The Key to Modern Marketing: Empathy

14ideas
14ideas
Jan 25 · 4 min read

Elias Snyders — January 24, 2019

I just finished reading Seth Godin’s new business book, “This is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See”. This is the first book I have read of his, and although I found parts of it to be quite dry, it was still interesting to read about the thoughts of a renowned marketer. I had never read a book with a perspective on marketing like this before, it was quite refreshing to see how Godin talked about the importance of the individual and the problems associated with de-humanizing consumers.

First, a little background on Seth Godin. Anyone who is reading this blog has read at least a portion of this book and most certainly has heard the name Seth Godin before. I’ll be brief. Godin is a successful author, entrepreneur and public speaker who was inducted into the AMA Hall of Fame in 2018. He has a whopping 18 published business books, has done a number of TED-Talks and is a former dot com business executive.

Photo from @ThisIsSethsBlog via Twitter

Considering that most people who are reading this have read “This is Marketing”, I am going to skip the summarization and talk about the parts of the reading that stood out to me. Being an active reader, I am constantly underlining quotes and writing notes in the empty spaces in my books (which unfortunately makes me unable to resell any book after I’m done with them). I am going to talk about a few of my favorite quotes from the book which impacted the way I view marketing in the modern business world.

What first caught my attention was the way Seth Godin looks at marketing, as a whole. Godin seems to think highly of marketers with empathy and businesses that make a positive impact on the world. He also thinks the world of marketing is changing fast enough that the “new” ways of advertising are ineffective and the traditional marketing techniques need to be revisited in order to make an impact on a potential customer.

“You haven’t made an impact until you’ve changed someone” (p. XIV).

This perspective may not be new, but I had never heard it put like this before. This view on business and marketing veers the attention away from just selling a product to make a profit and focuses on how your product or service can change a customer’s life. If you can make a positive impact on someone, you can create trust. Customers who trust your company are much more likely to continue buying from you, this is how you build brand loyalty. A customer who is loyal to your brand is also likely to recommend it to their peers.

“Desire of gain versus avoidance of loss” (p. 18).

This quote comes from a chapter titled “Marketing Changes People”, this section of the book was thought-provoking. Godin talks about taking a trip to a poverty-ridden village in India, where he and some colleagues were trying to bring sight back to people who could not afford most eyeglasses. With his first attempts to sell the glasses, Godin was only making a sale from 65% of the people who came to the table and tried them on. In an effort to increase sales, Godin chose to utilize a selling technique where he let the customers try on the glasses then asked politely if they would take off the glasses or purchase them.

Before using this technique the customers would try on many pairs of glasses, then decide if they wanted to purchase them (gaining possession of the glasses). With this new technique, where the glasses were tried on and then asked to be returned, the customers feared the loss of their improved sight. This subtle change in the salesman’s choice of words increased sales by double.

This approach to sales has been used by the music-streaming service, Spotify. For university students, Spotify is $5 a month. This monthly payment also includes a subscription to Hulu and Showtime TV. With this affordable fee and the additional services to come with it, this is an easy sell to the content-addicted population that is today's young adults. After the customer is no longer a registered student, Spotify doubles the monthly fee and no longer offers the additional services with a subscription. By this point, the user has already built up their personal library and maybe found some of their favorite shows on Hulu or Showtime. So, they pay the extra fee and for subscriptions to the additional services because they fear the loss of their music library and favorite shows. Avoidance of loss over the desire for gain.

“The purpose of capitalism is to build our culture” (p. 143).

Godin writes quite a bit about this idea. He believes a businessman with the sole desire to sell more product is selfish and narrow-minded. The purpose of a business is to change a person’s life, not just to make a profit. The potential customer is not just a wallet you’re trying to remove money from, but a human being with unique wants, needs, struggles, and beliefs. This was the most important idea I took out of this book.

I have a fresh perspective on marketing after reading through this book. Business warfare is not won by greedy desires and mass marketing to reach the customer, you will find success if you know your customer and strive to make a positive impact.

Thank you for reading.


Godin, S. (2018). This is Marketing. Penguin.

Who is Seth Godin? Everything You Need to Know. (n.d.). Retrieved January 24, 2019, from https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/seth-godin-2833.php