What made sliced bread so damn great?

This, literally, is the question that drives what’s widely considered one of the most remarkable TED Talks of all time: Seth Godin’s How to Get Your Ideas to Spread.

The answer is simultaneously exactly what you expect and not. It was the convenience. It was the consistency. But most of all, what made sliced bread so damn great was that one company found a way to convince potential customers that convenience and consistency mattered.

What’s important to realise is that the company had nothing to do with the man who invented and patented the automation process through which the bread was sliced. His name was Otto Frederick Rohwedder, and before today you hadn’t even heard of him. You had heard of Wonder though; the brand whose work made sliced bread popular 18 years after Rohwedder designed his process.

The product was exactly the same, but Wonder recognised that to get consumers interested in what they were selling, it had to be different, and that difference had to provide clear benefit to the customers to spark their interest.

In short, Godin explains, it had to be “remarkable”.

Rohwedder had created something that the general public wanted, but it was Wonder that made them realise they wanted it. That is why the latter is almost 100 years old, and the former an answer on trivia night.

Marketing has changed dramatically since the 1920s. Customers have more choices, but less time to consider them, and what Godin calls the “TV industrial complex” – the supreme hub of advertising between the mid-to-late 20th century – has grown weak. Yet the fundamentals that Wonder exemplified remain the same.

To ensure your ideas are shared, no matter the form they take, they must be remarkable. They must speak to a passion, an obsession, a hole in a customer’s world yearning to be filled. Only then will they be talked about.

Godin’s talk provides a wealth of great examples – both those that succeeded, and those that failed. From giant cars to buckets of paint, he explains each with such succinctness and humour that you’ll be begging for more.

Here’s the thing though – you don’t need it. The message is clear.

Be bold. Be different. Be remarkable.

Be great.

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