Against the Grain

Forget big marketing budgets--it's time to think outside the (cereal) box.
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This story appears in the August 2004 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Spending big bucks on advertising and product development is so over, proclaims marketing expert Seth Godin in Free Prize Inside: The Next Big Marketing Idea (Portfolio, $19.95). Today, if you want a successful product, you must include "soft innovation" in the product itself. Soft innovation is innovation anybody can do. It requires initiative and curiosity, as opposed to a Ph.D. in molecular biology. It-or rather the "free prize" of the innovation-will cause the product to sell itself.

Godin presents techniques, tools and tricks for soft innovation. One of the most interesting is "edgecraft," or exaggerating a feature of a product or service to make it remarkable. For instance, make the permanent disposable-disposable digital cameras. Or make the disposable permanent-$2,000 ink pens.

Much of the book deals with navigating corporate politics to get backing for soft innovations, which may be of limited use to entrepreneurs. And the fact that the first edition comes packaged in a cereal box seems more gimmicky than innovative. But the rest is packed with value-a brief, bright and useful approach to innovation as a marketing tool.

Go With the Flow

In the classic Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (HarperCollins, 1990), Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi revealed how performers produce great results while having great fun. In Good Business: Leadership, Flow and the Making of Meaning (Penguin, $14), he shows how three things-setting clear goals, giving feedback and matching challenges to skills-can make an entrepreneur as worthy of a gold medal as any Olympic champion.

Mark Henricks is Entrepreneur's "Smart Moves" columnist.

Edition: July 2017

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