'Tribes' Seth Godin's New Book Is off

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by: Scott Goodson

Something is happening out there that is making it easier for anyone to lead a popular movement that can influence millions and millions of people to follow you.

Seth Godin, the American Author of several acclaimed books including Purple Cow and Permission marketing, and a blog, proposes an answer in his engaging and insightful new book. In the sharp-witted prose of an enlightened marketing mind, Godin brings the idea of creating movements to life with keen insight “The essential lesson,” he writes “is that everyday it gets easier to tighten the relationship with the people who choose to follow you.”

The book does support the DNA of StrawberryFrog, which has been to spark Cultural Movements for brands.

Godin’s book sparkles with the kind of detail that raises an anecdote to a pearl of wisdom and it is easy to agree with a great deal of his writing. He discounts traditional advertising campaigns by traditional marketers. “The internet and the explosion in social media have made it easier than ever to market.” I fully agree.

Godin asks: “What does it take to create a movement?" He delves into examples, technology, social factors, analyzes the opportunities that exist to create your own micromovement. “The answer, as you’ve probably guessed is that there’s a difference between telling people what to do an inciting a movement. The movement happens when people talk to one another, when ideas spread within the community, and most of all, when peer support leads people to do what they always knew was the right thing.”

Almost the only thing not worth admiring in this book is its title, which suggests an exclusive vs. inclusive group of introverted people belonging to a tribe of inward-looking people, a thesis that has nothing to do with Godin’s sophisticated narrative on the power of sparking cultural movements in today’s world.

He concludes that the real difference is the tribe and the tribal leader. But I think the word tribe is off, and the tribe is a more important divider than unifier of different peoples.

To simplify the complex, the most powerful movement is the movement that is like a growing snowball, made of up very different kinds of snowflakes all connected together over an authentic idea on the rise in culture.

Godin uses Wikipedia as an example of a successful movement. But Jimmy Wales didn’t create a tribe, he created an organizing system so different kinds of truth seekers from across the planet could come together over an idea: the truth.

The Encyclopedia Britannica defines the "tribe" as a notional form of human social organization based on a set of smaller groups (known as bands), having temporary or permanent political integration and defined by traditions of common descent, language, culture, and ideology.

You could say that is just semantics. But this is a scholarly book and semantics are everything. The tribe, like the cult or the clan, is a limiting organization of people that have put down certain fixed dogma, that historically are suspicious of others, bound by limiting beliefs that are often founded in bigotry and sectarianism.

Godin’s book is a terrific step in the right direction, but we need to push this further.

The word “tribe” is a good thought, but I think there may well be a better expression to represent this new organizing culture. When you think of the word tribe, it feels retrogressive, divisive, and reactive. Tribes were formed originally to fight outsiders. It’s an organization of people out of fear.

The power of Cultural Movements today is centered on the opposite principle, they are powered by openness, by the freedom to belong, by unity in variety based on a universal idea on the rise. The power of the movement is the power of coalition, not a one-fits-all philosophy that can very easily be a part of tribalism led by the tribal leader.

The power of the Cultural Movement lies in identifying, crystallizing and curating an idea on the rise in culture that people can belong to.

Like Jimmy Whales, Obama is another good example of creating one MASSive movement by means of an idea on the rise "change" and a self organizing system that allowed us to find like-minded people and reach out and bring in.

Popular movements unite millions of people together. It’s a most intriguing thought that you, yes you, can spark a cultural movement out of your bedroom. And I think it’s so empowering it wouldn’t hurt to look for a different way to frame this idea in a way that truly reflects the sheer opportunity it represents.

The most powerful movements have discovered that the absolute can only be realized or thought of or stated through the relative and that the tribe is not necessary for everyone nor is it compulsory.

I recommend Godin’s book. It is very thoughtful leap forward in the way marketers should think about marketing today. But there is room for more work in this area, in the discussion of how brands or politicians or musicians or anyone can spark massive cultural movements.

Original Post: http://scottgoodson.typepad.com/my_weblog/2009/01/tribes-seth-godins-new-book-is-off.html