Lessons From Seth Godin's "How to Get Your Ideas to Spread"

By Ryan Hanehan, Marketing Intern

As an intern for Cowley Associates, I wanted to think of a way to tie some of my academic work to the work that I’m doing here; kill two birds with one stone. So when I was assigned a project aimed at creating a poster for a TED Talk, it seemed like an ideal way to pair the two together. After researching various talks, I decided to create a poster for Seth Godin’s talk on “How to Get Your Ideas to Spread.” The speech focuses on creating bizarre ideas in a world with many options and little time. To portray this message, Seth Godin discusses sliced bread, purple cows, and how Arby’s spent $85 million making a national advertisement that featured Tom Arnold as an oven mitt. The three lessons I gathered from Seth Godin’s speech,

1. Create Something Remarkable,

2. Being Very Good is Boring, and

3. Sell to People Who Are Listening,

are explored more below along with the poster I created. If you have any feedback or advice, leave me a comment and let me know what you’re thinking.

1) Create Something Remarkable

Most people associate the word remarkable with something that’s unusual and worthy of attention. It means that, but it also means something worth making a remark about. Every time you create something, it should be at a standard where people want to talk about it. Today, the amount of choices that people have available to them outweighs the time they have to consider the choices. That being said, if you want an idea to get noticed, it has to be remarkable. Because if its not, what’s the point of even having the idea?

One company that has excelled in creating remarkable content and products has been Nike. When Nike unveils new product lines, everyone is talking about them. This past summer during the World Cup, Nike attracted a lot of attention with an animated commercial they called “The Last Game.” The plot of the video depicted clones of professional soccer players taking over the game because they were ‘perfect,’ only to have the professional soccer players save the game of soccer by facing off against them in a winner takes all match. The plot alone makes the video remarkable, because it’s an idea that people wouldn’t of thought of.

2) Being Very Good Is Boring

In order to create something remarkable, you can’t be very good and you can’t be boring. Seth Godin discusses how having “very good” ideas is average and it won’t be effective because everyone produces ideas that are very good. In order to stick out, you need ideas that are new or ideas that are unique. The premise is to not be boring, but that also doesn’t mean coming up with super crazy ideas. If you want to create ideas that will get noticed, you have to figure out exactly what your consumers want and come up with ideas on how you’re going to give them what they want.

Being very good is also safe. Companies like Kodak and Sears have failed and struggled because they’ve been safe, and they’ve failed to realize what their consumers actually want. Kodak, a company that thrived in photography industry, didn’t fail because of its digital products. Actually, Kodak was the first company to invent a digital camera. Kodak failed because of fear that it would hurt the company’s film business. So, Kodak didn’t market the technology and ultimately failed because they played things safe.

3) Sell To People Who Are Listening

Find out who the innovators and opinion leaders are in your community and industry, and put your efforts in marketing to them. Seth Godin describes these two groups of people as the people that care the most about a brand and the people that enjoy listening about what you have to say because they want to know more. For those reasons, both of these groups have the most influence on whether or not your ideas succeed.

People who care the most about a company or brand are passionate to the point where they let other people know how passionate they are. So, by selling and marketing to these people you’re fueling their passion for your brand and they will continue to promote your brand because you helped them establish a loyalty in your brand.


One aspect of “How to Get Your Ideas to Spread” that I really like is that it’s not too specific. The lessons that are covered in Seth Godin’s talk can be applied to all businesses. As a marketing agency, getting ideas noticed and getting them to spread is what we do, but we aren’t the only ones doing it. Every business is an idea, but ideas can also refer to the content that businesses produce. Regardless, ideas can take a variety of forms and every business sets out to get their ideas to spread. Seth Godin offers a unique perspective on spreading ideas that you probably won’t find in any blog or article. To get the full effect, you have to watch the talk and listen to what he has to say because his outlook will make you think about your ideas differently. 

Getting Your Ideas to Spread

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