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Annotated captions of Seth Godin on sliced bread in English

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I'm going to give you four specific examples -- and I'm going to cover at the end --

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about how a company called Silk tripled their sales by doing one thing,

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how an artist named Jeff Koons went from being a nobody

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to making a whole bunch of money and having a lot of impact,

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to how Frank Gehry redefined what it meant to be an architect.

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And one of my biggest failures as a marketer in the last few years,

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a record label I started that had a CD called "Sauce."

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Before I can do that I've got to tell you about sliced bread, and a guy named Otto Rohwedder.

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Now, before sliced bread was invented in the 1910s

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I wonder what they said?

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Like the greatest invention since ... the telegraph or something.

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But this guy named Otto Rohwedder invented sliced bread,

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and he focused, like most inventors did, on the patent part and the making part.

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And the thing about the invention of sliced bread is this --

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that for the first 15 years after sliced bread was available

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no one bought it; no one knew about it; it was a complete and total failure.

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And the reason is that until Wonder came along

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and figured out how to spread the idea of sliced bread, no one wanted it.

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That the success of sliced bread,

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like the success of almost everything we've been talking about at this conference,

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is not always about what the patent is like, or what the factory is like --

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it's about can you get your idea to spread, or not.

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And I think that the way you're going to get what you want,

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or cause the change that you want to change, to happen,

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is that you've got to figure out a way to get your ideas to spread.

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And it doesn't matter to me whether you're running a coffee shop

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or you're an intellectual, or you're in business, or you're flying hot air balloons.

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I think that all this stuff applies to everybody regardless of what we do.

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That what we are living in is a century of idea diffusion.

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That people who can spread ideas, regardless of what those ideas are, win.

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And when I talk about it I usually pick business

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because they make the best pictures that you can put in your presentation,

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and because it's the easiest sort of way to keep score.

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But I want you to forgive me when I use these examples

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because I'm talking about anything that you decide to spend your time to do.

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At the heart of spreading ideas is TV and stuff like TV.

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TV and mass media made it really easy to spread ideas in a certain way.

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I call it the "TV-industrial complex."

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The way the TV-industrial complex works, is you buy some ads --

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interrupt some people -- that gets you distribution.

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You use the distribution you get to sell more products.

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You take the profit from that to buy more ads.

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And it goes around and around and around,

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the same way that military-industrial complex worked a long time ago.

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And that model of, and we heard it yesterday,

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if we could only get onto the homepage of Google,

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if we could only figure out how to get promoted there,

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if we could only figure out how to grab that person by the throat,

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and tell them about what we want to do.

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If we do that then everyone would pay attention, and we would win.

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Well, this TV-industrial complex informed my entire childhood and probably yours.

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I mean, all of these products succeeded because someone figured out

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how to touch people in a way they weren't expecting,

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in a way they didn't necessarily want, with an ad,

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over and over and over again until they bought it.

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And the thing that's happened is, they canceled the TV-industrial complex.

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That just over the last few years,

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what anybody who markets anything has discovered

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is that it's not working the way that it used to.

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This picture is really fuzzy, I apologize; I had a bad cold when I took it.

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But the product in the blue box in the center is my poster child.

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Right. I go to the deli; I'm sick; I need to buy some medicine.

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The brand manager for that blue product spent 100 million dollars

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trying to interrupt me in one year.

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100 million dollars interrupting me with TV commercials and magazine ads and spam

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and coupons and shelving allowances and spiff --

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all so I could ignore every single message.

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And I ignored every message because I don't have a pain reliever problem.

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I buy the stuff in the yellow box because I always have.

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And I'm not going to invest a minute of my time to solve her problem,

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because I don't care.

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Here's a magazine called "Hydrate." It's 180 pages about water.

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(Laughter)

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Right. Articles about water, ads about water.

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Imagine what the world was like 40 years ago

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when it was just the Saturday Evening Post and Time and Newsweek.

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Now there are magazines about water.

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New products from Coke Japan -- water salad.

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(Laughter)

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OK. Coke Japan comes out with a new product every three weeks,

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because they have no idea what's going to work and what's not.

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I couldn't have written this better myself. It came out four days ago --

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I circled the important parts so you can see them here.

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They've come out ... Arby's is going to spend 85 million dollars promoting an oven mitt

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with the voice of Tom Arnold,

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hoping that that will get people to go to Arby's and buy a roast beef sandwich.

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(Laughter)

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Now, I had tried to imagine what could possibly be in an animated TV commercial

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featuring Tom Arnold, that would get you to get in your car,

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drive across town and buy a roast beef sandwich.

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(Laughter)

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Now, this is Copernicus, and he was right,

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when he was talking to anyone who needs to hear your idea.

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The world revolves around me. Me, me, me, me, me. My favorite person -- me.

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I don't want to get email from anybody; I want to get "memail."

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(Laughter)

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So consumers, and I don't just mean people who buy stuff at the Safeway;

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I mean people at the Defense Department who might buy something,

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or people at, you know, the New Yorker who might print your article.

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Consumers don't care about you at all; they just don't care.

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Part of the reason is -- they've got way more choices than they used to,

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and way less time.

