The Apple Matters Interview: Seth Godin

by Hadley Stern May 15, 2005

At Apple Matters we have had the privilege of speaking to some pretty smart people about Apple. Today we add to that list Seth Godin. Some of you might ask what does marketing have to do with Apple? Well, how about everything. From the very beginning Apple has been an extremely savvy and adroit marketer. And what better person than to get a pulse on Apple’s marketing efforts than Seth Godin?

Seth Godin is a bestselling author, entrepreneur and agent of change. Godin is author of six books that have been bestsellers around the world and changed the way people think about marketing, change and work. Permission Marketing was an Top 100 bestseller for a year, a Fortune Best Business Book and it spent four months on the Business Week bestseller list. It also appeared on the New York Times business book bestseller list. His latest book is All Marketers Are Liars.

Hadley Stern: Many people see Apple as much as marketing company as a technology company (if not more). What do you think?

Seth Godin: A long time ago, a professor named George made a point to me about the difference between a marketing-driven company and a market-driven company. Apple is clearly marketing driven. They don’t do things customers want or demand. They are run by marketers, some of whom happen to be ace engineers.

Hadley Stern: How well do you think Apple has done in growing the relationship with their early adopters?

Seth Godin: I think, deliberately or not, Apple has always resented the early adopters. And that’s part of their charm. But there’s a twenty year history of abandoning the retailers and users that keep them in business. On one hand, Steve wants to be Bill Gates and rule the world. On the other hand, he’s too proud to make the crap that the mass market demands.

Hadley Stern: In your latest book you discuss the importance of companies telling stories, as well as focusing on those consumers who will listen to them. Do you think Apple’s audience for the Mac is forever stuck at only 5 percent?

Seth Godin: I think the worldview of the Mac user is fundamentally different than the worldview of the MS user. Apple has to hope that it survives long enough for that worldview to change, though it might take a generation. There’s no question in my mind that Apple is unable to change that worldview on their own.

Hadley Stern: There is this phenomena of the Mac web, sites (like this one) run by passionate people talking about all things apple. You don’t see dellmatters or hpmatters, etc., why not?

Seth Godin: Because Dell people buy computers to get a job done. Apple users buy a computer to make a statement.

Apple could turn this into a real asset, but that would require finding stuff created outside the company that’s Apple-customer-worthy and then branding it and selling it. And they have too big an ego for that.

Hadley Stern: Apple seems to get a disproportionate amount of press, why?

Seth Godin: Because Steve is a classic hero. Because journalists are Mac fans. Because Dell is boring.

Hadley Stern: Do you own or use any Apple products?

Seth Godin: I started beta testing the Mac in late 1983. I have bought more than 200 macs for my employees and myself. I have owned essentially every model ever made, and I’m on my fifth iPod. But I never had a Newton.

Hadley Stern: Really? Were you beta testing the Mac for Apple? What kind of things were you testing?

Seth Godin: I was at Spinnaker Software. I had a Mac and Ready Set Go v .9. I think I had one of the first desktop published newsletters ever.
Guy Kawasaki wanted us to make software for the Mac. It took a few years, but I finally made it happen.

Hadley Stern: What was your favorite Mac OS?

Seth Godin: I think it was 8. My 11 year old just asked me that. It was one of the later pre-x versions. It just worked.

Hadley Stern: If corporate America used Macs do you think we would be more productive?

Seth Godin: The best way to get more productive is to probably turn off the internet for a few hours a day! I don’t think people would be a lot more productive if they had Macs, but they’d be a lot happier.

Hadley Stern: What do you think of Apple’s marketing?

Seth Godin: Oy! It’s so great, and so classic and it so often completely misses the point. I’m jealous and I wish they would do better, all at the same time.

Hadley Stern: Many people are frustrated that Apple’s advertising doesn’t talk about specific product solutions, in your latest book you talk about companies telling stories. Has Apple been doing the right thing all along?

Seth Godin: Apple should never ever talk about specific product solutions. They have been doing a great job of telling stories. What they need to do is allow others to tell different stories to audiences with a different worldview. I think Apple needs to license the Mac OS and the iPod OS far and wide and cheap. Then they should do what they’re good at, which is invent the next technology fashion. Giorgio Armani makes a fortune on eyeglasses and cologne, but doesn’t make either.

Hadley Stern: What should Apple do to build upon the success of the iPod?

