Book Review: Free Prize Inside by Seth Godin

Free Prize Inside by Set Godin is subtitled “How to Make a Purple Cow”. If you’re familiar with Seth Godin’s ideas, you know that a Purple Cow is his term for a remarkable product. He has another book entitled Purple Cow that shows the “what” of Purple Cow’s, and this book shows the “how”.

The book has three main section

1) The Premise
Seth talks about how the two traditional ways corporations make sales, advertising and big innovation, aren’t reliable. Advertising used to work, but media spends these days are getting more unreliable and difficult (he only mentions TV and print advertising and doesn’t really touch on online ads much). Big innovation – making large investments in creating an innovative new product – is very risky. He advocates a new way of doing things – soft innovation. Soft innovation causes the product to be the marketing. Create something that people want to share and talk about and you don’t need to advertise.

2) Being a Champion for Soft Innovations
Here Seth talks about how to take an idea and actually get it implemented in an organization. I wasn’t very interested in this section since I work in a two person company, so championing an idea isn’t that difficult for me :) He talks about how to get people to believe in you and get people to get on board with an idea. A soft innovation without a person to champion in it from idea to implementation won’t survive in a company.

3) How to Find Soft Innovations
Seth introduces something called “Edgecraft” in which you take a single dimension of a product and push it to the limit. For example, take the way you treat customers at a restaurant. You can eliminate all reservations and treat everyone equally – first come first served. Or you can make reservations very difficult to get and not allow anyone without an reservation through the door. Either one may get people talking about your restaurant and suddenly you have a Free Prize that makes your business grow.

I do like the idea of Edgecraft. It seems like a fairly good alternative to traditional brainstorming for easily come up with some new ideas. I was able to think of a few neat alternatives to some of the websites I run pretty quickly. Most of the ideas in the book talked about retail stores and physical products, so most of them are not directly applicable to websites, but the framework still works.

This is a fairly short book (185 pages without the extensive notes) and not very dense, so it was a very quick read. It is good for getting some ideas for products and how to push them, particularly if you are working at a large corporation. Unfortunately, though, I don’t think I would recommend this book for most web publishers.

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