Tuesday, November 13, 2018

There Is No Mass Market

One of the greatest marketers in the history of economics is Seth Godin. During an interview, he said something that truly astonished me, and I want to pass it on. He said there is no mass market.

A mass market is an imaginary group of homogeneous people who make up at least 51 percent of the population and who want to buy your product. No such group exists. To Godin, it is meaningless to say most people won’t buy this product. Of course they won’t. Your market is not an imaginary homogeneous majority, but a minority of very interested customers. Focus your attention on them. Sell, or write, something that those people that will benefit those people. They will tell other people like themselves—no longer just by word of mouth, but by social media—and your marketing will take care of itself.

A side benefit to this is that you can make, do, or write what matters to you, and you can feel that you have enjoyed and done something useful with your life. The marketing will take care of itself, so long as you give it enough boosts with, for example, an internet platform.

More thoughts?

Godin follows his own advice. Now when he writes a book, it becomes a best seller without the need for promotion or interviews. But he didn’t start out that way. For his first book, he got 900 rejections.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

As the Case May Be: The Subjunctive Mood and Human Evolution

Humans are the only species with true language. Monkeys can respond differently to different calls, and chimps can learn a few symbols. But to have true language, you have to have vivid imagination, which is unique to humans.

Language can communicate situations that do not yet exist—the future tense. In English, we could say if he will go. In French, s’il ira. But even more than this, language can communicate an alternate reality that is different from the one you are experiencing. If he were to go implies that he is not going to go. In French, s’il aille. This is the subjunctive, as it were. You can even have a past subjunctive: if he had gone, s’il soit allé. Language students hate learning subjunctives, but they are a marvel of intellect. That does not mean, of course, that you have to like them.

Organisms have lots of ways of responding to their surroundings. The ancestors of vertebrates specialized on intelligence as their mode of response. As explained in an earlier essay, intelligence is expensive. In humans, natural selection favored larger brains in a runaway spiral of greater and greater intelligence. It is expensive. Along the way in human evolution, a threshold was crossed into the kind of self-awareness that permitted the oft-maligned subjunctive mood.