Seth Godin: I would worry a lot about the Napster solution, and as above, I’d let 1,000 companies sell shuffles.

Hadley Stern: If you could launch one marketing campaign for apple, what would it be?

Seth Godin: It’s not the campaign they need. It’s a product story. Either different products or more new products or a licensing strategy.

Hadley Stern: Does Apple Matter?

Seth Godin: If Apple didn’t exist, pundits like me would have to invent them.

Steve Jobs is a gift. A hero. A man for our time. We’re lucky to have him.


  • Interesting points from Godin. I agree with many of them. Particulary his points on why PC users by PCs and why Mac users buy Macs.

    Apple really has never fared well trying to go “Corporate”. They have to have an amount of irreverance to their culture.

    hmurchison had this to say on May 16, 2005 Posts: 145
  • Apple has never leveraged themselves as a corporate computer company for one reason.  Specialization, apple always targeted niche markets such as Image processing and Audio editing.  Thier network solution Appletalk was unsuitable for corporate applications and the processors were slower than the Mainframe and PCs at the time when corporate america was buying up PCs and drifting away from Terminals.  Marketing a company is great, however without the right product to hype, the company can’t survive.  Apple made a brilliant with the Ipod, set up an exclusive store and sell only for your customers.  This mainly stifles innovation.  The FairPlay content protection system ought to be liscensed to as many people as possible.  Proprietary standards have only hurt companies like apple.  It took them a long time to dump the 68s and even longer to dump the original PPC chips.  Along the way they shifted the OS in major ways that confused and annoyed many older users.  The move to Intel based systems only magnifies this point.  Apple needs Ipod and such to succeed, however the next big thing is around the corner and the Ipod may go the way of the AppleII.

    Geek Freak had this to say on Jul 22, 2005 Posts: 2
  • Love it!  Seth is absolutely right about why pc owners buy pcs.  I originally was apple all the way back to 1988 then I “grew up” (I thought) and started buying pcs but was NEVER happy.  I had so much invested in pcs but honestly - that’s enough.  I want my sense of creativity and trendblasting again.  I’m going back to apple.  I can’t stand it any longer.

    latestbuzz had this to say on Sep 13, 2005 Posts: 2
  • I buy and use macs because ...? Godin: “buy PC to get a job done ... buy Mac to make a statement.” Dammit he’s right. I buy Macs because they just work, and I have many stories to back that statement - but by doing so I’m really making this statement: I can support myself with this tool (my Mac), I think of myself as creative and independant thinking; a PC would make me dependant on others, part of the rank and file, average. Corporations/people buy PCs like fax machines or phones, to provide tools for the rank and file/to be part of the rank and file, and yes, to get the job done. It’s just a commodity item. This is really about different user world-views, different expectations, “user cultures.” The technology itself is essentially secondary as an issue; Apple tech is good no doubt, but for 20+ years Apple marketing has cultivated/marketed the Mac user world view, which is “different”, but seen really as an “exception” to the normal path of buying a computer by the majority (who are PC users). It worsens, the Mac is stereotyped by the PC world view as an outsider, overly passionate users, different, and generally an annoying exception to purchasing plans, support services, and any discussion about buying or using a computer.

    pico had this to say on Sep 14, 2005 Posts: 2
  • Well said, pico.

    Of course, the new crop of Macs are also intellectually designed as well as beautifully so.
    And, the software designers now consider it a plum in their hats to write for them.  Now to decide which one is best for me.  Love to have your suggestions.

    latestbuzz had this to say on Sep 14, 2005 Posts: 2
  • I think of myself as creative and independant thinking

    That’s hilarious.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Sep 14, 2005 Posts: 2220
  • “I can support myself with this tool (my Mac), I think of myself as creative and independant thinking; a PC would make me dependant on others, part of the rank and file, average.”

    Well, as a professional graphic designer I find it funny that my counterparts feel they have to buy a Mac to make a statement. Sorry, but I buy a computer because it helps me a get my jobs done. And I can mod XP to make it look how I want. Lots of creative options for the PC.

    dsiglin had this to say on Oct 01, 2005 Posts: 4
  • Nice interview.[]Koszalin[/url]

    Alpina had this to say on Sep 06, 2011 Posts: 154
  • nice one i agree with that Texas Killing Fields 2011 DVDRip

    exclink had this to say on Nov 11, 2011 Posts: 1
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