A: Absolutely! I created one at Spinnaker Software. John Patrick created one at IBM. You have to be a heretic.
#Q: How do you manage zealotry so it doesnt' poison a Tribe?
A: A lot of people get satisfaction from making rules. How do you deal with them. You keep em out of the group, or you assign them to things that don't matter.
#Q: Whole Foods produces a lot of content and uses new tools, but you say they've missed an opportunity to create a tribe. What's the difference between creating content and creating a tribe.
A How many people follow Whole Foods or read their blog. They're an amusement park for food. What they need to do is create forums for people -- at their stores and in real life. They need to have meeting spaces at their stores. They need to create forums online.
#Q: Do you have any advice for either political campaign? Or the undecideds?
#A: I don't have any advice, but I will talk about the undecideds: They don't matter that much because they don't vote. They don't buy your product, they don't spread it. Campaigns shouldn't end relationship with plea for more money -- should ask them to spread the message.
#Q: Have you come across a "nation" of Tribes?
#A: Meetup is a classic example of a tribe of tribes. The witches tribe and daschund tribe don't need to connect, but their leaders do. So meetup is helping leaders lead.
#Q: Does this work for every business or organization? How could Starbucks or Whole Foods have done it differently?
A: The challenge is not how you can use this kind of thinking to sell more of what I've got. It's to find out where there communities looking for a leader.
#Q: What was the one thing that surprised you about how Tribes took off?
A: The diversity of the people that were there -- international diversity, professional diversity and goal diversity.
#Q: Are Tribes important in B-to-B marketing?
A: Absolutely. Look at how people decide how to hire the next movie star from -- which insurance company to hire. This is all tribal behavior. What b-to-b gets stuck on: the belief that businesses are rational. They aren't. Businesses are just people spending other people's money.
#Q: If you're leading a Tribe for free, what is the jumping off point where you make it into a business.
#A: If you started it for pleasure (not business), you'll know. If you started it as a business it's different. It's about expectations that the members have.
#Q: How do you avoid having the culture of your tribe evolve into a religion?
A: They are the same, but the question is, what happens when you break them. Ski areas said "no snowboarding", and the ski areas that clung to that rule lost a new generation of people. What the ski areas should have focused on was their faith in going down the hill on snow.
#Q: Why can't a corporation start a tribe? Competitive iron is an example, no?
A: There's a lack of authenticity, and the scale doesn't match. The size of the Tribes that P&G would be able to create would reach the scale that P&G needs to satisfy Wall St.
# Q: What's the difference between Tide (which has no chance of building a Tribe) and Microsoft?
A: It's got to be something that people care about. Microsoft sells a product that people talk about argue about, care about and therefore can form Tribes around. But what about Green folks? There's clearly a tribe there, but Tide is not the leader. You can sell more by being affiliated with a Tribe. "If I got on Oprah, I'd sell some books, but I wouldn't be a member of the tribe."
#Q: Can you create tribes in traditional settings/companies?
A: You need to find a tribe within your organization. He gives an example of a tribe that he found when he was selling advertising to IBM. The challenge is reaching out and finding the people who say yes (not the people who say no right away).
#Q: What are the personal insights you get from being a tribal leader?
A: You get to help people overcome something they don't want to do.
# Q: Can you get to the point where your Tribes will never disappear? Can you blow it so badly (like Starbucks), where you never recover?
A: All Tribes disappear ... and certainly you can blow it badly. However the question is how do you not blow it in the first place? Don't try for too much. Wall Street often forces you to do more than you should. An example is restaurants -- there's a reason you don't have restaurants with 3K people in them. It's because you loose what you had when you grow too much. Smart tribe leaders will decide when not to grow.
# Q: Is there a cult of personality associated with tribes?
A: Sometimes, yes, sometimes no. Who runs Harley Davidson? Nobody knows. It's a tribe for the ages. On the other hand, Ron Paul has created a bigger libertarian party. Steve Jobs is another example of a personality that defines the Tribe. They need to separate the tribe and the person.
# Q: How clever do you need to be? Do you need to give 'em something?
A: Doesn't need to be clever. Just has to be different. On second question, don't need to give people something, you just have to give them a reason to do it.
# Q: Do you get to decide your strategy -- or does your tribe?
A: You do. The passion for the direction of your Tribe has to come from within. The strategy has to say the same; the tactics, on the other hand, can come from the Tribe. He gives this questioner the Purple Cow milk carton, which he says was an emblem for his tribe.
# Q: How many people do you need in a tribe?
A: You're not the first one. Look at what other people have done. There are a million examples.
# OK, that's it, now for questions ..
# Are you doing things for your tribe or to your tribe? Marketers do things to their crowd. Tribe leaders do things for their tribe.
# There are lots of tools in the tool box to do all this (facebook, twitter, etc). We don't need more tools. We need inspiration.
# Says Starbucks (like music industry) blew it. They stumbled into a tribe. It was our club. The admission fee was $4. If they had embraced their tribe they would be smaller in more successful today. Instead, they asked, "How can we sell coffee to the people who go to Dunkin Donuts."
# So -- the definition of marketing is not clever copy writing. It's leading. Here's how tribe leaders lead:
- Challenge tribe members
- Charisma (having charisma doesn't make you a leader; choosing to lead gives you charisma)
# An example of religion vs. faith: Music Industry. Their old religion was the record. When the industry went digital, they didn't build a new set of rules around their faith, and as a result, they blew it. "Heretics don't let rules or regulations stand in the way of their faith."
# Religion vs. Faith? Faith is a set of beliefs. Religion is a set of rules that are set up around the faith. HERETICS have so much faith that they feel they need to challenge the existing religion. The problem organizations face is that "when your dogma steps on my karma, we don't get anywhere."
