Using Marketing To Create Change

Louise Graham
15 min readJan 18, 2020


Keynotes and wisdom from Seth Godin’s book, “This is Marketing”

I’ve taken all of the wisdom nuggets and key messages from best-selling author Seth Godin and his latest book “This is Marketing — You can’t be seen until you learn to see” and have carefully and thoughtfully summarised in an easy 15 minute read.

"Great marketers don't use consumers to solve their company's problem; they use marketing to solve other people's problems. They don't just make noise; they make the world better. Truly powerful marketing is grounded in generosity, empathy and emotional labour" Seth Godin

Marketing is an important tool for creating change and should be used generously to improve lives. As a social entrepreneur/changemaker, your marketing is an extension of your mission and your values, so society needs you to be good at marketing. These key messages will change everything you’ve come to learn about what marketing is and how it should be used.

You can buy the ‘This is Marketing’ book at Amazon via my affiliate link. I get pennies for your purchase which I use to buy more books and to share even more great wisdom with you.

What is marketing?

  • Marketing is the generous act of helping others become who they seek to become. It involves creating honest stories - stories that resonate and spread. Marketers offer solutions, opportunities for humans to solve their problems and move forward.
  • Marketing begins (and often ends) with what we do and how we do it, not in all the stuff that comes after the thing is designed and shipped.
  • Marketers make change. We change people from one emotional state to another. We take people on a journey; we help them become the person they've dreamed of becoming.
  • We are all marketers - we all have the ability to make more change than we imagined. Our opportunity and our obligation is to engineer marketing that we are proud of and learn more about how human beings dream, decide & act. Ultimately, it’s about how you can help anyone become a better versions of themselves (the ones they seek to be).

"The purpose of our culture isn't to enable capitalism, even capitalism that pays your bills. The purpose of capitalism is to build culture. Once you adopt a posture of service, of engaging with the culture to make change you're no longer asking “How can I get more people to listen to me, how can I get the word out, how can I find more followers, how can I convert more leads to sales, how can I find more clients, how can I pay my staff?” Instead you ask “What would matter to the people I want to serve, what change do I seek to make?" Seth Godin

Why does society need good marketers?

  • Marketing is the landscape of our modern lives.
  • Old fashioned traditional marketing is done to the customer, not for her, him or they.
  • Because marketing has been done to us for so long we take it for granted, we fail to see what's actually happening and don't notice how it's changing us.
  • Marketing is important enough to do right.
  • Marketing doesn't have to be selfish.
  • It's time to do something else with marketing. To make things better, to cause a change you'd like to see in the world and to serve the people you care about.
  • Marketing is change and marketers make change happen.

What the customer should be saying to marketers

"Your emergency is not a license to steal my attention. Your insecurity is not a permit to hustle me or my friends" Seth Godin

What people want is to be understood and to be served, not merely to witness whatever you feel like doing in a given moment.


  • It's time to stop hustling and interrupting.
  • It's time to stop spamming and pretending you're welcome.
  • It's time to stop making average stuff for average people while hoping to charge more than a commodity price.
  • It's time to stop begging people to become your clients, and time to stop feeling bad about charging for your work.
  • Time to stop looking for shortcuts and time to start insisting a long, viable path instead.
  • Time to use marketing for change.

Understanding your customers/supporters wants and needs

> If you ask your customer/supporter what they want you most likely won't get a true answer. It's our job to watch & understand people, figure out what they dream of and then create a transaction that will deliver on that feeling...

Begin with assertions

  • What they need and want
  • What's on their minds when they wake up
  • What they talk about when no one is eavesdropping
  • What they remember at the end of the day

"People don't want to buy a quarter-inch drill bit. They want a quarter-inch hole. The drill bit is merely a feature, a means to an end. What people really want is the hole it makes and what they really want behind that is the shelf that will go on the wall once they drill the hole and behind that, they want the recognition and feel-good factor of how they will feel seeing the shelf up on the wall and the room clear. They want the satisfaction of knowing they did it themselves or the praise of their spouse for doing a great job. Or to have peace of mind knowing that their room isn't a mess, it's safe & clean. People don't want what you make. They want what it will do for them. They want the way it will make them feel.”

