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5 Companies, 5 Marketing Challenges: Seth Godin on What's Weighing Down These Winners

Motley Fool Staff, The Motley Fool

Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner may spend a lot of time working for his goal of helping us all invest better, but that's just part of his ambition. Really, he wants to help us all live better, and financial security is just one piece of that. Another piece: introducing us to fascinating new ideas and the authors who share them. So this month, the Rule Breaker Investing podcast's theme is "Authors in August," and to lead off, he's got author, entrepreneur, blogger, and marketing guru Seth Godin, whose popular nonfiction books include The DipPurple Cow, and Free Prize Inside.

In this segment, Gardner lists five of his favorite companies (and not just his -- these are massively popular stocks) and asks Godin for his views on the biggest marketing challenges they may face. Listen in for his thoughts on Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), Facebook (NASDAQ: FB), Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX), and Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA).

A full transcript follows the video.

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This video was recorded on Aug. 1, 2018.

David Gardner: Let's stay with some of the cheaters of our time. In this case, some of my favorite stocks. Not just my favorite stocks, forget about me, these are some of the world's best-known and most admired companies, in some cases. Seth, I'm always curious, who do you admire and what for? I wanted to ask you if you see any big challenges when it comes to marketing for these companies. I have five in mind. Feel free to give me 15-second stingers for each, or whatever you'd like to say. Let's kick it off with Facebook.

Seth Godin: I think day-trading Facebook is a great way to end up in an insane asylum. The long-term view is, do humans want to be digitally connected with a large number of other humans who might be talking about them behind their back? The answer is yes. So, then, the question is, is there a significant disruptor that's going to make it so a different company other than Facebook is going to do that? I don't know. I don't see one coming.

Gardner: Next, No. 2. Any advice or thoughts about Apple?

Godin: Apple used to be an early adopter company for people who had good taste about digital electronics and wanted to use a tool to make things better. They have become the largest and most profitable luxury goods company in history. They've left behind the people who made the thing actually work. So, the opening question for me is, can they keep riding that luxury ratchet when other people are working so hard to bring utility for less to the masses? I'm dubious.

Gardner: Amazon?

Godin: Jeff's one of the smartest people I've ever met. The site was going to be called relentless.com. His relentless approach to turning those three or four ratchets he has is never-ending. They still only sell one out of $X worth of stuff. Again, I don't see something interrupting that, other than an economic cataclysm, in the short run.

Gardner: If you were the head of marketing for the next company, I'm curious what you'd be doing -- Tesla.

Godin: I think, once you move away from the hobbyists and the early adopters, the rest of the market demands a level of maturity and consistency that is difficult for the current CEO to deliver on a daily basis. He's a brilliant inventor and a raconteur and a maker of change. But, if you want everyone to drive a Tesla, that would be fine with me, they're going to have to figure out how to make it palatable to people for whom $55,000 is a very significant investment.

Gardner: Well put. Last, let's go with Netflix.

Godin: Netflix cleared the table. They figured out how to beat Hollywood at its own game. No one has done that successfully in a hundred years, and they did it. I don't know what happens after that. But you have to give them a bow. They reinvented the company three times. Most companies can't even do it once. Three times! The question is, do you spend $5 billion a year on content? When do you stop? We know people want to watch it. The question is the microeconomics of the interactions that you're having with your members.

Gardner: Seth, earlier in the interview, you said -- and I love this, I'm definitely going to be remembering this question that you asked rhetorically earlier -- of you or me or anyone, let's go with corporations -- did you make things better? Of those five companies -- Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Tesla, Netflix -- I won't ask you to rank them by who made things better. You could if you wanted to. But, of those five, which do you think most has made things better?

Godin: The problem with "most" is, now you're multiplying two factors, the number of people and the amount of change. The way the world is most likely to end is, it gets too warm. A billion people in the next 30 years are going to lose their homes. Shifting to solar and electricity, as an idea, is mammothly important to all of us. Have they sold enough cars to do that? Not yet. But, the more people copy them, the more likely it is we go in that direction, then I think we're making good progress.

It's interesting, the idea of making things better. What I'm trying to do as a teacher is go beyond saying, "Seth said this," to, how do I create environments where people want to level up, and then they do level up? The altMBA, the workshop that I run, lasts a month. People in 45 countries have taken it. What we do is get cohorts of 125 people together, and they work for two or three hours a day for a month to transform themselves, the same way Netflix transformed itself. How do we change the way we look at the world? How do we open ourselves up to giving and getting feedback? I just wanted to point out, since we're talking in August, we're only going to have one more session this year. If people are into it, I hope they'll check out altmba.com, because we built it for people like the people who are listening today.

Gardner: That's awesome, and this is a great target audience for you. Thank you very much for sharing that out, and for that work that you've been doing. It's spectacular. It reminds me that you're operating across -- forgive the military metaphor -- so many fronts. It's inspiring, I know to me, and I'm sure to many listening.

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. David Gardner owns shares of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Netflix, and Tesla. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Netflix, and Tesla. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2020 $150 calls on Apple and short January 2020 $155 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.