TED Talks Every Marketer Should Watch

Here at Bamboo Nine we are constantly growing, adapting and learning new things. Marketing is a fast-paced and rapidly changing industry, which means we need to constantly keep on top of researching, studying and discovering. A great way to learn new things is to invest some time in listening to TED Talks. You can find these miniature lectures online. TED talks are non-profit conferences where leading thinkers discuss big ideas, their experiences and innovations in their respective fields. It is motivational, it is inspiring and it is educational.

The project was originally conceived as a forum for technology, entertainment and design (hence, TED) but it has now expanded to include topics ranging across the human experience. It encourages discussions, conversation and food-for-thought on nearly every topic under the sun. The talks have been praised for their ability to take complex concepts and deliver them in ways that are digestible for everyday audiences. As marketers, TED talks are great examples of injecting compelling narratives into abstract sets of concepts.

Below are a few examples of my favourites, that each have something valuable to teach those of us working in marketing.

Malcolm Gladwell: Choice, Happiness, and Spaghetti Sauce

Malcolm Gladwell is a very relatable and natural speaker. I listened to this TED talk only recently and was so inspired. Malcolm Gladwell’s speech from 2006 was a watershed moment for both TED talks and the national discourse on marketing. Although Gladwell is an outsider to the marketing world, he uses this – coupled with his uncanny ability to turn technical strategies into engaging stories – to his great advantage.

In this talk, he tells the story of a man named Howard Moskowitz who literally changed the marketing game in food industry forever. He was a revolutionary who simply thought outside of the box and in the process, changed everything. Gladwell encourages you to focus on marketing as a movement from the search for universals to the understanding variability. What this means is, we don’t just want to know how cancer works, we want to know how everyone’s cancer is unique to them. Howard is suggesting that this same revolution needs to happen in the world of marketing. That in embracing the diversity of human beings, we will find a sure way to true happiness.

All of this is explained in the TED talk through humorous, yet symbolic, stories that clearly put everything into perspective. Essentially, this talk is teaching people to think outside of the box. Nothing could be more relevant to successful marketing than thinking outside of the box. It’s how we keep our businesses interesting and desirable to customers.

Seth Godin: The Tribes We Lead

Seth Godin is another great speaker on marketing tactics and its effects. He argues that as humans, we have this desire to make some big, permanent, important change. We are driven to be different from others in our field, to stand out, to make a difference. Godin focuses on the human narrative of how ideas are generated and how they are spread. Tribes have been around since the beginning of humanity and Godin takes this example to explain how tribes of people as a sociocultural grouping mechanism are representative of ideological groups in the 21st century.
Godin argues that the best way to change everything is to commit. Create a movement, something that matters and start. Godin focuses on the interesting and compelling way people are challenging the status quo, building their brand and telling a brilliant story all the while. It is a very motivational talk about acting and running with your ideas. Many people are inspired by create and wonderful ideas and they talk about them constantly but never put them into action.

Ethan Decker: We’re All in Marketing: What Evolution Tells Us About Advertising 

Ethan Decker talks about marketing as advertising. He states at the beginning that he originally saw advertising as ‘the dirty profession’, famous for snake oil salesmen and a consumerist culture full of lies. However, he then found a job in advertising and began his own journey from his beginning in human evolution and ecology into marketing. Decker shares how this journey taught him that we are all in advertising of some form and that’s a good thing.

Often, we spend so much time thinking about how marketing words that we have taken out eye off a more important question, how do people work? Decker compares our human advertising with that of nature. Curious, I know. But you must listen to the talk to find out how exactly he makes this bizarre, yet completely plausible connection.

Derek Sivers: Weird, or just different? 

Sivers challenges our assumptions about what is normal. For example, in Japan they do not have street names and the houses do not go in a notable order, they are simply numbered in the order that they were built. Is that weird or is it just different? In his short talk, Sivers gives us a few examples of how two cultures conduct a simple task quite differently, proving the point that we each have our own normal reality and we all respond to different things.

Creating content that you understand is easy, but will it make sense to your audience? What will certain phrases or ideas mean to those in different countries? This talk challenges us to see things differently as well as educating us on the ways other cultures think.

Jerry Kane: Social Media…You Haven’t Seen Anything Yet

Jerry Kane presents his evidence on how social media is taking over our lives. It is hard to believe that social media could have any larger impact on society than it already has, yet that’s exactly what Kane thinks. In his talk, Kane explores the evolution and power of social media, while giving us glimpses of things to come.

Kane is a social media expert, he has been studying social media for about eight years and is an Associate Professor of Information Systems at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management and Guest Editor for Social Business at MIT Sloan Management Review. He explains how there is actually no such thing as social media. With a variety of new social media platforms being released every day, it is difficult to pin down exactly what social media is. He explains that social media is just the internet. It is exactly what the internet was always supposed to be and it is simply a result of technological evolution. It is a very interesting talk and certainly helpful for understanding the social side of marketing.

These are just a few of the numbers of the inspiring TED talks that are available online. However, they are enriching and well worth a listen. Marketing causes us to keep on learning. If we don’t, we will get left behind. So, give these TED talks a listen and be inspired! Are there any awesome TED talks out there, marketing related or not, that you would like to recommend to us? We would love to hear from you in the comments below!