Seth Godin’s Unleashing the Ideavirus is an insightful work that every public relations professional, political campaign strategist, and CEO needs to read in order to grasp the reality of what it means to advertise in today’s networked information economy. In the book, Godin argues that the old way of advertising and getting the word out about new products, ideas, or services just doesn’t work anymore. In other words, if you’re the owner of company in the year 2007, you can’t just throw a bunch of money into a TV ad or print advertising campaign and expect your idea/service/product to catch on. That’s the old way of thinking about advertising, and one he calls “interruption marketing.” Instead, he argues, we have entered a new era of “permission marketing.” But what does this mean?
Basically, this means that ideas can spread like a virus when you can get consumers to market them to each other. Sound like viral marketing to you? Well, much of it is. Today, people are more connected than ever before. This presents them with critical opportunities to influence others by serving as credible vectors of communications. Godin has a name for these type’s of people: they’re called “Sneezers.”
Another interesting concept Godin presents us with is the fact that being first with a new idea puts you WAY ahead of your competition. This happens because today’s connected information economy rewards those who fill a vacuum for a new idea/product first. The emergence of YouTube serves as a perfect example of this phenomenon. Almost immediately after its launch, YouTube satisfied a huge demand that existed for social connectivity via video. As a result, the market rewarded the service with an enormous amount of success. Even several years after its launch, YouTube is still the number one video content site on the Internet.
What does this have to do with political campaigns? A lot. Political campaigns need to understand that their ability to gain support via paid advertising is declining. If they are to succeed in this new era of online connectivity, they will need to recruit grassroots supporters that will serve as their messengers. Campaigns also need to learn that if they don’t fill this vacuum, someone else will do it for them.