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Customer Review

on October 3, 2000
Hats off to the author for practicing what he preaches. "Free" was exactly what I needed to engage in this virtual buy-in. I regret that I just couldn't buy the concepts.
I'll limit my criticism to three issues. First, I can only conclude from the author's logic that every successful product/service is an ideavirus. On page 36 he introduces the OXO brand vegetable peeler as an ideavirus. Others include Polaroid brand instant cameras, Carmine's Restaurant, Beanie Babies, Moser Furniture and Tommy Hilfiger. If it's popular and a lot of people want it-which of course makes folks talk about it-you've got yourself an ideavirus. According to the author, the difference between this and word-of-mouth promotion is (1) the transmission medium and (2) the duration. He says, "...word of mouth tends to spread slower, be more analog....word of mouth dies off" (p. 31). These differences seem arbitrary--at least underdeveloped--however true to the pervasive obsession with things digital. The entire book would be easier to handle if the author didn't try to apply the concepts to every ostensibly successful venture.
Second, wholesale advertising bashing, which can be found in "Permission Marketing," appears again. The lockstep mantra equating marketing with advertising is unfortunate. The author's exuberance served as an early-and unnecessary-inoculation to the ideavirus.
Third, while the author never pretends that the foundational concepts upon which he draws are his original ideas, my academic training makes it difficult to quietly accept the lack of attention to the original authors and works from which this "manifesto" is really created. Godin defines a manifesto as "a powerful, logical `essay' that assembles a bunch of existing ideas and creates a new one" (page 13). I believe creating a new manifesto is better served when the old manifestos are acknowledged with sufficient detail. Indeed, many missing concepts from original works would have improved the ideavirus. Rather than just pulling a graph from the 1990's work by Geoffrey Moore, decades of insight on the adoption curve could have been drawn upon from any of Everett Rogers' books, most recently the fifth edition of his "Diffusion of Innovations." Rogers and other researchers detail the characteristic differences between innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards. Godin lumps together the first two adoption groups and obscures helpful knowledge related to the "chasm" that an ideavirus must traverse. Also, competitive advantage concepts can be traced to Michael Porter and beyond. Positioning concepts used in the ideavirus can be traced at least to Trout and Ries; and branding to David Aaker and others. I realize Godin never intended to write a dissertation, but even a little homework may have put some meat on this skeletal work.
Seth Godin is to be admired. He's mastered much and has the track record to prove his prowess. I openly admit my dot.com envy. My general problem with this book and others like it is that it feeds on the hype of the global digital obsession only to deliver the same one-dimensional perspective that preceded the current reality check now hitting the dot.com world.
NOTE: Page references taken from the .PDF version.
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