This is marketing

  • Author: Seth Godin
  • Genre: Business

Audio version available:

About the author

Seth Godin is an author and former dot com business executive. Seth has written 20+ books, he is best known for his New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller, This is marketing.

Who is it for?

Frankly, This is marketing can immensely benefit anyone in business or in a leadership position. While the ideal audience for the book is marketers, the book also offers valuable insight for leaders, entrepreneurs, founders, salespeople, product managers, community managers, and much more. Whoever you are, you can find useful insight in This is marketing.

Chapter 1 – Not Mass, Not spam, Not shameful

Key Lesson(s):

Marketing is not a battle, and it’s not a war, not even a contest. Marketing is the generous act of helping someone solve a problem.

The magic of ads is a trap that keeps us from building a useful story – Advertising may have worked during the era of TV and Radio, however, in our current era advertising is no longer effective, it is way too easy to ignore advertisements. That is why marketers need to start creating ideas that spread and aligning with tribes.

Chapter 2 – The marketers learn to see

Key Lesson(s):

Marketing in five steps

First step: Invent a thing worth making, with a story worth telling, and a contribution worth talking about. 

Second step: Is to design and build it in a way that a few people will particularly benefit from and care about. 

Third step: Tell a story that matches the built-in narrative and dreams of that tiny group of people, the smallest viable market. 

Fourth step: This one is the one everyone gets excited about: spread the word. 

Last step: This one is the most overlooked: show up regularly, consistently, and generously, for years and years. To organize and lead and build confidence in the change you seek to make. To earn permission to follow up and to earn enrollment to teach. As marketers, we get to consistently do the work to help the idea spread from person to person, engaging a tribe as you make change happen. 

Chapter 3 – Marketing changes people through stories, connections, and experience

Key Lesson(s):

Marketing isn’t a race to add more features for less money. Marketing is our quest to make change on behalf of those we serve, and we do it by understanding the irrational forces that drive each of us.

People don’t want what you make: The thing you sell is simply a road to achieve an emotion or a status, and we let everyone down when we focus on the tactics, not the outcomes. Who is it for and what’s it for are the two questions that guide all of our decisions.

Chapter 4 – The smallest viable market

Key Lesson(s):

What happens when you pour a teaspoon of purple powder into a swimming pool. Chances are it will turn purple. But what happens when you pour the same purple powder into the ocean? Nothing will happen, no one will notice it. 

Similarly, when you seek to share your best work, your best story, your shot at change. It helps if it’s likely to spread. It helps if it’s permanent. But even if it’s extraordinary, it’s not going to make a difference if you drop it in the ocean. That does not mean you give up hope. 

It means you walk away from the ocean and find a large swimming pool. That’s enough to make a difference. Begin there, with obsessive focus. Once it works, find another swimming pool. Even better, let your customers spread the idea. 

Chapter 5 – In search of “Better”

Key Lesson(s):

Empathy is at the heart of marketing: people don’t believe what you believe. They don’t know what you know. They don’t want what you want. It’s true, but we’d rather not accept this. As marketers, then, we have little chance of doing marketing to others, in insisting that they get with our program, that they realize how hard we’ve worked, how important our cause is… It’s so much more productive to dance with them instead.

Chapter 6 – Beyond Commodities

Key Lesson(s):

Better is up to the users, not up to you

Chapter 7 – The canvas of dreams and desires

Key Lesson(s):

Innovative marketers invent new solutions that work with old emotions.

While the seven billion people on this planet are each unique, each a different collection of wants, needs, pain, and joy, in many ways we are all the same. We share a basket of dreams and desires, all in different proportions, but with a ton of overlap. Here is the list, the foundation list, a shared vocabulary that each of us chooses from when expressing our dreams and fears:

  • Adventure                         
  • Physical activity 
  • Affection            
  • Power 
  • Avoiding new things
  • Reassurance 
  • Belonging
  • Reliability 
  • Community
  • Respect
  • Control
  • Revenge 
  • Creativity
  • Romance 
  • Delight
  • Safety 
  • Freedom of expression
  • Security 
  • Freedom of movement
  • Sex
  • Friendship
  • Strength 
  • Good looks
  • Sympathy 
  • Health
  • Tension 
  • Learning new things 
  • Luxury 
  • Nostalgia 
  • Obedience 
  • Participation 
  • Peace of Mind 

Chapter 8 – More of the Who: Seeking the smallest viable market

Key Lesson(s):

Find the smallest viable market for your product.