# What is a Heretic? He shows a slide of sheep. (They're not heretics.) He shows a slide of the man standing in front of the tank in Tianamen Sq before the massacre. Jim Morrison was a heretic.
# What connects people? Symbols. Leaders. Not being mediocre. He shows a bell curve. People on the edges attract followers, not the people in the middle --- this leads him to what he says he's been warming us for an hr for: HERETICS.
# What are the things that allow your tribes to announce they're in -- Fast Company for early tech folks. Ramones shirts for Ramones fans. Nike sneakers for people who want to be athletes for fun.
# We're now being sung to by a husband/wife couple ... although I missed the lead-in explaining exactly why. The woman is Jen Chapin. She's another of Seth's tribe-leader examples. Another is Jimmy Buffet. He says Jimmy doesn't try to make top 40 music. He makes music for his tribe -- parrot heads.
# Talking about leaders -- leaders traditionally say, No, Don't! That's not what tribe leaders do. Thomas Barnett is an example -- low-level pentagon employee who challenge traditional pentagon thinking and built a tribe.
# Now he's talking about the amazon kindle. It could have been a homerun, and maybe one day Jeff (Bezos) will make it one. He goes on to talk about lots of social features that are missing from the Kindle. If there are only 400 people reading an obscure Ukrainian novel, don't you want to know what the other people reading it think? You should be able to find out on the Kindle.
# He begins talking about leadership as a way to bring people into your tribe. He's showing slides about a lot of different leaders (Al Gore, Dali Lama, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs). All of them have different tactics. You can't say which are the best tactics. You have figure out how your tribe need to be led. (Uses the example of HubSpot friend Laura Fitton (@pistachio on Twitter).
# So how do you convert people -- to bring them into your tribe? (He says this is where he gets annoyed. Too much focus on tactics.)
# Now he's onto Groucho Marx and the reverse Groucho rule. Groucho rule: I don't want to be a member of any group that wouldn't have me. Reverse Groucho rule: I don't want to be a member of any group that wouldn't have you. All this is a way of saying tribes need to be tight, and as a leader you need to increase your tribes tightness. Consider the hare krishnas (sp) vs ophrah. Hard to become a hare krishna tribe member, but easy to become part of oprah's tribe (just watch tv). As a result of this hare krishna is tighter tribe.
#So how do you work with tribes? Uses the example of Garr Reynolds (presentation zen). Seth says he's a member of Garr's tribe. How did Garr create the tribe? He did this online (it seems), and when the book came out it was merely a souvenir. Doesn't really explain exactly how Garr created the tribe. (Presentation is VERY example heavy.)
# Tribes are longer lasting and more powerful than crowds, but they are NOT free. That's because you need to make a long-term commitment.
# Now he's moving on to the death of factory thinking (again, top down). The internet has made top down authority irrelevant. But he's not talking about the number of friends on facebook -- he's talking about the internet enabling movements. So how does the brand manager for Tide create a tribe? If you think you're going create a tribe around "cleaner than clean" you're delusional b/c nobody cares about cleaner than clean. You need to figure out what people care about.
# United Way (top down) vs. Kiva (bottom down). Kiva doesn't raise any money but it's the fastest growing charity online.
# Creating a tribe is harder than creating a crowd, but it's worth more. Now he's showing a chart that shows "make believe data" -- brand value is positively correlated with tribal cohesion.
# Marketers have been focusing on crowds for a while, eg how many people can you get to the opening of your supermarket?
# So what's the difference b/t a tribe and a crowd? Crowd is a bunch of people; tribe is a bunch of people with a common faith. Examples of tribe Einstein with his scientists; country music fans.
# He's explaining a lot of different examples of tribes and teams; are you rooting for the team? No. You're rooting for yourself because you're a part of the tribe (that's why sports teams can hold cities hostage).
# Now he's flipping through a bunch of pictures of people in uniforms -- military, firefighters, stock traders. They look silly. It's clear they wear uniforms because they want to be part of a tribe.
#We're now clapping our hands at unison to a rhythm. He says he did not tell us how to clap in unison, but we figure it out. How? He says human beings like to do what other humans are doing. We want to be a part of tribes.
#What tribes are are people who share something in common; what the internet has done is that Ukrainian folk dancers are able to find each other (he's flipping through a lot of images of people organized around groups (rodeo fans/rodeo drive fans, etc)
#"So the shift is from 'how do I yell at people to how do I help organize people'"
*Says you can now build a business w/o money: TRIBES. Lots of them waiting to be formed. They all need leaders.
#He says no brand in the last 10 years has been built on TV. (A big cause of the dot com collapse was focus on traditional advertising.)
#He's talking about old examples of marketing. And the trajectory of marketing Charlie the Tuna; Spam; the internet.
#Says the way we used to grow is buying ads; interrupting people. He's showing some great examples of ironic billboards interrupting people.
# He's talking about people who have started tribes. Splosky is an example.
# Seth is starting to talk. He starts by saying that we want MORE ... and with an anecdote about Joel Splosky.
I'm going to be liveblogging the event, beginning at 9 a.m. (as long as my power supply lasts).
I'm also going to be posting video, hopefully by 3 p.m.
If you have questions you want me to try to ask during the session, please post them in the comments or in Twitter (include #tribes in your post).
A few more details on the event:
Seth will be speaking at
The Times Center
(the stylish conference center attached to the new New York Times building).
According to the release
, Seth will be giving a brand new presentation based on the content of Tribes.
I'm going to do as much live blogging during the talk as I can. Keep in the mind that this is LIVE BLOGGING. I'm going to be doing my best, but I'll be missing things and making mistakes as I go.
The talk starts at 9 a.m. and should end before noon.
Originally published Oct 22, 2008 9:13:00 AM, updated October 20 2016