Art of Message

Art of Message – June 1, 2023

An example of not wasting words

Who doesn’t love progressive disclosure  in our long ass multi-step forms, long essays, and Audible books – one easy to understand section at a time. As well as “progress indication” – so we know where we’re at.

Turbotax does this superbly well with its multi-step forms – we aspire to that standard over at Message Maps.

There’s a lost art to breaking something down into lots of palatable pieces – people were better at it in the 1800s judging from the chapter structure of Moby Dick (185 chapters) and many others.

And not just “chapter 1”, “chapter 2” – no, there unique and descriptive titles for each chapter. Just like a well designed LLM prompt, you don’t waste words; each is a chance to provide more context.

Seth Godin’s book This Is Marketing brings back the old style – it has 235 chapters and sections (and they’re on Audible too – which is rare).

The addendum to this post, below, is the chapters themselves of this fascinating book – enjoy.

(And tell me if you know who the last chapter is about).


This Is Marketing

How Tall Is Your Sunflower?

It’s Not Going to Market Itself

Marketing Isn’t Just Selling Soap

The Market Decides

How to Know if You Have a Marketing Problem

The Answer to a Movie

Marketing Your Work Is a Complaint on The Way to Better

Chapter One: Not Mass, Not Spam, Not Shameful . . .

The Compass Points Toward Trust

Marketing Is Not a Battle, and It’s Not a War, or Even a Contest

The Magic of Ads Is a Trap that Keeps Us from Building a Useful Story

On Getting the Word Out (Precisely the Wrong Question)

Shameless Marketers Brought Shame to the Rest of Us

The Lock and the Key

Marketing Doesn’t Have to Be Selfish

Case Study: Penguin Magic

You’re Not a Cigar-Smoking Fat Cat

It’s Time

Chapter Two: The Marketer Learns to See

Marketing in Five Steps

This Is Marketing: An Executive Summary

Things Marketers Know

Chapter Three: Marketing Changes People Through Stories, Connections, and Experience

Case Study: Vision Spring—Selling Glasses to People Who Need Them

Consider the SUV

That Riff About the Quarter-Inch Drill Bit

People Don’t Want What You Make

Stories, Connections, and Experiences

Market-Driven: Who’s Driving the Bus?

The Myth of Rational Choice

Chapter Four: The Smallest Viable Market

What Change Are You Trying to Make?

What Promise Are You Making?

Who Are You Seeking to Change?

Worldviews and Personas

Forcing a Focus

Specific Is a Kind of Bravery

Shun the Nonbelievers!

Where Does Love Lie?

“Winner Take All” Rarely Is

A Simple One-Word Transformation

Coloring the Ocean Purple

“It’s Not for You”

The Comedian’s Dilemma

The Simple Marketing Promise

Case Study: The Open Heart Project

Chapter Five: In Search of “Better”

Empathy Is at The Heart of Marketing

A Million-Dollar Bargain

Thinking About “Better”

Better Isn’t up To You

The Marketing of Dog Food

Early Adopters Are Not Adapters: They Crave the New

An Aside About the Reptile People Who Are Secretly Running Things

Humility and Curiosity

Case Study: Be More Chill—More than One Way to Make a Hit

What’s a Car For?

Too Many Choices

Positioning as a Service

Choose Your Axes, Choose Your Future

So Many Choices

People Are Waiting for You

Your Freedom

The Freedom of Better

One Last Thing About Sonder

Chapter Six: Beyond Commodities

Problem First

Does It Work?

The Commodity Suckout

“You Can Choose Anyone, and We’re Anyone”

When You Know What You Stand For, You Don’t Need to Compete

But Your Story Is a Hook

Case Study: Stack Overflow Is Better

Better Is up to the Users, Not up to You

And We Serve Coffee

The Authentic, Vulnerable Hero


Authenticity versus Emotional Labor

Who’s Talking?

Chapter Seven: The Canvas of Dreams and Desires

What Do People Want?

Innovative Marketers Invent New Solutions that Work with Old Emotions

Nobody Needs Your Product

No One Is Happy to Call a Real Estate Broker

Where’s the Angry Bear?

What Do You Want?

Always Be Testing


If You Had to Charge Ten Times as Much

Irresistible Is Rarely Easy or Rational

Chapter Eight: More of the Who: Seeking the Smallest Viable Market

The Virtuous Cycle and Network Effects

The Most Effective Remarkability Comes from Design

And Then a Miracle Happens

A Thousand True Fans

But What About Hamilton?

What Would Jerry Do?

Taylor Swift Is Not Your Role Model

All Critics Are Right (All Critics Are Wrong)

Why Don’t People Choose You?

Chapter Nine: People Like Us Do Things Like This

Deep Change Is Difficult, and Worth It

People Like Us (Do Things Like This)

Case Study: The Blue Ribbons

The Internal Narrative

Defining “Us”

Which Us?

