I’m in Turkey this week to speak at Brand Week Istanbul. I always love seeing how things are merchandized, marketed, and sold in different countries.
The Grand Bazaar is a dizzying experience with over 3,000 shops trying to get the attention of between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors on a typical day (I preferred the smaller bazaars tucked in smaller streets around the city). With so much competition, shopkeepers can be pretty aggressive, trying every technique to interrupt people before they get to the next shopkeeper.
It struck me how the bazaar is a metaphor for marketing in general. Every brand is trying to capture consumer’s attention in a world as cluttered as the Grand Bazaar. Marketers sometimes act as if shouting is the only way to get a message across. When every brand shouts, it can seem like the only solution is to shout louder.
Seth Godin coined this model as “Interruption Marketing” in the late 90s (and wrote the book “Permission Marketing” as an antidote). I stumbled across a classic Seth Godin interview in Fast Company from 1998:
“Marketing is a contest for people’s attention. Thirty years ago, people gave you their attention if you simply asked for it. You’d interrupt their TV program, and they’d listen to what you had to say. You’d put a billboard on the highway, and they’d look at it. That’s not true anymore. This year, the average consumer will see or hear 1 million marketing messages – that’s almost 3,000 per day. No human being can pay attention to 3,000 messages every day.
“The interruption model is extremely effective when there’s not an overflow of interruptions. If you tap someone on the shoulder at church, you’re going to get that person’s attention. But there’s too much going on in our lives for us to enjoy being interrupted anymore. So our natural response is to ignore the interruptions….
“Interruption marketing is giving way to a new model that I call permission marketing. The challenge for companies is to persuade consumers to raise their hands – to volunteer their attention. You tell consumers a little something about your company and its products, they tell you a little something about themselves, you tell them a little more, they tell you a little more – and over time, you create a mutually beneficial learning relationship. Permission marketing is marketing without interruptions.”
Aside from predicting that Internet banner ads will be gone by the year 2000 in that interview, Seth’s views were prescient. In a later article, Seth wrote:
“Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.
“It recognizes the new power of the best consumers to ignore marketing. It realizes that treating people with respect is the best way to earn their attention.
“Pay attention is a key phrase here, because permission marketers understand that when someone chooses to pay attention they are actually paying you with something precious. And there’s no way they can get their attention back if they change their mind. Attention becomes an important asset, something to be valued, not wasted.”
(Marketoonist Monday: I’m giving away a signed print of this week’s cartoon. Just share an insightful comment to this week’s post by 5:00 PST on Monday. Thanks!)