Theodore Levitt (Harvard Marketing Professor)

Status is important

> Status and status roles play a large part in consumer decision making. Why people choose one restaurant over another, one college or another, why they drive a certain car. Humans spend a lot of time paying attention to status and the desire to change our status, or protect it, drives almost everything we do.

  • Status is our position in the hierarchy
  • Status is 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.

Who do you seek to serve?

  • Psychographics vs Demographics — Talk to customers dreams, beliefs and wants (psychographics) not what they look like or their demographics.
  • Group people (audiences) by the stories they tell themselves.
  • Market to their worldviews - the lense we use when we see the world, it's our assumptions and biases.
  • Everyone has a problem, a desire and a narrative - who will you seek to serve?

Concept #1: Smallest Viable Audience

"The restless pursuit of mass will make you boring, because mass means average. It requires you to offend no one and satisfy everyone. It will lead to compromises and generalisations" Seth Godin

  • The goal is to be known to the smallest viable audience
  • What's the minimum number of people you would need to influence to make it worth the effort?
  • The smallest viable market is the focus, that ironically and delightfully, leads to your growth.
  • Getting specific is brave. Others are hiding behind the "everyone and anyone".
  • Find a corner of the market that can't wait for your attention.
  • Meet them at their extremes, find a position on the map where you and you alone are the perfect answer.
  • Overwhelm this group's wants and dreams and desires with your care, your attention, and your focus.
  • The goal of the smallest viable audience is to find people who will understand you and will fall in love with where you hope to take them.
  • Loving you is their way of expressing themselves. Buying from you is an expression of who they are.

Positioning to the Smallest Viable Audience

"You don't need to compete when you know who you are" Bernadette Jiwa, Story Driven

  • Stand for something (not everything)
  • Develop a point of view
  • Find an edge
  • Know who you are for and who you are not for
  • Know where you wish to take your customers and why

Making a promise

  • My product is for people who believe X
  • I will focus on people who want X
  • I promise that engaging with what I make will help you get X


  • Shared interests, shared goals and shared language.
  • A tribe doesn't have to have a leader, it is often populated with people who share interests, goals and languages.
  • Your opportunity as a marketer is the chance to connect the members of the tribe. They're lonely and disconnected, they fear being unseen, and you, as the agent of change, can make the connection happen.

Good stories & gaining attention

Bernadette Jiwa of Story Driven shares 10 things that good stories do. If the story you're telling yourself (and others) doesn't do these things you might want to dig deeper.

1. Connect us to our purpose and vision for all aspects of our life

2. Allow us to celebrate our strengths by remembering how we got from there to here

3. Deepen our understanding of our unique value and what differentiates us in the marketplace

4. Reinforces our core values

5. Help us to act in alignment and make value-based decisions

6. Encourage us to respond to customers instead of reacting to the marketplace

7. Attract customers who want to support businesses that reflect or represent their values

8. Build brand loyalty and give customers a story to tell

9. Attract like-minded employees

10. Help us to stay motivated and continue to do the work we're proud of

Gaining attention

"Each person has a story in his or her head, a narrative used to navigate their world. The extraordinary thing is that every person's narrative is different"

Different stories for different people:

  • Your marketing has to resonate with your audience, it has to tell them something they've been waiting to hear, something they are open to believing in. It has to invite them on a journey where a change might happen. Once these doors are opened, it has to then solve the problem and deliver on the promise.
  • Don't begin with your machines, your inventory, or your tactics. Don't begin with what you know how to do or some sort of distraction about your mission. Begin with dreams and fears, with emotional states and with the change your customers seek.
  • Customers scan instead of study.
  • When they are scanning they are asking, "What does this remind me of?"
  • Use messaging that feels like messaging that's trusted (seen before) then change it enough to let your customer know it's new and that it's uniquely yours.

Enrolment, frequency & price

"There's no such thing as mandatory education. It's almost impossible to teach people against their will. The alternative is voluntary education: gaining enrolment. We ask people to eagerly lend us their attention. The promise is that it's worth their effort because, in exchange, they're going to get the insight or forward motion that they want."