It Shouldn’t Be Called “the Culture”

Just Enough Art

Case Study: Gay Marriage in Ireland

Elite and/or Exclusive

Case Study: Robin Hood Foundation

The Standing Ovation

Roots and Shoots

Chapter Ten: Trust and Tension Create Forward Motion

Pattern Match/Pattern Interrupt

Tension Can Change Patterns

What Are You Breaking?

Tension Is Not the Same as Fear

Marketers Create Tension, and Forward Motion Relieves that Tension

Are You Ready to Create Tension?

How the Status Quo Got that Way

Chapter Eleven: Status, Dominance, and Affiliation

Baxter Hates Truman

It’s Not Irrational; Status Makes It the Right Choice

Status Roles: The Godfather and the Undertaker

Status Lets Us

Case Study: Lions and Maasai Warriors

The Status Dynamic Is Always at Work

Status Is Not the Same as Wealth

Six Things About Status

Frank Sinatra Had More than A Cold

Learning to See Status

Different Stories for Different People

Affiliation and Dominion Are Different Ways to Measure Status

Learning from Pro Wrestling

The Alternative to Dominion Is Affiliation

Fashion Is Usually About Affiliation

Sending Dominance Signals

Sending Affiliation Signals

Affiliation or Dominance Is up to the Customer, Not You

Chapter Twelve: A Better Business Plan

Where Are You Going? What’s Holding You Back?

Perhaps You’ve Seen the Shift

A Glib Reverse Engineering of Your Mission Statement Isn’t Helpful

Chapter Thirteen: Semiotics, Symbols, and Vernacular

Can You Hear Me Now?

What Does This Remind You Of?

Hiring a Professional

Imagine that World . . .

Why Is Nigerian Spam so Sloppy?

The Flags on SUVs Are Called Flares

The Flag Is Not for Everyone

The Same and the Different

Case Study: Where’s Keith?

We Add the Flags with Intent

Are Brands for Cattle?

Does Your Logo Matter?

Chapter Fourteen: Treat Different People Differently

In Search of the Neophiliacs


What Do People Want?

The Superuser

The Truth About Customer Contribution

What’s the Purpose of This Interaction?

Chapter Fifteen: Reaching the Right People

Goals, Strategy, and Tactics

Advertising Is a Special Case, an Optional Engine for Growth

More than Ever, but Less than Ever

What Does Attention Cost? What Is It Worth?

Brand Marketing Makes Magic; Direct Marketing Makes the Phone Ring

A Simple Guide to Online Direct Marketing

A Simple Guide to Brand Marketing


Search Engine Optimization and the Salt Mines

Chapter Sixteen: Price Is a Story

Pricing Is a Marketing Tool, Not Simply a Way to Get Money

Different Prices (Different People)

“Cheap” Is Another Way to Say “Scared”

And What About Free?

Trust and Risk, Trust and Expense

Be Generous with Change and Brave with Your Business

Case Study: No Tipping at USHG

Chapter Seventeen: Permission and Remarkability in a Virtuous Cycle

Permission Is Anticipated, Personal, and Relevant

Earn Your Own Permission and Own It

Tuma Basa and RapCaviar

Showing Up with Generosity

Transform Your Project by Being Remarkable

Offensive/Juvenile/Urgent/Selfish Is Not the Same Thing as Purple

Suspending Fight Club Rules

Designing for Evangelism

Chapter Eighteen: Trust Is as Scarce as Attention

What’s Fake?

What’s Trusted, Who’s Trusted?

The Trust of Action

Famous to the Tribe

Public Relations and Publicity

Chapter Nineteen: The Funnel

Trust Isn’t Static

You Can Fix Your Funnel

Funnel Math: Casey Neistat

The Sustainable Direct Marketing Funnel

An Aside on Funnel Math

The Truth About Your Funnel

Life on the Long Tail

The April Fools’ Passover Birthday Easter Shirt

There’s a Way Out

Bridging the Chasm

Where’s Your Bridge?

Surviving the Chasm

You Might Not Find the Bridge

Case Study: Facebook and Crossing the Biggest Chasm

Crossing the Local Chasm

Clean Water in a Local Village

An Aside About B2B Marketing

Chapter Twenty: Organizing and Leading a Tribe

It’s Not Your Tribe

The Power of Now, Not Later

Manipulation Is the Tribe Killer

Shared Interests, Shared Goals, Shared Language

It Will Fade if You Let It

Take a Room in Town

Chapter Twenty-One: Some Case Studies Using the Method

How Do I Get an Agent?

Tesla Broke the Other Cars First

The NRA as a Role Model

Getting the Boss to Say Yes

Chapter Twenty-Two: Marketing Works, and Now It’s Your Turn

The Tyranny of Perfect

The Possibility of Better

The Magic of Good Enough


Chapter Twenty-Three: Marketing to the Most Important Person

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