The Philosophy of Modern Marketing

Thoughts on Excellence Free E-Newsletter Series
Volume 17, Issue No. 7b
November 15, 2018

By Dan Coughlin


I’ve owned my business for 21 years, but Seth Godin’s book, This Is Marketing, has transformed the way I think about marketing. I think this book could be called, The Philosophy of Modern Marketing, or Marketing that is Truly Effective.

I used to think of marketing as a series of tasks I needed to do each month in order to drum up new business.

Now I see marketing as a noble adventure with the intent to create meaningful change in some part of the world. On page 144, Seth talks about “your quest to matter.” That’s a beautiful way to some up his perspective on marketing. It’s not a task. It’s a quest, a call to adventure, something in sync with Joseph Campbell’s work on The Hero’s Journey.

Seth emphasizes three critically important questions:

  1. What change are you trying to make?
  2. Who are you seeking to change?
  3. What promise can you make to your potential customers? (Hint: your promise needs to connect to the change you want to make in the world.)

He points out that the primary purpose of marketing is to create change in the world; meaningful, positive change.

Then in Chapter 10 he explains how important it is to create tension that causes people to make a decision to work with you. On page 121, he wrote, “There are two ways to do your work. You can be a cab driver. Show up and ask someone where they want to go. Charge them based on the meter. Or you can be an agent of change, someone who creates tension and then relieves it.”

This reminds me of Joseph Campbell’s retelling of the story about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. King Arthur challenged the knights to go on a quest for the Holy Grail. Then one of the knights stood and said, “We should all enter the forest at a different point, a place where there is no path. We should carve out our own path in our pursuit of the Holy Grail.”

To me, that’s what Seth is telling us to do. Carve out your own path by clarifying the change you want to make in the world, which is your Holy Grail, and then steadily, day after day, stay on that quest to create that change for the people who need that change.

Early in the book I decided to put a star next to statements that really meant a lot to me. By the end of the book I had over 70 stars and most of the book underlined. Here are some of the most powerful statements for me:

(Page 12) “Marketers make change happen: for the smallest viable audience, and by delivering anticipated, personal, and relevant messages that people actually want to get.”

(Page 12) “Marketers have the empathy to know that those they seek to serve don’t want what the marketer wants, don’t believe what they believe, and don’t care about what they care about.”

(Page 20) “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.”

(Page 28) “You have no chance of changing everyone. You need to change someone. Which ones? Do they share a psychographic?”

(Page 65) “Our calling is to make a difference. A chance to make things better for those we seek to serve…Not for your own benefit, but because of what it can produce for others.”

(Page 70) “Great marketing is the generous and audacious work of saying, ‘I see a better alternative; come with me.’”

(Page 81) “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, a little bit at a time.”

Do you see what I mean? Over and over and over Seth is teaching a new philosophy of modern marketing. Decide on the change you want to make, decide on who to change, and make a promise as to what those people will gain from you to make that change.

I can’t encourage you enough to read, This Is Marketing. I believe you will see your marketing work as a noble adventure to make great and positive change in the world. And the book is filled with nuances and processes for you to consider as you move your marketing into action.

Republishing Articles

My newsletters, Thoughts on Excellence, have been republished in approximately 40 trade magazines, on-line publications, and internal publications for businesses, universities, and not-for-profit organizations over the past 20+ years. If you would like to republish all or part of my monthly articles, please send me an e-mail at with the name of the article you want in the subject heading. I will send you the article in a word document.

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