  • Enrolment is what you need to earn permission to engage
  • Enrolment looks like hands raised, eyes on the board, notes being taken
  • Enrolment is the first step on the journey where you learn from the customer and she learns from you


"People don't remember what they read, what they hear, or even what they see. If they're lucky, people remember what they do. but they're not very good at either. We remember what we rehearse. We remember the things we see again and again. That we do over and over"

  • The market has been trained to associate frequency with trust


  • Pricing is a marketing tool, not simply a way to get money
  • There are two key things to keep in mind about pricing:
  1. Marketing changes your pricing
  2. Pricing changes your marketing
  • People form assumptions and associations based on your pricing, and your pricing shapes what people believe about your service, it's important to be clear about how you position yourself. Your price should be aligned with the extremes you claimed as part of your positioning (e.g. your worldviews of your smallest viable audience)
  • When people are heavily invested (cash or reputation or effort), they often make up a story to justify their commitment. And that story carries trust.
  • Lowering your price doesn't make you more trusted. It does the opposite.

Generous marketing acts

'In a world that scans instead of reads, that gossips instead of researching, it turns out that the best way to earn trust is through action. People remember what you did long after they forget what you said. Marketers spend a lot of time talking, and on working on what they are going to say. We need to spend far more time doing"

  • Marketing acts are the generous actions of people who care
  • Marketing acts are from a place of service
  • This is your marketing behaviour - what you do and how you do it

The funnel

  • At the top of the funnel, you pour attention.
  • At the bottom of the funnel, committed loyal customers come out.
  • Between the top and the bottom, most people leak out. They walk away, trust diminished, or leave due to a mismatch between what you offer and what they believe, a disconnect between what you say and what they hear. Or maybe it's just not a good fit, or they're distracted, or life got in the way.
  • As people work their way through the funnel - from stranger to friend, friend to customer, customer to loyal customer - the status of their trust changes.
  • The internet is a discovery tool but you're not going to get discovered that way. Instead, you will make your impact by uniting those you seek to serve.

You can fix your funnel:

1. You can make sure that the right people are attracted to it

2. You can make sure that the promise that brought them in aligns with where you hope they will go

3. You can remove steps so that fewer decisions are required

4. You can support those you're engaging with, reinforcing their dreams and ameliorating their fears as you go.

5. You can use tension to create forward motion

6. You can, most of all, hand those who have successfully engaged in the funnel a megaphone, a tool they can use to tell the others. People like us do things like this.

Creating change

"When you're marketing change, you're offering a new emotional state, a step closer to the dreams and desires of your customers, not a widget. We need to sell feelings, status and connection, not tasks or stuff"

When your customer doesn't choose you

The people who don't buy from you, the ones who don't take your calls, who sneer at your innovations and buy from competitors are right not to choose you.

Know who you're for & who you're not for.

"I'm sorry, this isn't for you, here's the phone number of my competitor"

Every good customer gets you another one

"The challenge for most people who seek to make an impact isn't winning over the mass market. It's the micro market. They bend themselves into a pretzel trying to please the anonymous masses before they have fifty or one hundred people who would miss them when they were gone. While it might be comforting to dream of becoming a Kardashian, it's way more productive to matter to a few instead"

  • Be remarkable
  • Your best customers become your new salespeople
  • Your work to change culture thrives when the word spreads
  • This positive cycle makes change happen

Read: Wired article "A thousand true fans"

Customers spread the word when it benefits them, their taste, their standing (status), their desire for novelty & change. Also when it says something about them to others

Ideas travel horizontally - from person to person, not from organization to customer. We begin with the smallest possible audience and give them something to talk about and reason to do so

Marketing for change — key philosophies

The magic of good enough

Good enough isn't an excuse or shortcut. Good enough leads to engagement. Engagement leads to trust. Trust gives us a chance to see (if we choose to look) and seeing allows us to learn. Learning allows us to make a promise and a promise might earn enrolment and enrolment is precisely what we need to achieve better. Ship your work. It's good enough. Then make it better

The tyranny of perfect

Perfect closes the door. It asserts that we're done, that this is the best we can do. Worse, perfect forbids us to try. To seek perfection and reach is a failure

The possibility of better

Better opens the door. Better challenges us to see what's there and begs us to imagine how we could improve on that. Better invites us in and gives us a chance to seek dramatic improvement on behalf of those we seek to serve


Marketing in 5 Steps - The Smallest Viable Audience

1st - Invent a thing worth making, with a story worth telling and a contribution worth talking about

2nd - Design and build it in a way that a few people will particularly benefit from and care about

3rd - Tell a story that matches the built-in narrative and dreams of that tiny group of people, the smallest viable market

