May 7, 2004 Book Reviews
When Free Prize Inside arrived a few weeks ago, I was very impressed by Seth Godin’s chosen delivery method. He shipped the book, along with a copy of “Not The Journal” (a parody of WSJ), inside a fully branded cereal box. It may have been the first time I read the back of a cereal box in years. Needless to say, I was pretty excited about the contents. The old saying “You can’t judge a book by it’s cover” may not apply here. This book came in a friggin cereal box!
Free Prize Inside is not a long book, but my co-workers did see my nose in it many times and wondered if I was spending my time wisely. This happened frequently at home too, so much so that my wife refers to it as “that damn book”. I could have blown through the book in 4-5 hours if I sat down and skimmed it all at once. But this is one of those books that beats it’s main idea into your head over and over that you only have the mental engergy to pick it up for a few pages at a time. So what is the idea that Seth so believes in that he put it in a cereal box? Is it being remarkable? No, that was his other book. The big idea behind this book is soft innovation, or the small things that any employee can implement to help make an organization remarkable. It’s the freebies (and I use that term ever so vaguely) that make consumers choose your business over your competitors.
A perfect example of this comes from my home town of Layton, Utah. There are two family operated diners located directly across the street from each other. Sill’s Cafe on the East Side of Main Street and Doug and Emmy’s on the West. I don’t know the full history of these two local favorites, but they have very comparable menus. Which one you go to depends on the free prizes, and the free prize differs per customer. Both make faboulous scones and fritters worth stopping for if your ever driving through. For me, the “Free Prize” is that one of them also makes a blueberry fritter. Both places offer a unique free prize: they name entrees after regular patrons. I think my Grandfathers favorite was “Dale’s Scramble”. Mine is still the blueberry fritter.
Once Seth has established the importance of a Free Prize he then describes how to Sell The Idea, or present it, to the company. This isn’t just your boss or the suits in the boardroom. This includes your whole company. Your boss, your peers, your reports, your department, your other department, the marketing team, the frontline…everybody. He has a long list of example Tactics that he gives to help you do just that. In my opinion, this is the strongest and most helpful chapter of the book. Everything from the Really Bad Powerpoint to the Painting a Portrait. Seth knocks out a lot of myths about idea presentations and hones in an the most overlooked and underestimated tactics of getting your point across in an effective manner. The book is worth the purchase price for this chapter alone.
Ok, you need to sell the idea once you find your Free Prize. So, how exactly do you come up with a Free Prize? Seth calls it Edgecraft. It’s the process of developing the soft innovation to enhance an existing product. By finding out what adjective you can place before or after your product or service, you give your company an edge over the competition. When I choose fast food, I choose Wendy’s. Why? It’s not because their burgers taste better than the others (although that’s arguable because, in my opinion, they do tast better). It’s because they are proven to serve food fast. One example Seth uses is AOL. When people use AOL to connect to the internet, do they do it because AOL is a powerful and robust ISP? No, they use AOL because it is the easiest to install and use. Edgecraft goes a lot further than differentiation.
As an author, Seth Godin is a very interesting fellow. He’s like a modern Willy Wonka walking around with a smile that says “I’ve got a secret”. Like his books, he is full of ideas. From the obvious to the zany, he’s got them and he’s more than willing to share. And he’ll share them where ever he can. Currently he’s on a Virtual Road Tour or a Blog Tour promoting his new book. He’s becoming a guest for a day at sites such as A Penny For…, Brand Autopsy, and a few others. This is one of those unique ways that Seth practices what he preaches and tries something new, something remarkable. I have to give the man credit for being so involved in the blogosphere like this.
Free Prize Inside labels itself as “The Next Big Marketing Idea”, then on the back cover it allows the reader to question it as “Maybe Not”. Is this book for everyone? Maybe Not. Do I recommend it? Depends: If you need my recommendation, if you think that your company is already differentiated from the market, if your customers are jumping like rats from a sinking ship, or if you want a nifty cereal box (better hurry, only pre-orders before May 11 come in Cereal Box packaging), then the answer is yes. Free Prize Inside has plenty of refreshing material to keep you thinking, especially when it comes to Selling The Idea (which he has done a good job of with Selling The Idea of Free Prize Inside).