The next big thing


Business people love to ask this question: “What is the next big thing?”

In an interview with AdWorld, marketing guru Seth Godin says: “The next big thing is the last big thing. It’s been the same big thing for 25 years.”

Seth has written over 9000 blog posts and 20 books, and I have read most of them, and I had the privilege to converse with and interview him in New York the year before the pandemic happened. Seth Godin says that the big thing is that for the first time in the history of humankind, we can contact people at a large scale who want to hear from us with specific anticipated personal and relevant messages about them. That has been the next big thing for 25 years. And along the way, people have ignored this and said: “Well, I’m going to do NFTs; I’m going to do augmented reality. I’m going to do virtual reality. I’m going to do this, and I will do that.” They’re always racing around, falling into the trough when they should have been doing the thing a month or a year earlier. By the time it’s on their radar, it is too late to be first, and it will add up very little.

Godin then elaborates some more. He says: “I have a long list of people I care about who show up and say, I’m doing this thing like they started their big money-making podcasts six months ago. You missed it. And I don’t want to tell people the next big thing because they missed the one still going on.

This is the one that they should focus on: Who would miss you if you didn’t show up tomorrow? What is the smallest possible audience of people who know you trust to give you the benefit of the doubt? If you don’t have that? Then worrying about what the next social media platform is a waste of time. It’s something everyone knows in the back of their head but chooses to ignore and needs a reminder of.”

Seth Godin created the first ethical commercial email and, through the years, has proven that businesses were able to proliferate. His approach to email marketing from the beginning is still a core pillar of any digital marketing system today. Godin explains that spammers show up when a medium begins to work. And over time, they win. The phone was a good start, but then you get many unwanted calls from telemarketers, so people got unlisted phone numbers. Then email showed up, and an idiot wrote a book called email addresses of the rich and famous listing the email addresses of thousands of people. So people move to the next, video, to have better ways to interact with people.

There will always be a frontier where you can get more unfiltered interaction with people. As email got crowded, people said, Oh, I’m going to switch to texting. And as that got crowded. People realize they can get away with spamming they will. So they move to new platforms. Marketers are still trying to catch people’s attention but have yet to earn the privilege of talking to them.

Here is the best part of Seth Godin’s interview when he said, “Stealing Attention is not a strategy.” Running ads and elevators might be a way to steal people’s attention, but it’s not a way to earn their trust. What Godin suggests is that businesses should build communities. Communities are resilient, and it has a significant network effect.

Modern marketers feel uncertain about spending their days tweaking algorithms, tricking search engines, and figuring out how to harvest data from people who don’t want their data harvested. They are still pushing ideas forward and hustling to ensure that something appears bigger than it is. That’s not marketing. It’s about making things better by making better things. Godin says, “What I would like the people to do is tell a true story that resonates, creating remarkable ideas and services that people want to share.”

What a great reminder for me. Now that invitations are coming in for “Kick-off Rallies,” “Start of the Year Rallies,” and most of these activities now are back to “In-person” or “Face-to-face” gatherings, I am not too excited with coming out with the “Next Big Thing.” But I would stick to the core of basic truths and ideas to share and remind the audiences that the core and the basic stuff are still the things that bring them success and help them navigate the uncertain future correctly.

We all can learn from Seth. He has something of value to share, and what he shares resonates. No wonder, at his age and his track record, he still is in demand and would be the main feature of many major conferences. Similarly, content creators can learn from Seth. To gain an audience and build communities is not to be obsessed with clicks and to sensationalize and comment on every crazy thing happening in the world. This way, they can sleep better at night because they’re trying to make the world less angry and a better place.



(Francis Kong’s podcast “Inspiring Excellence” is now available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or other podcast streaming platforms).


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