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And in a world where we have too many choices

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and too little time, the obvious thing to do is just ignore stuff.

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And my parable here is you're driving down the road

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and you see a cow, and you keep driving

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because you've seen cows before.

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Cows are invisible. Cows are boring.

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Who's going to stop and pull over and say -- oh, look, a cow. Nobody.

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(Laughter)

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But if the cow was purple -- isn't that a great special effect?

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I could do that again if you want it.

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If the cow was purple, you'd notice it for a while.

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I mean, if all cows were purple you'd get bored with those, too.

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The thing that's going to decide what gets talked about,

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what gets done, what gets changed,

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what gets purchased, what gets built,

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is: is it remarkable?

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And "remarkable" is a really cool word because we think it just means neat,

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but it also means -- worth making a remark about.

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And that is the essence of where idea diffusion is going.

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That two of the hottest cars in the United States is a 55,000-dollar giant car,

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big enough to hold a mini in its trunk.

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People are paying full price for both, and the only thing they have in common

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is that they don't have anything in common.

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(Laughter)

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Every week the number one best-selling DVD in America changes.

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It's never "The Godfather;" it's never "Citizen Kane;"

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it's always some third rate movie with some second rate star.

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But the reason it's number one is because that's the week it came out.

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Because it's new, because it's fresh.

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Because people saw it and said -- I didn't know that was there --

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and they noticed it.

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Two of the big success stories of the last 20 years in retail --

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one sells things that are super-expensive in a blue box,

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and one sells things that are as cheap as they can make them.

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The only thing they have in common is that they're different.

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We're now in the fashion business, no matter what we do for a living,

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we're in the fashion business.

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And the thing is, people in the fashion business

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know what it's like to be in the fashion business -- they're used to it.

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The rest of us have to figure out how to think that way.

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How to understand that it's not about interrupting people with big full-page ads,

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or insisting on meetings with people.

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But it's a totally different sort of process that determines which ideas spread,

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and which ones don't.

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This chair -- they sold a billion dollars' worth of Aeron chairs

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by reinventing what it meant to sell a chair.

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They turned a chair from something the purchasing department bought,

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to something that was a status symbol about where you sat at work.

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This guy, Lionel Poilane, the most famous baker in the world --

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he died two and a half months ago,

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and he was a hero of mine and a dear friend.

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He lived in Paris. Last year he sold 10 million dollars' worth of French bread.

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Every loaf baked in a bakery he owned, by one baker at a time, in a wood-fired oven.

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And when Lionel started his bakery the French pooh-pooh-ed it.

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They didn't want to buy his bread. It didn't look like "French bread."

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It wasn't what they expected.

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It was neat; it was remarkable; and slowly it spread from one person to another person

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until finally, it became the official bread of three-star restaurants in Paris.

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Now he's in London, and he ships by FedEx all around the world.

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What marketers used to do is make average products for average people.

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That's what mass marketing is.

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Smooth out the edges; go for the center;

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that's the big market.

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They would ignore the geeks,

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and God forbid, the laggards.

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It was all about going for the center.

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But in a world where the TV-industrial complex is broken,

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I don't think that's a strategy we want to use any more.

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I think the strategy we want to use is to not market to these people

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because they're really good at ignoring you.

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But market to these people because they care.

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These are the people who are obsessed with something.

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And when you talk to them they'll listen

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because they like listening -- it's about them.

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And if you're lucky, they'll tell their friends

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on the rest of the curve, and it'll spread.

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It'll spread to the entire curve.

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They have something I call "otaku" -- it's a great Japanese word.

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It describes the desire of someone who's obsessed to say,

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drive across Tokyo to try a new ramen noodle place,

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because that's what they do: they get obsessed with it.

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To make a product, to market an idea,

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to come up with any problem you want to solve

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that doesn't have a constituency with an otaku,

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is almost impossible.

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Instead, you have to find a group that really,

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desperately cares about what it is you have to say.

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Talk to them and make it easy for them to tell their friends.

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There's a hot sauce otaku, but there's no mustard otaku.

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That's why there's lots and lots and lots of kinds of hot sauces,

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and not so many kinds of mustard.

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Not because it's hard to make interesting mustard

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-- you can make interesting mustard --

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but people don't because no one's obsessed with it,

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and thus no one tells their friends.

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Krispy Kreme has figured this whole thing out.

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Krispy Kreme has a strategy, and what they do is,

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they enter a city, they talk to the people with otaku,

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and then they spread through the city

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to the people who've just crossed the street.

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This yoyo right here cost 112 dollars, but it sleeps for 12 minutes.

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Not everybody wants it but they don't care.

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They want to talk to the people who do, and maybe it'll spread.

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These guys make the loudest car stereo in the world.

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(Laughter)

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It's as loud as a 747 jet. You can't get in the car;

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it's got bulletproof glass on the windows

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because they'll blow out the windshield otherwise.

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But the fact remains that when someone

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wants to put a couple of speakers in their car,

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if they've got the otaku

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or they've heard from someone who does,

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they go ahead and they pick this.

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It's really simple -- you sell to the people who are listening,

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and maybe, just maybe those people tell their friends.

