Marketers fall into one of two categories:
A few benefit when they make their customers smarter. The more the people they sell to know, the more informed, inquisitive, free-thinking and alert they are, the better they do.
And most benefit when they work to make their customers dumber. The less they know about options, the easier they are to manipulate, the more helpless they are, the better they do.
Tim O’Reilly doesn’t sell books. He sells smarts. The smarter the world gets, the better he does.
The vast majority of marketers, though, take the opposite tack. Ask them for advice about their competitors, they turn away and say “I really wouldn”t know.” Ask them for details about their suppliers, and they don’t want to tell you. Ask them to show you a recipe for how to make what they make on your own, and “it’s a trade secret.” Their perfect customer is someone in a hurry, with plenty of money and not a lot of knowledge about their options.
You’ve already guessed the punchline–if just one player enters the field and works to make people smarter, the competition has a hard time responding with a dumbness offensive. They can obfuscate and run confusing ads, but sooner or later, the inevitability of information spreading works in favor of those that bet on it.
Seth Godin is the author of twelve books that have been bestsellers around the world and changed the way people think about marketing, change and work. His latest book Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? will shake up the way you think about what you do all day (and how you do it). Republished with kind permission.