Chapter 9 – People like us do things like this

Key Lesson(s):

It’s not irrational; status makes it the right choice

Why do people choose one restaurant over another one? Why this car and not the other one? Why rent a house instead of buying one? 

If you look closely at decisions that don’t initially make sense, you will likely see status roles at work. The decision did not make sense to you, but it made perfect sense to the person who made it. We spend a lot of time paying attention to status. Having a status plays a big role in the decision making prosses of people. If you learn how to use that desire in marketing, you will make the impact you seek to make. 

Chapter 10 – Trust and Tension Create Forward Motion

Key Lesson(s):

The status quo doesn’t shift because you’re right. It shifts because the culture changes. And the engine of culture is status.

Chapter 11 – Status, Dominance, and affiliation

Key Lesson(s):

Status lets us:

Status is our position in the hierarchy. 

It’s also our perception of that position. 

Status protects us.

Status helps us get what we want. 

Status gives us the leverage to make change happen. 

Status is a place to hide. Status can be a gift or a burden. 

Status creates a narrative that changes our perceived options, alters our choices, and undermines (or supports) our future. And the desire to change our status, or to protect it, drives almost everything we do. 

Chapter 12 – A better business plan

Key Lesson(s):

In this chapter, Seth talks about five sections a modern business plan should entail. The sections are:

Truth, Assertion, Alternatives, People, and Money

Chapter 13 – Semiotics, Symbols, and Vernacular

Key Lesson(s):

When picking a logo, don’t spend a ton of money or have a lot of meetings about it, and keep it for as long as you keep your first name.

Chapter 14 – Treat different people differently

Key Lesson(s):

Search for the neophiliacs, the early adopters. Those people will help you solve their problem right now. People satisfied with the status quo will resist change, that is why you should pursue the neophiliacs, the people ready to adopt your product.

Chapter 15 – Reaching the right people

Key Lesson(s):

People don’t remember what they read, what they hear, or even what they see. We remember what we rehearse. We remember the things we see again and again. The market has been trained to associate a frequency with trust.

If you quit right in the middle of building that frequency, it’s no wonder you never got a chance to earn trust.

Chapter 16 – Price is a story

Key Lesson(s):

“Cheap is another way to say “scared”

Low price is the last refuge of a marketer who has run out of generous ideas.

Chapter 17 – Permission and Remarkibility in a Virtuous Cycle

Key Lesson(s):

Show up with generosity

Transform your project by being remarkable

Chapter 18 – Trust is as scarce as attention

Key Lesson(s):

If you’re a business consultant, a designer, or an inventor, being famous to the right three thousand people is plenty. The goal is not to maximize your social media numbers. The goal is to be known to the smallest viable audience.

Chapter 19 – The funnel

Key Lesson(s):

Trust isn’t static

Chapter 20 – Organizing and leading a tribe

Key Lesson(s):

Manipulation is the tribe killer

Chapter 21 – Some Case Studies Using the Method

This chapter had case studies, in order to keep the summary as concise as possible, we will be skipping this part.

Chapter 22 – Marketing Works, and Now it’s your turn

Key Lesson(s):

Good enough isn’t an excuse or a shortcut. Good enough leads to engagement. Engagement leads to trust.

Chapter 23 – Marketing to the most important person

Key Lesson(s):

Good marketing can lead change in the world.

Our favorite quotes from This is Marketing

“Marketing is our quest to make change on behalf of those we serve, and we do it by understanding the irrational forces that drive each of us.”

“Low price is the last refuge of a marketer who has run out of generous ideas.”

“It’s impossible to create work that both matters and pleases everyone.”


It is hard for us to capture all of the lessons taught in this book. We are going to be releasing content teaching lessons from this book soon, stay tuned!

Be sure to share our content with your friends and family!

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2 Thoughts on This is marketing

  1. I believe you have a typo, “necrophilliac” is certainly not the best option toppursue 😂


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