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So when Steve Jobs talks to 50,000 people at his keynote, right,

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who are all tuned in from 130 countries

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watching his two-hour commercial --

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that's the only thing keeping his company in business --

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is that those 50,000 people care desperately enough

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to watch a two-hour commercial, and then tell their friends.

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Pearl Jam, 96 albums released in the last two years.

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Every one made a profit. How?

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They only sell them on their website.

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Those people who buy them on the website have the otaku,

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and then they tell their friends, and it spreads and it spreads.

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This hospital crib cost 10,000 dollars, 10 times the standard.

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But hospitals are buying it faster than any other model.

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Hard Candy nail polish, doesn't appeal to everybody,

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but to the people who love it, they talk about it like crazy.

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This paint can right here saved the Dutch Boy paint company,

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making them a fortune. It costs 35 percent more than regular paint

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because Dutch Boy made a can that people talk about, because it's remarkable.

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They didn't just slap a new ad on the product;

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they changed what it meant to build a paint product.

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AmIhotornot.com -- everyday 250,000 people go to this site,

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run by two volunteers, and I can tell you they are hard graders, and

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(Laughter)

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they didn't get this way by advertising a lot.

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They got this way by being remarkable,

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sometimes a little too remarkable.

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And this picture frame has a cord going out the back,

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and you plug it into the wall.

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My father has this on his desk,

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and he sees his grandchildren everyday, changing constantly.

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And every single person who walks into his office

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hears the whole story of how this thing ended up on his desk.

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And one person at a time, the idea spreads.

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These are not diamonds, not really.

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They're made from "cremains."

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After you're cremated you can have yourself made into a gem.

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(Laughter)

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Oh, you like my ring? It's my grandmother.

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(Laughter)

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Fastest-growing business in the whole mortuary industry.

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But you don't have to be Ozzie Osborne --

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you don't have to be super-outrageous to do this.

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What you have to do is figure out what people really want and give it to them.

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A couple of quick rules to wrap up.

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The first one is: Design is free when you get to scale.

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And the people who come up with stuff that's remarkable

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more often than not figure out how to put design to work for them.

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Number two: The riskiest thing you can do now is be safe.

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Proctor and Gamble knows this, right?

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The whole model of being Proctor and Gamble

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is always about average products for average people.

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That's risky. The safe thing to do now is to be at the fringes,

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be remarkable.

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And being very good is one of the worst things you can possibly do.

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Very good is boring. Very good is average.

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It doesn't matter whether you're making a record album,

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or you're an architect, or you have a tract on sociology.

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If it's very good, it's not going to work, because no one's going to notice it.

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So my three stories.

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Silk. Put a product that does not need to be in the refrigerated section

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next to the milk in the refrigerated section.

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Sales tripled. Why?

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Milk, milk, milk, milk, milk -- not milk.

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For the people who were there and looking at that section,

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it was remarkable.

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They didn't triple their sales with advertising;

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they tripled it by doing something remarkable.

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That is a remarkable piece of art. You don't have to like it,

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but a 40-foot tall dog made out of bushes

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in the middle of New York City is remarkable.

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Frank Gehry didn't just change a museum;

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he changed an entire city's economy

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by designing one building that people from all over the world went to see.

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Now, at countless meetings at, you know,

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the Portland City Council, or who knows where,

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they said, we need an architect -- can we get Frank Gehry?

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Because he did something that was at the fringes.

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And my big failure? I came out with an entire

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(Music)

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record album and hopefully a whole bunch of record albums

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in SACD format -- this remarkable new format --

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and I marketed it straight to people with 20,000-dollar stereos.

tedtalks 15:37
15:43

People with 20,000-dollar stereos don't like new music.

tedtalks 15:43
15:47

(Laughter)

tedtalks 15:47
15:52

So what you need to do is figure out who does care.

tedtalks 15:52
15:54

Who is going to raise their hand and say,

tedtalks 15:54
15:56

"I want to hear what you're doing next,"

tedtalks 15:56
15:58

and sell something to them.

tedtalks 15:58
15:59

The last example I want to give you.

tedtalks 15:59
16:02

This is a map of Soap Lake, Washington.

tedtalks 16:02
16:06

As you can see, if that's nowhere, it's in the middle of it.

tedtalks 16:06
16:11

(Laughter)

tedtalks 16:11
16:14

But they do have a lake.

tedtalks 16:14
16:16

And people used to come from miles around to swim in the lake.

tedtalks 16:16
16:20

They don't anymore. So the founding fathers said, "We've got some money to spend.

tedtalks 16:20
16:23

What can we build here?" And like most committees,

tedtalks 16:23
16:25

they were going to build something pretty safe.

tedtalks 16:25
16:29

And then an artist came to them -- this is a true artist's rendering --

tedtalks 16:29
16:35

he wants to build a 55-foot tall lava lamp in the center of town.

tedtalks 16:35
16:38

That's a purple cow; that's something worth noticing.

tedtalks 16:38
16:42

I don't know about you but if they build it, that's where I'm going to go.

tedtalks 16:42
16:44

Thank you very much for your attention.