Meatball Sundae By Seth Godin – A Book Review

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I just finished reading Seth Godin‘s latest book, Meatball Sundae. As "messy, disgusting" as Seth Godin describes a Meatball Sundae, this one tasted exquisite. While I typically don’t run book reviews on this Six Pixels of Separation Blog, I could not resist. I love business books. I miss the Montreal Business Book Review group meet-ups and I’m hopeful that Seth will agree to take part in a conversation for an upcoming episode of Foreword Thinking – The Business And Motivational Book Review Podcast (who knows, maybe I’ll even cross-post it to the Six Pixels of Separation Podcast).

Seth had a banner year. From the growth of his new venture, Squidoo, to getting his very own action figure, Seth was also named the top speaker that Marketing professionals turn to… and now the release of his latest book, Meatball Sundae.

Here’s how Seth describes a Meatball Sundae:

"The result of combining two perfectly good items that don’t go well together.

The meatballs are the basic staples, the things that people need, the stuff that used to be marketed quite effectively with TV ads and other mass-market techniques.

The topping is the New Marketing. MySpace, Web sites, YouTube, permission marketing, and viral techniques are all part of the magic that makes up the top of the sundae."

But next up is the most telling story of what’s happening in Marketing today:

"It’s not an accident that almost all brands, products, and careers that have succeeded with New Marketing are brand new and fresh. The New Marketing demands more than a meatball. It insists on a reinvention of the entire organization and the products it creates. Marketing is now about a lot more than just the yodelling. It’s about the entire package. What you say as much as how you say it. New Marketing is our future. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work so well with meatballs."

The biggest problem with reviewing a Seth Godin book is that the review is usually more complex than the book itself. Seth writes in a simple, playful and humorous way. If you have any passion for Marketing, you’ll tear through the 230-pages in a breeze. The biggest challenge with Seth Godin books is that he opens up many cans of worms. He turns on the flashlight in the dark and dingy apartment that is Marketing, and you can see all the cockroaches run for the hills. It’s the stuff we know about the Marketing industry but never say. Meatball Sundae is less about Marketing and much more about business philosophy – how things have changed… and how (most) companies have not.

One of my favourite Seth Godin books is, Survival Is Not Enough, and Meatball Sundae follows in its path. Meatball Sundae (like Survival Is Not Enough) makes two simple (but challenging) realizations:

1. None of the stuff Seth talks about will work if your product/service is not memorable (think Purple Cow).

2. It’s the people within the organization who, ultimately, must respect the Consumers and deliver real solutions (that’s you). 

Through fourteen trends that have changed the Marketing landscape, Seth validates his theories with real-life case studies and examples (ones that worked… and ones that didn’t). Can a big company adapt to the New Marketing rules and avoid the Meatball Sundae as easily as a new or smaller company? Seth thinks so, but it does take a dramatic shift in how the business thinks (not just the Marketing). Personally, we’ve already seen many great business examples of companies that have scaled (Google, eBay, craigslist, etc…) leveraging the fourteen trends that Seth brings forward in Meatball Sundae.

The big win in reading Meatball Sundae? personal motivation.

Seth is a master at telling dramatic and simple stories that motivate. In reading business profile books on companies like Starbucks and Wal-Mart, there’s always that feeling of "I could never do that." Meatball Sundae is an "I can do that" and "anyone can do that" type of book. A message like this can only be delivered by one person… and that’s Seth Godin.

As Marketers panic over the New Marketing channel, Meatball Sundae is the voice of reason. Simple, practical, funny, quick and profound. If you’re reading this Blog, getting yourself (and everyone on your team) a copy of Meatball Sundae is a no-brainer. I’d also love to know what you think about Seth Godin’s Meatball Sundae. I think it’s one of his best.

Oh, and while you’re out getting yourself a copy of Meatball Sundae, pick one up for your boss as well.


  1. Hi Mitch, great review! But as a fan of Seth Godin myself, this is to be expected. I don’t know if the book’s out in Singapore yet, but I’ve read the excerpts on the Squidoo page.
    IMHO, I’m a little less impressed about this book because these observations he’s made have been made by many marketing bloggers for quite a while now regarding new media and opportunities online, it just doesn’t come across as timeless as Purple Cow.
    But still, I’m going out to get that book soon. It’s good advise and I can’t agree more with your personal motivation point. =)

  2. Thanks for your comment Benjamin.
    When I was in the music industry, there was always the running story that there are only 7 notes in music – but it’s what the person does with them that makes it so original.
    When people like Seth Godin write a book like Meatball Sundae, they’re not trying to tell people like you and I anything we don’t know. He’s trying to tell those who don’t follow the New Marketing space what we know.
    I think we have to be able to read a book like Meatball Sundae and reflect on the areas of our own that need improvement, while introducing the skeptics to the concepts.

  3. Mitch,
    Great post. I was lucky enough to hear Seth and David M. Scott on a webinar talking about the book. It was a great learning experience and I share their insights with all the folks that deal with here at PRWeb.

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