Tag Archives: remarkable

How Avatar followed the Seth Godin playbook to $1B in 17 days

Last night I went to watch Avatar with my younger brother, Tim. The first theater was sold out so we yelled to everyone still streaming in and we all quickly drove to the next closest theater, 10 miles away.

Don’t worry if you haven’t seen the film. There are no real spoilers below, just how Avatar followed Seth Godin’s marketing advice to create a blockbuster movie that has already grossed over $1 billion dollars worldwide in just 17 days.

1) Remarkable Matters


Seth Godin wrote Purple Cow in 2003. Those who read it and followed the advice have reaped rewards. Avatar is “remarkable”, defined by Seth simply as something worth remarking on. I’m not a huge moviegoer – maybe average or slightly below – but more than fifty people had remarked about Avatar to me, either in person or online. People whose opinion I respect raved about it on twitter.

I didn’t go see Avatar because I saw a great preview, commercial or billboard. I went because people I trust remarked on it.

When a product is remarkable, it markets itself.

2) In a world of unlimited choice, it’s more important than ever to be the best in the world


In The Dip, Seth Godin writes about strategic quitting and the importance of being the best in the world.

Most studios wouldn’t take a chance on making a $237 million film whose biggest star is Sigourney Weaver.

They did because the man behind the entire operation (writer, director, producer) is James Cameron, arguably the best in the world at what he does. His previous film, Titanic, was the largest grossing film ever – grossing $1.84 billion dollars, 68% more than Lord of the Rings at $1.13 billion.

You don’t have to be James Cameron, but you do have to be the best in the world at what you do (or one of the best). The good news is, you get to define the world. You could be the best plumber in Omaha, Nebraska. You could be the best hiking guide in Colorado. You could be the best blogger about coffee.

Define your world and then work to be the best.

3) Tribes

Titanic appealed to the tribe of history buffs. Avatar appealed to a few different tribes, but specifically to the science fiction tribe. Any self-identified member of the sci-fi tribe will see the movie and they will talk about it. Some will go with other members of the sci-fi tribe but many will bring friends and family.

Sci-fi was a specific tribe that Avatar reached.

4) Free Prize Inside


In Free Prize Inside, Seth explains the importance of “soft innovations”.

Soft innovations are the clever, insightful, useful small ideas that just about anyone in an organization can think up. Soft innovations can make your product into a Purple Cow, they can make it remarkable. They do this by solving a problem that’s peripheral to what your product is ostensibly about. It’s a second reason to buy the thing, and perhaps a first reason to talk about it. It may seem like a gimmick, but soon, what seems like a gimmick becomes an essential element in your product or service.

Avatar is being shown in 2D and in 3D. Olivier Blanchard and others on twitter told me that seeing it in 3D is a must. They were right and seeing the amazing visual effects in 3D gives me something else to talk about as I recommend the movie.

3D was Avatar’s Free Prize Inside.

I don’t know if James Cameron has ever met or even heard of Seth Godin. It doesn’t matter. In creating and marketing Avatar, Cameron took pages directly from Seth’s playbook.

The result? Seventeen days after release, Avatar is already the 4th highest grossing movie ever.

How can you apply these tactics to your project, business or personal brand?

Hand them a Sharpie

Imagine handing your customers black Sharpie markers to scribble their opinions of you all over the stark white walls of your business? Sound scary? Not to Cindi & Rick Hinds.

We recently stayed at the Deer Crossing Inn in Castro Valley, about 30 minutes outside of San Francisco. The nearby scenery is breathtaking, including a beautiful winding drive down Eden Valley Road off of the I-580.

From the minute you drive onto the grounds, you know that this isn’t your typical bed & breakfast. The owners, Rick and Cindi have done all the little things to make their inn stand out from so many others. Rick and Cindi do what great bed & breakfasts always do, they make you feel 100% comfortable and taken care of.

The minute you walk into the main house, you step foot into the large front room with a comfortable couch and knick knacks like a dartboard, letter jackets and a full size scoreboard on the wall.

Then you notice the walls. From top to bottom, and sometimes on the ceiling, the walls are covered in glowing reviews and comments from previous guests. Everyone who wrote their comments on the wall gets to go home with a built-in story to tell their friends & family.

Rick and Cindi converted strangers to friends. Do you?

Would you be comfortable handing your customers a Sharpie?

(Thanks, Cindi and Rick. We’ll be back.)

The little extras

We recently ate a late night dinner at the Nob Hill Cafe in San Francisco. It’s a cozy, bustling little cafe with the aroma of fresh food and spices emanating from the kitchen.

As we waited to order, our waitress brought us the usual pre-meal basket of bread, except there was nothing usual about this bread. A warm, pillowy soft foccaccia, the dense chewy interior contrasted with the firm, crunchy rosemary crust. We all silently looked at each other in amazement as we slowly chewed this heavenly bread.

After we ordered our entrees, we sheepishly asked our waitress for another basket. She didn’t look surprised in the least and with a wink, promised to check if there was any more in the back. She said that people often come early just for the bread and they often run out by then (we were seated around 10pm). We were in luck and she scored us the final basket before our entrees came.

I failed in my attempt to acquire the recipe for this miraculous rosemary foccaccia but next time I’m anywhere near San Francisco, I know I’ll be back. The rest of the food was very good, but the bread was clearly the star.

The basket of bread didn’t cost us a dime (and only cost the restaurant a few dimes), but it was the most memorable part of the meal. It not only brings the same diners back night after night and month after month but the bread is so good, people tell their friends.

It’s the little things.

What little things are you offering your customers to bring them back?

What little things are you doing to help them tell your story?