Meatball Sundae Book Review

POSTED BY   James Dearsley
20th October 2015
Meatball Sundae Book Review

Meatball Sundae Seth Godin

Seth Godin’s Meatball Sundae

Even the thought of trying to eat a meatball sundae turns my stomach and suppose that same feeling can be said about “old school marketing”that many companies still use today.

As we are well aware, marketing has turned on it’s head and internet have provided marketers with the tools to target their audience with less effort and with less capital. This “new form of marketing” is described by Seth are at the top of the sundae or where the magic happens.

In contrast, the other part of the recipe, the meatballs, which are classed as the basic staples that people need, basically the content that used to be the primary way of marketing to a mass audience, TV.

The problem is when you put both new and old marketing techniques into a blender you just end up with a sloppy mess and which you have to sieve out those new marketing techniques from the ones that were commonly used forty years ago. As Seth quite rightly points out, new marketing is our future and unfortunately, it doesn’t work so well with meatballs.

There are so many takeaways from this book that I don’t want to spoil it if you plan (no I mean you SHOULD buy this book), you’ll notice Seth’s way of writing in a simplistic and at times humourous manner (he seems to do the same in his speeches – this one is my favourite – click here). His approach makes you enter all kind of places that you have might have not have necessarily thought of as a marketer.

For example, one thing in particular that stands out is to consider the 1 percent. Seth refers to Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba’s book Citizen Marketer that mentions that in just about every community, 1 percent of the people are givers.  He then gives another example of how one per cent of Wikipedia users edit and create articles and the same example for Microsoft’s Channel 9 site which gets four and a half million visitors a month and around one per cent contribute to comments. The same principle works for the likes of Reddit and Youtube, although it is fair to say that both platforms have continued to grow since this book was written but you get the idea. What’s interesting is that this one per cent you don’t know who they are – you don’t know if they are potential customers or if they will loyal to your brand.

In my opinion, Seth has it spot on here, it is like playing Russian Roulette. You have to play the guessing game and assume that every chamber is loaded and that every interaction you have, that interaction comes with a critic.


Case Studies

Seth uses quite a few of case study examples in the book, so I thought it made sense to add some to the book review, mainly for inspiration.

The first case study I am going to start off with is Moleskine. For those of you who may not have heard of them, they make small blank notebooks. As Seth points out, “A brand-new, blank Moleskine is filled with possibilities. It makes you feel intelligent, powerful, and bursting with potential.”

So what’s Moleskine’s secret? They’ve used new marketing. A Moleskine product starts with a story, and every book has its own story. In addition, the company blog gets thousands of visitors, each blog post has an illustration of some sort, whether it is a doodle or a line drawing, people’s ideas for new designs is still popular than ever.

Above: A recent example of how Moleskin interacts with its audience


What I found particularly interesting about this brand is that Armand Frasco (who looks after the company blog) has no official relationship with Modo and Modo, the company who make Moleskines. Armand didn’t get paid for uploading lots of amazing content onto the site, however, in the end he became so successful at defining the Moleskin brand that in the end that Modo and Modo bought his site.

The question is therefore “How do I find someone like Armand?” As Seth mentions in the book. However, he changes the question to – “How do we create a product that someone like Armand becomes obsessed with?”

To sum Moleskine up, it is a brand with an authentic story. It’s a product where people can show their design ideas and it is also a product people want to talk about whether that’s on or offline. It’s more than just a notebook, it is a souvenir for people to look back at their ideas and feel inspired, with each one telling their very own story.


The final case study that I thought was worth mentioning was Squidoo. Squidoo was a community website platform that was founded in 2005 and was created by Seth and some fellow colleagues. The platform allowed users to created “lenses” which could be then used to sell products for a profit or alternatively for a charitable donation.

In the first year then spent less than five thousand dollars on marketing. Despite this tiny spend and a lot of their money going on trade shows, at one point, Squidoo ranked higher than the Wall Street Journal. In 2014 Hubpages acquired the site.

So what were the takeaways from this case study? Seth admits that deep down the company knew they weren’t in charge. He mentions that they simply didn’t have the money to command people to listen to us. Their solution was to focus on creating an environment where other people could have a conversation – but not only a conversation, a conversation that was valued on their site.

Moreover, they focused on “me”. This is something that Seth and his team focused on every step of their Squidoo journey, they understood that consumers are overwhelmed  with choices, so therefore allowing users to create multimedia pages without having to know any HTML code definitely gave them a huge edge.

Lastly, Seth and his team learned how to run a big company with a minimal amount of staff. Four members of staff were at Squidoo and they were handling millions of visitors on a daily basis. End of the day you don’t have to have a mass amount of employees to create something big. Seth has clearly proved this. They also dealt with their own customer service between the four of them. End of the day, as he mentions in his book, “Consumers are in charge. They’re bored. They’re narcissistic. And they certainly don’t have the patience for your meetings or your strategy decks or your clueless CEO.” As harsh as this may sound, it is certainly is true and this goes back to the company being focused on “me”.



One thing I loved about the book was how easy it was to pick up read and the way Godin assesses current markets and businesses you can see why he has been so successful. Even though this book was originally written in 2007 (So I believe) and mentions platforms such MySpace for example, it is still current for today. I think it is particularly interesting that even today in 2015, brands are still struggling, maybe in different ways compared with what they were doing in 2007. These brands, however, have more of an opportunity than ever before to get rid of that disgusting meatball sundae and create something organic and fresh, with that extra cherry on top. The only way to get people to try your delicious recipe is to spread your message and ideas to groups of people rather than just delivering them to selected individuals. End of the day an idea that is spread with full of passion through a community leads to change – this really is powerful than any other advertisement could ever be. Will it blend? Go out there and test it!

Meatball Sundae Book Review

James Dearsley

James Dearsley is the Founder and MD of TDMB. In addition to his work with us, he is also a renowned expert in PropTech, and was recently voted the most influential person in PropTech. An impassioned speaker and advocate of technology, particularly in the Property industry, his other interests include beekeeping, real ale, green trousers, and (currently) growing a beard. You can contact James directly via Twitter or LinkedIn, or tweet the TDMB team directly.

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