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Music Reviews and Features
Dion Dimucci

Lester Bangs in Buffalo

Lester Bangs in "Almost Famous"

The Cure In Concert

Pearl Jam In Concert

History of Warner Brothers Music

Creolina's Cajun/Creole

People's Bar-B-Que and Soul Food


Originally published on Monday, June 28, 2004 in The Miami Herald

Thinking outside (and inside) the box.
The innovative Seth Godin hits the mark once again.

Free Prize Inside. Seth Godin. Portfolio. 288 pages

It's no secret that I'm a fan of Seth Godin. I've reviewed his last several books quite favorably and will most likely continue to do so until and unless he puts one out that disappoints me or otherwise bores, burns me and wastes my time. Even then, I'd be inclined to give him another chance.


Because he's created a brand. I know that if I pick up one of Godin's tomes, I'm going to receive good insights, have an entertaining experience and learn new ways to think about old things. Plus, there will be lots of little, almost-subliminal asides about great places for Thai food, unique ski resorts, hamburger joints, web sites and other below-the-radar revelations, all presented in a breezy, serious-but-whimsical writing style that conveys intelligence, worldliness and sophistication without disdaining the gee-whiz aspects of technology and humanity.

I also respect Godin because he eats his own cooking, or in other words, walks it like he talks it. With this book, for example, he embraces its title and inherent message by packaging the text within a cereal box so the book itself is the free prize inside — almost. More about that later.

Godin is also unafraid of giving away lots of free content. One of his bestsellers, "Unleashing The Ideavirus" is still available online for free here though you're welcome to buy a hard copy if you like, and purchasers of the current book are entitled to download a neat e-book called Really Bad PowerPoint.

Record companies ought to hire Godin as a consultant so he can explain to them (using monosyllabic words, of course) why and how they can make money from downloaders instead of suing them. But I digress just as Godin does, and that's the other good thing about this book: So many things in our world seem unrelated, but that's just our unnatural tendency to put each item in its own little box. With his apt observations, Godin proves once again that he's a uniter and not a divider.

Though outwardly a marketing book, Free Prize Inside is really a tutorial on a lot of things, but innovation more than anything else. Its best point is that good ideas are not enough. There is no shortage of them, in fact. It's their development and implementation that's the challenge.
Godin begins with the notion that traditional advertising is dead, or at best, a walking ghost and that the best way for a product to survive and thrive is to be really cool or very, very good and attract fans, not just customers. But that was the premise of his last little epic, Purple Cow, so what's new?'

He spends much of the new book explaining how to navigate through the politics of corporate ideation. Again, having a great idea is not enough; you have to create buy-in within the appropriate constituencies — like your boss — or you're doomed..

The book is packaged both conventionally and within a cereal box, serving as the free prize inside. Several of the people I gave copies to did not want to open their box. Neither did I, so I read another copy I already had. Maybe this mode of packaging is a bad idea, but maybe not. Godin could
potentially sell twice as many books this way. We'll see.

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