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Permission Marketing

Turning Strangers into Friends and Friends into Customers

By Seth Godin
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  • Contains 9 key ideas
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Permission Marketing by Seth Godin

Permission Marketing (1999) confronts the conflicts and challenges that modern marketers face in the digital age and offers a viable alternative. It explains how the advertising landscape is filling up and how this makes traditional advertising ineffective. The author suggests that smart marketers no longer simply interrupt consumers but invite them to volunteer their time and become active participants in the marketing process.

Key idea 1 of 9

Traditional advertising that relies on interrupting customers is losing its effectiveness.

Today’s marketers face a huge problem: consumers no longer pay attention to advertisements.

Most marketing comes in the form of advertising, and over the past decades a tactic called Interruption Marketing has dominated the field. Using this method, consumers are interrupted by advertisements and their attention is directed toward products or services. A classic example of this is the television commercial: regular programming is interrupted and viewers are forced to look at cars, fast food, running shoes and other products being advertised.

Why has this intrusive form of marketing become so popular?

In the mid-twentieth century, the advertising industry discovered that creative, attention-grabbing ads could sell products extremely well. Companies that advertised this way were usually rewarded with higher sales, and as a process it was easy, predictable and could be controlled by large corporations.

To reach as many consumers as possible, companies such as Procter & Gamble turned to so-called mass marketing, which involves advertising to a broad audience without targeting ads to a specific customer segment. As advertisers increasingly scrambled to interrupt more consumers, the world became so filled with advertisements that people stopped paying attention to them. Companies responded to this by placing more and more ads and coming up with increasingly unusual means of interruption.

Today there are ads plastered on the floors of supermarkets and the tops of taxis, but customers usually ignore them. Most people simply don’t have enough time to absorb so many demands on their attention.

This development marks the demise of Interruption Marketing as an effective advertising method. As an Interruption Marketer today, you must compete too hard for too little attention, and your message will likely be ignored or forgotten.

Traditional advertising that relies on interrupting customers is losing its effectiveness.

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