4th - Spread the word

5th - Show up - regularly, consistently and generously, for years and years - to organise and lead and build confidence in the change you seek to make

How to win at marketing

"The best marketers are farmers, not hunters. Farmers plant, tend, plough, fertilize, weed & repeat. Let someone else race around after shiny objects"

  • Start with empathy to see a real need (not an invented one that gives reason for the business) - It has to improve the lives of the people you want to serve (care about most)
  • Market from a place of true service
  • Begin with who you seek to serve, a problem you seek to solve and a change you seek to make
  • Make an assertion about those you want to serve
  • Understand the humans behind your customer and the irrational forces that drive them
  • Understand where you wish to take your audience
  • Choose your extremes - focus on the Smallest Viable Market
  • Match the worldview of the people being served
  • Find the people you seek to change
  • Show up in the world (be persistent, consistent & frequent) with a story they want to hear and told in a language they are eager to understand
  • Do marketing that makes your customer feel good about themselves
  • Overwhelm your audience with your care, your attention & your focus
  • Clever marketers make it easy for those they seek to work with, by helping position the offering in a way that resonates and is memorable
  • Earn and keep the attention and trust of those your serve
  • Offer ways to go deeper. Instead of looking for customers for your work, look for ways to work for your customer
  • Understand that what you say isn't nearly as important as what others say about you
  • Make what you say easy to spread - ideas that spread win
  • Make change happen. Change that's so profound people can't help but talk about it

Creating change with marketing

"I believe the only way to make a difference is to truly see and understand the people you seek to influence"

  • If you want to make a change, begin by making culture. Culture beats strategy so much so that culture is strategy
  • Work that matters for people who care, is the shortest, most direct route to making a difference in the world
  • The marketer's contribution is a willingness to see and to be seen

"If you're having a challenge making your contribution, realise your challenge is a story you're marketing to yourself. It is the marketing we do for ourselves, to ourselves, by ourselves, the story we tell ourselves, that can change everything. It's what's going to enable you to create value, to be missed if you were gone"

Marketing journaling questions:

  • Who's it for?
  • What's it for?
  • What is the worldview of the audience you're seeking to reach?
  • What are they afraid of?
  • What story will you tell? Is it true?
  • What change are you seeking to make?
  • How will it change their status?
  • How will you reach the early adopters?
  • Why will they tell their friends?
  • What will they tell their friends?
  • Where's the network effect that will propel this forward?
  • What assets are you building?
  • Are you proud of it?

Book Examples

Example: Marketing of Dog Food

Have you ever seen a dog buy dog food?

Dog food is for dog owners. It's for the way it makes them feel. The satisfaction of taking care of an animal that responds with loyalty and affection, the status of buying a luxury good and the generosity of sharing it

The right formula is to make dog food that dog owners want to buy - matched with their worldviews

Example: Roots and Shoots (analogy)

Here's an analogy that helps bring to life the ideas covered…

Your work is a tree. The roots live in the soil of dreams and desires. Not the dreams and desires of everyone, simply those you seek to serve.

If your work is simply a commodity, a quick response to an obvious demand, then your roots don't run deep. It's unlikely that your tree will grow, or even if it does, it's unlikely to be seen as important, useful or dominant. It will be crowded out by all the similar trees.

As your tree grows, it creates a beacon for the community. The early adopters among the people you seek to serve can engage with the tree, climb it, use it for shade, and, eventually, eat the fruit. And they attract the others

If you have planned well, the tree will quickly grow taller, because the sun isn't being blocked - there are few other trees in the same area.

As the tree grows, it not only attracts other people, but it's height blocks out the futile efforts of other, similar trees. The market likes a winner.

It's a mistake to show up with an acorn and expect a crowd.


📚 P.S. If you like this. You can buy the ‘This is Marketing’ book at Amazon via my affiliate link. I get pennies for your purchase to buy more books and share even more great wisdom with you.

About Louise Graham:

Vision & Mission Mentor for social entrepreneurs and conscious changemakers at and Founding Director at The Glasgow Basket Brigade CIC.

I am here to support your biggest changemaker dreams and ambitions — helping you to clarify your vision, align your mission & make change happen.

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Louise Graham

Vision & Mission Mentor — Helping social entrepreneurs and conscious changemakers clarify their vision, align their mission and make change happen