I wish I remembered exactly how I discovered this book. It is kind of important. What I do remember is that it was free. Wait! Now I remember. I was watching the documentary ‘Press Pause Play’. It is a neat show about how the democratisation of culture was changing the quality of art.

In one of the better interviews, Seth Godin mentions his book Unleashing the Ideavirus. The whole documentary is pretty great. But if you’re stretched for time, the interview with Seth is below:

Anyway focus. The book. This is a review about the BOOK.

Unleashing the Ideavirus is about how ideas spread, especially in advertising and marketing. It is the sort of thing you would normally find in the business section of an airport bookstore. The sort of thing I would have once jumped on thinking, ‘Yee-haw, this is the one. These are the ideas that will turn me into a WINNER.’ I’m not like that so much anymore, but I still read the whole thing. I guess I was looking for some insight into some of the woes of curation on the Internet.

The core of Seth’s argument is that traditional advertising is a waste of time and money. That getting others to share your ideas or advertisements is a more effective approach. Instead of purchasing expensive TV advertisements, writing a book and sharing it for free is a better alternative. Sixteen years later, someone might read it. Decide to write a review that exposes someone else to your ‘ideavirus’. Like the one about Seth being an entertaining author of bestselling business books.

OK. So now that I have completed my part in the fabric of social media advertising space. Lets get down to business.

Unleashing the Ideavirus was published during the early 2000’s dot com ‘bubble’ and hasn’t aged well. Some of the examples are pretty hilarious, tech fads that have long since evaporated. Early on Seth uses Palm software company, Vindigo as an example ‘ideavirus’ done right. They let people share their software for free at the press of a button. Vindigo went bankrupt in 2008.

While history has been kinder to some of the examples Seth used as mistakes in creating an ‘ideavirus’. At one point Seth riffs on the Toyota Prius and even suggests that it is not a driving billboard for itself. Umm… Unlike Vindigo, Toyota is still pumping out the Prius. They have sold 1.7 million of them since Seth authored Unleashing the Ideavirus.

But to be fair, I wonder how many of Seth’s suggestions Toyota adopted over the years? Actually I’m confident someone at Tesla is working from the Seth Godin playbook.

Tesla has a generous referral program, and don’t buy traditional ads. Plus the Tesla has a distinctive style that is a driving billboard for itself.

Oh, and Seth also wrote this:

Let people sit in it. Invite them to take the “Audi Sudden Acceleration Test” and see for themselves what the car was like.

Sound familiar? Seen one of those Tesla acceleration reaction videos? This one is definiately my favourite:

Seth would give Tesla a gold start for how they are cultivating their ‘ideavirus’. So will Tesla evaporate like Vindigo? I don’t think so. Honestly? I’m betting they won’t (I own a little Tesla stock).

So if you can wade past the technological archaeology in Seth’s book, Unleashing the Ideavirus is a good read. It hints at how marketing and advertising would weave itself into the fabric of social media, well before social media was a ‘thing’.

4 out of 5.

4 stars out of 5


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