“This is Marketing” By Seth Godin – Book Review: People Like Us Don’t Do Things Like Them

Book Reviewed by Cory Davis

This Is Marketing: You Can't Be Seen Until You Learn to See: Godin, Seth:  9780525540830: Books - Amazon.ca
This is Marketing By Seth Godin – Cover

This is a book review of Seth Godin’s This is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See (2018), published by Portfolio/Penguin, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, New York, USA.


This is Marketing does an effective job of addressing cultural challenges the marketing industry has faced for decades. It is a refreshing perspective that attempts to put the humanity back into marketing.

About the Author

Seth Godin image from Joi Ito, image retrieved from Wiki Commons and modified.

Seth Godin is a marketing guru who made the Guerrilla Marketing Hall of Fame, Direct Marketing Hall of Fame and the Marketing Hall of Fame. He has written 19 best-selling books and has given five TED Talks. He is the founder of the podcast Akimbo, and altMBA, a 30-day marketing workshop. In 1996, Godin and Mark Hurst founded Yoyodyne, which was purchased by Yahoo for $30 million dollars two years later. Godin then became Yahoo’s vice president of Direct Marketing. In 2006, he went on to found Squidoo, which within two years became one of the top 500 websites visited globally.

About the Book

“This is Marketing” attempts to change the culture of marketing and shift public perception about what marketers do. We have all had poor experiences with marketing. We have been victims of shady marketing tactics, bought items that were not as advertised, and have been bombarded with untrustworthy marketing content, especially online. This book guides marketers away from the crooked hype train of hacks, and get rich quick schemes enshrouded in false hope. “This is Marketing” is an organic approach that helps marketers leverage their operation’s core competencies to the smallest viable market who could benefit from them the most. This book is about creating change, serving people, and honest work. When you see that YouTube ad of a so-called self-made millionaire who claims to have the one trick that could make you, or anyone rich with the click of a few buttons, you know they did not read this book.

What It Promises The Reader

This book promises to give readers direction by working with you to help spread your ideas and innovations to create change in the world that you want to see.

How It Delivers On Its Promise

The book is broken down into 23 small, easy digestible chapters that provide high level overviews on topics such as identifying your target market (those who you intend to serve), how to engage them, and how to position yourself in the market with respect to your competition.

In the second chapter, he gives five steps to marketing. However this is not a step by step guide, just intended to provide direction.

Five steps of Marketing:

  1. Invest something that is worth producing. Invest in something meaningful to people, something that will help them. Have a powerful story, something that communicates why it is important, and why people should care. Have a contribution that is worth communicating as well. Do something for that cause and tell people about it.
  2. Design and build it out in such a way that a few people will benefit immensely from, that they will really care about. In other words, tailor your product to a very narrow audience. The more narrow the audience, the more personalized your product or service will be. The more personalized it is, the more effective it will be at addressing their unique problems. The broader the audience, the less effective it will be at addressing their unique problems.
  3. Build a story that aligns with the narrative of the tiniest group of people, the “smallest viable market”. Align your story to that narrowest of audiences. Don’t try to make it for everyone, because the more it is for everyone, the more is it personal to no one.
  4. Communicate to people about your product. Engage with your audience. You must put yourself out there, risk rejection, and use rejection to make a better product. You need the feedback to continually improve. Rejection is not a bad thing, it orientates you.
  5. Be present very regularly and be active to see the change you are trying to make, lead people and build confidence. You not only need to market your product, you need to market yourself. Engage with others and be a leader. To market yourself effectively, you need to be honest, authentic and genuine. You need to genuinely want to see the change you are trying to produce in this world, not just in your pockets. If your motives are sideways, hidden, or greedy, people will find out.

Favourite Part of the Book

My favourite part of the book is the author’s perspective. People like Seth do things like this because they want to create change. People like us do not do things like them. By them, I mean the people behind that YouTube advertisement trying to sell you a get-rich-quick scheme, or that this one ingredient will make you thin in no time. Rather than being driven by get-rich scheming, this book helps marketers stay grounded, by reassuring them that better business is done by a genuine desire to serve others and create a change for the better. It humbles us by reminding you that better is not always what you think it should be, but rather by what better means to your audience.

This is Marketing does an effective job of addressing cultural challenges the marketing industry has faced for decades. It is a refreshing perspective that attempts to put the humanity back into marketing. In the first chapter, Seth articulates this message.  He says that shameless marketers have hurt the rest of us by generating a stereotype in the public sphere through scamming, spamming, hustling and shady tactics such as fake reviews, and giving consumers unrealistic expectations of what their products can offer. Marketers today should not follow suite. Effective marketing requires you to understand the needs of consumers intimately and providing them with solutions. Don’t make consumers your victims, rather make them volunteers.

People like us do things this way, because we are genuinely trying to make the world a better place and doing our part to get there. People like us don’t do things like them, because those people are driven by greed, or other ulterior motives that are not in their audience’s best interest.

Some Favourite Quotes:

“The marketing that has suffused our entire lives is not the marketing that you want to do. The shortcuts using money to buy attention to sell average stuff to average people are an artifact of another time…”

“Marketers make change happen: from the smallest viable market, and by delivering anticipated, personal, and relevant messages that people actually want to get.”

“Empathy is at the heart of marketing”.

“When you know what you stand for, you don’t need to compete”. That if all you do is try to fill a gap in the market, you are “nothing but a commodity in the making”.

“Marketers don’t make average stuff for average people. Marketers make change. And they do it by normalizing new behaviours.”

“Advertising is unearned media. It is bought and paid for. And the people you are trying to reach know it. They’re suspicious. They’re inundated. They’re exhausted. You didn’t pay the recipient to run that ad, and yet you want the recipient to pay you with their attention. So you’re ignored”.

Pricing is a marketing tool, not simply a way to get money.”

“Cheap is another way to say scared”.

“Treating people with respect is the best way to earn their attention”.

“What really matters is the quality of their story and the depth of their empathy and generosity”.

“Permission, attention, and enrollment drive commerce.”

“Everyone is famous to 1500 people”

“Just because you can market something doesn’t mean that you should”

Least favourite part of the book

There were areas of this book where I thought it was vague, or too high level to get enough direction from the message. For example, I really appreciate the sections that highlight the need to create and relieve tension in the market, however I did not immediately understand how to apply that concept. There were sections that were also too detailed, such as walking you through how to position yourself on a positioning map, which is very basic marketing curriculum.

Another criticism I have is that it sometimes feels more geared toward physical products rather than services. Since I am more interested in delivering services, it did not connect with me as deeply as I anticipated after reading the first couple chapters. Maybe this book is not for me, I thought. However, the book does incorporate services into it on occation and much of the theory could apply to both services and products. On the other hand, many case studies and examples were about products and the takeaways were product oriented. With some creativity, you can apply them to services.


I really enjoyed reading this book and recommend it to anyone interested to learn more about marketing, entrepreneurship, or those wanting create change in this world. If you are adverse to marketing, like I am, maybe it will help you open yourself to some marketers, those behind causes you believe in and create community around it.

Thank you so much for reading my review of This is Marketing by Seth Godin. I found this book very interesting. But, I am more interested to hear your thoughts and opinions. If you have any thoughts about marketing and this book, please share them in the comment section below. I always appreciate it when you do.

If you enjoyed this post, please give it a like or subscribe. You can also follow me on twitter @interestpeaks.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s