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Food for Thought: #Inbound15 and Seth Godin

Jon Sasala

Jon Sasala
Published September 09, 2015

We’re driving to Boston for Inbound 2015, a six hour exodus toward the conference heard ‘round the world for those in the know for all things HubSpot. A rest stop beckons off 1-95 Northbound. It promises a bathroom. There’s a Panera Bread.

Which gets me thinking. (This is a marketing conference we’re headed to, after all.)

Panera Bread. To me, this restaurant has always been a badass concept. In an age of hyper carb-scare, for a restaurant to come out with the word “bread” in its very name for goodness sakes is something that, for all intents and purposes, for everything we think we know about branding and trends, should not work.

And yet, here we were, on line behind countless others for our bread bowl.

It obviously works. But why?

That’s a million dollar answer that any businessperson would love to be privy to. I came a bit closer to it however when I reached what served as Mecca, the Boston Convention Center where Inbound15 was held.

Inbound15 is a four-day event that features thought leaders in the digital marketing space preaching their know-how to a choir of like-minded enthusiasts. With five inspiring keynotes from such noted industry titans as Seth Godin, Brene Brown, Aziz Ansari, Brian Halligan, Dharmesh Shah, and Daniel Pink, rockstars like Chelsea Clinton and (my personal favorite, Lawn Guyland shout-out) Amy Schumer, more than 170 educational sessions and ten THOUSAND attendees, Inbound15 promises to stimulate our business and marketing senses into a frenzy.

Inbound15 kicked off last night with a keynote from best-selling author Seth Godin, whose blog is so popular that you can find it by typing his first name into Google. Try it. I’ll wait.

Godin spoke about the need to take responsibility in such a way that assumes risk. In order to make change (the goal we’re all here for), we have to be willing to give away credit and take responsibility. If we can accomplish this not-so-simple task, the world of possibility opens up to us.

We know that nothing great happens without great risk. We see it in our lives. We’ve witnessed it in our work lives (if we’re lucky.)

The message of Godin’s keynote was inspiring. But it wasn’t until he said something else that I was completely blown away. He was talking about businesses like DryBar, a blow-drying studio chain that turns people away who do not make appointment, who want a haircut, who try to use a coupon. This rapidly growing company is succeeding by doing everything we’re told not to do. Is their customer always right? No. Do they appeal to everyone? No.

Godin then went right into my head by talking about the restaurant industry. He said, “When Danny Meyer created Shake Shack, he didn’t try to make a cheaper burger than McDonalds. He made something that some people won't wait on line for. Which means he made something some people will wait in line for."

By creating a market that specifically does not appeal to everyone –carb-watchers, for instance –you create a channel of exclusivity for others. There’s value in saying to some potential customers, we are not right for you.

Food for thought. Let’s see what Day 2 brings.

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