Sundae, bloody sundae!

Is your marketing out of synch?

Recently, in our post Whether ISA?, we drew attention to Jon DiPietro’s ideas as an ordinary member on the future of the International Society of Automation (ISA). During last weekend’s leaders meeting of that organisation he was given the opportunity of talking specifically about social media, or perhaps more correctly social networking and how it can help ISA during the current difficult times. (We talked about social media way back in July 2009 , how time flies!)

A meatball sundae is the unfortunate result of mixing two good ideas.

A meatball sundae is the unfortunate result of mixing two good ideas.


In the course of his talk he mentioned a publication, a book by a gentleman called Seth Godin with the unusual title of Meatball Sundae, a somewhat inedible concoction one might think!. (ISBN 978b-1-59184-174-6 Published 2007).

As I returned from the ISAExpo 2009 in Houston (TX US), what looks like the last ISAExpo, I managed to secure a copy and started to read it on the nine hour flight to Europe. (The entire journey back to Conamara was about 24 hours but as we say obver here “sin scéal eile!” – that’s another story!)

This little 232 page volume asks the very pertinent question, very relevant today, “Is your marketing out of synch?”

What a read! While I do not intend to go too deep into a critique of the book I would like to comment on one or two messages that leaped out at me.

First the title. The meatballs as I understand it are the old models (pre-internet up to the beginning of this century) of marketing. The “interruptive style” which I suppose is like a gun firing leadshot. Advertising to the masses and hoping that some would stick, very expensive advertising campaigns, mail-shots etc etc. This was to support equally expensive industrial plant which produced middle of the road product to “feed the masses” a sort of lower common denominator product which we – the masses- could buy or “consume.”

Then along come this new-fangled internet thing, all shiny and new and attractive and fun like a sundae with a cherry on the top. So the advertising gurus leapt on this new wonderful medium as a means of furthering the old paradigm. Another way of presenting the wares they wanted to foist on the masses. But it didn’t and it doesn’t. And this book shows why.

As somebody who had invested in the Waterford Wedgewood company I view his use of as an example of somebody who caught a new marketing idea and ran with as it somewhat ironic.

Josiah Wedgwood

Josiah Wedgwood


Yes, here was a pioneer in marketing, with imagination and verve who latched onto to the great marketing boom that coincided with the industrial revolution. It is sad but illuminating that his company finally succumbed earlier this year arguably because it could not or would not embrace the new marketing paradigm after millions and millions of pounds, euros and dollars were spent by “sensible” businessmen in trying to rescue it. Waterford Crystal bought the Wedgewood company – interesting isn’t it that I don’t really fell the need to say what these two brands are! They had the name but an inability to change sufficiently to harness the new marketing paradigm. They just poured more and more money into maintaining the old one until there was no more available. Ironic indeed that the company was liquidated and sold off in the 250th year of it’s foundation.

So Seth Godin says, “If JosiahWedgewood were alive today, he’d be saying, ‘Let me out of this box. It’s dark! It’s dark!’ Sorry, I meant, if Josiah Wedgwood were alive today, he would rebuild everyone of his factories and get his organisation in syncc with the realities of the new marketing.” It is such a pity that Sir Anthony O’Reilly and his team didn’t have him still sitting on the board. If he had, perhaps I would have had some valuable shares instead of some useless pieces of paper!

There is one paragraph in this book which, for me, summarised what this new marketing thing is and I think it bears quoting in full.

    ‘After just a few mins of conversation at the older non-profit (organisation), one person realised. “So, if we embrace this approach, we don’t have to just change our website – we are going to have to change everything about our organisation. our mission, our structure, our decision making…” Exactly!’

I usually avoid business books and business gurus like the plague. They strike me usually as been dense, jargon filled, here today and gone tommorrow, American and difficult to read. The last one I read, enjoyed, and tried to use, was Robert Waterman’s and Tom Peters’ In search of excellence! in the eighties.

Yes this book is very American, there were several references which as a mere European I could not relate to. Not everything American is bad and this little book IS a good read, either all in one go or for dipping into. It will certainly stimulate you and maybe make you start thinking in a completely different way about your own enterprise.

Oh yes another interesting this about this book is that where in all other managment books (Is this a manageemnt book?) it assumes that the people making decisions are men, “He this and he that” or the even more tiresome bisexual – or is it cross gender?- “he/she.” Seth Godin is no fence sitter he goes for the “she and her” everytime. The fact that I notice that probably says more about me than about the author.

But then he is the stimulating raconteur, the storyteller, of this major paradigm shift. The new marketing revolution.

Read it and viva la revolution!

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6 Responses to Sundae, bloody sundae!

  1. Jon DiPietro says:

    I laughed out loud when you stated that despite the book being “American” that “Not everything American is bad and this little book IS a good read…” I may start using that in some of my advertising, “Good stuff, despite being American!” But seriously, it’s important to keep in mind that those of us in leadership positions in ISA must be sensitive to the international paradigms. Like the Roman generals during their triumphs, we need that voice reminding us, “Remember, thou art American.”

    Thanks for hilighting this passage. I had forgotten about it and should have incorporated it into my presentation.

  2. […] We have also published a few articles which although not specifically on social networking showed how it could, and was used in our business. Reports like Social media writes articles! or the reports on various user group meetings (especially memorable was the 2009 Emerson one partly because it was the first time we  really felt a participant in an event staged in Atlantic lapped Florida while still sitting and looking west thousands of miles across the same Atlantic lapping at the mouth of Galway Bay!) Finally we discovered a guy called Seth Godin whose little book gives a good idea as to what is happening here in Is your marketing out of synch?. […]

  3. […] called Meatball Sundae by a guy called Seth Godin. This easy to read book made an impression and this posting outlined some of his […]

  4. […] They would by and large agree with the expression quoted by Seth Godin in his little book, Meatball Sundae, “….we don’t have to just change our website – we are going to have to change […]

  5. […] He introduced me to some of Seth Godin works and one sentence, one quote,  in one of his works (Meatball Sundae) possibly encapsulates what is […]

  6. […] As the internet grew and developed so to did the business of business, change, and change radically. One of the little books that we found useful was by Seth Godin, called “Meatball Sundae”, mostly because this new thing is turning everything upside down and putting seemingly incompatible principles and ideas together and coming out with something that turns out to be brilliant. We wrote about it in one of our first blogs! […]

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