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Four Questions With Guy Kawasaki: Enchantment, Influence, and Marketing to the Rest of Us

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In this article, you'll learn...

  • Guy Kawasaki's take on some key points from his book Enchantment
  • How you can succeed by embracing the "nobodies," thinking differently about demand generation, and enchanting your employees

Guy Kawasaki's Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions hit me just as I was in the thick of things launching my own book, Killing Giants. But having been neck-deep in both the psychology of influence and the business of marketing, I wanted to dig into a few ideas with Guy and see where the conversation led us.

Enchantment, in case you haven't read it, describes Guy's take on creating an "enchanting" experience—for customers, or for people (in general) apart from business—and it draws heavily on his personal experience as well as the social science behind the often-mysterious "arts of compliance." I found it a valuable read.

Here are my four questions and Guy's responses.

1. Embrace the Nobodies

Stephen Denny: You're probably buried under requests for your endorsement, your presence, and just your time. Clearly, the current mindset, some recent press notwithstanding, is that influencers are greater than nobodies. And yet, you're promoting the idea that embracing the "non-celebrities" is not only smart but better. How would you counsel someone—an author, a budding startup CEO—in this area? Isn't it all about getting the big names to endorse you? Why not? What tips you over to the "nobodies" column?
 
Guy Kawasaki: There are two theories of marketing. One is that there are a small number of influencers, experts, oracles, A-listers, reporters, journalists, and analysts who have the monopoly on insight and intelligence. You have to suck up to them and hope that they like your product and tell the ever-attentive and compliant unwashed masses what to do. If that happens, you are assured of success.
 
My theory is that social media has inverted this pyramid. Now, nobodies are the new somebodies—if enough nobodies like your product, then the somebodies, too, have to pay attention to you. So now the A-listers don't make a product, they report on made products. The key is to get a lot of people to try your product because you don't know who will make your product tip.
 
For example, when publishers introduce a business book, they usually send out about 200 galleys. The hope is that the powerful A-listers like the book and tell everyone to read it. We sent out 1,600 copies of Enchantment—basically to any blogger who wanted it. Now, two weeks after shipping, there are 250 reviews of Enchantment in blogs ranging in topic from beauty products to dog trainers.


2. Thinking Differently About Demand Generation

SD: In the strictest "Cialdinian" sense—meaning, the research authored by Dr. Robert Cialdini and described in his book Influence: Science and Practice—there's a thick line between "authority" and "consensus": We look to authority figures when faced with an objective, "fact-based" decision, and we look to many others similar to us for consensus when we're considering matters of taste. But in this age of Yelp, Amazon, and House MD, we're all authorities to a degree, and our trust in authority is low. That might support your "embrace the nobodies" point, suggesting that we should work on consensus before we jump to our standard authority figures. But I'm curious to know, wearing your venture capitalist hat for a moment, how would you counsel a new portfolio company to pursue this strategy over the more common "lots of PR, a Super Bowl ad, and a Mossberg review" approach?
 
GK: My counsel would be simple: If I see that you spent your money on a Super Bowl ad, I would try to get you replaced. If "lots of PR" means planting many seeds—aka, review copies—then that's fine. And the company should suck up to Walt Mossberg. I just don't believe that it should focus on only the A-listers of the world. Somewhere out there is a bunch of "Lonelyboy15s" who aren't rich, powerful, and famous, but as a group they could make your product succeed. Your job is to find them, and the only way I know how to do that is to plant many seeds. If you can get to Walt and he likes your product and will write about it, hallelujah! But in the meantime, I'd like to see a bottom-up movement at the user level take off, too.
 
3. How to Enchant Your Employees

SD: You paint a great picture in this chapter of how to motivate, retain, and enchant your people! What stops companies from embracing these ideas? Why are so many people expressing dissatisfaction in the workplace when these ideas are so human and attainable? Is there a breakdown in how we prepare our future managers? What's happened out there?
 
GK: The single best thing that a company could do to enchant its employees is to provide them with a MAP. "M" stands for mastery—that is, working for the company enables people to master new skills. "A" stands for autonomy. Employees can master new skills while they are working autonomously—nobody will be breathing down their necks. "P" stands for purpose. Employees will master new skills while working autonomously for a company with a higher purpose than simply making a buck. The company should be making the world a better place.
 
I don't know why more companies don't do this. It could be that in a recession everyone focuses on cost cutting and surviving. It takes courage and forward thinking to aspire to enchanting employees when times are tough. Notice that I don't include monetary compensation in this recommendation. Companies should pay people reasonably, but money is not the key to enchantment. Mastery, autonomy, and purpose, warm and fuzzy stuff, are more important.

4. Bigger-Than-Life Brands

SD: Related to the above, what about "bigger than life" brands? A vein that I see running through Enchantment is how ideas or companies can overcome public resistance and become bigger than life, whether by virtue of their universal story or their rabid fan base. Yet many of the "bigger than life" CEO/founders out there have personal reputations that are anything but warm and fuzzy (an old friend of yours comes to mind). How do we sync up these seemingly divergent ideas? How is it that these leaders who create such enchanting products and brands can so often be anything but enchanting as leaders? Or is their "enchantment focal length" set differently?
 
GK: Enchantment isn't the only way to success. I think it's the most fun and coolest way, and it requires the least antagonism, but who am I to argue with the success of other methods? The three pillars of enchantment are likability, trustworthiness, and quality. Enchanting companies have these qualities in different amounts. Zappos has tons of trustworthiness. The Virgin Group has the likability of Richard Branson. Apple has fantastic products and great people in its stores. Enchantment is a pragmatic skill—whatever works for you, works for you.

* * *

The ideas that Guy puts forward in Enchantment serve as guides for anyone in a life of business seeking to win hearts and minds. As he says, there are other ways to reach success. But the rhetorical question remains: Why would we want to pursue other ways when these are available to us? Why would we pursue avenues that don't include likability, trustworthiness, and quality?

To be clear, I don't always agree with everything Guy is saying here. The power of a Super Bowl ad is tremendous—but only for the right brand in the right circumstance. For GoDaddy.com, SalesGenie.com, and other service businesses with low variable selling costs and relatively high margins, the Super Bowl is a perfect venue. But for many—especially CPG companies—it's an exercise in ego. That said, the overarching point of the power of the nobodies is significant, particularly in an age where everyone has powerful self-publishing tools at his or her disposal.

If you've read Enchantment, what points struck you? If you haven't, take my advice and pick it up!


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Stephen Denny has been a marketer for more than two decades and blogs about strategy, marketing, and big ideas at www.stephendenny.com. Download his e-book, This Sentence Has 5ive Words: Eigen Values, Creating Truisms and the Future of Marketing and follow him on Twitter: @Note_to_CMO.

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Comments

  • by Zara Brunner Tue Apr 26, 2011 via web

    I'm reading The Experience Economy now and look forward to reading Enchantment next. Thanks for the enlighting questions and answers

  • by Penny Haywood Calder Tue Apr 26, 2011 via web

    Great point about gaining traction with people power

  • by Dewane Mutunga Sun May 1, 2011 via web

    Great tips on how to grow your business. I think the "planting many seeds" is actually more beneficial to the planter in the long run. It's all about strong, lasting business at the end of the day. Longevity.

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