The 7 Best TED Talks That Will Make You a Smarter, More Enlightened Marketer
I recently stumbled across a TED Talk by Simon Sinek on How Great Leaders Inspire Action and it suddenly dawned on me why TED Talks are so powerful.
Sure, they have a lot of great information. And they’re super inspiring. But those aren’t the only reasons why.
TED Talks get us thinking in a way that is completely unfamiliar to our minds.
They challenge our views of the world. They open up passage ways into places we didn’t even know existed. They leave us with a fresh perspective on what’s possible and even push us to change the way we go out our lives.
Sometimes that’s all we need as marketers.
Here are 7 of the best TED Talks that will make you a smarter, more enlightened marketer.
1. Renny Gleeson: 404, The Story of a Page Not Found
Renny Gleeson is quite the accomplished human. He currently leads interactive strategy for ad agency Wieden+Kennedy — earning his B.A. from Yale and eventually his MFA from the University of Pennsylvania.
404, The Story of a Page Not Found is an exploration into why all of the small things matter when it comes to your website, marketing, and your brand values.
Gleeson proves the importance of minute details by showing the importance of 404 pages and why they should be attended to. In short, it’s all about communication.
It’s easy for brands to skip over all of the little things that make up the entirety of the customer journey. From your landing pages and customer service to storytelling and, yes, 404 pages, your brand isn’t just one single experience — it’s the sum of every micro-moment.
Your brand isn’t just one single experience — it’s the sum of every micro-moment.
Taking the time to ensure that your customers are well cared for is a great to show that you value their time (and energy) when they arrive to your website or other digital assets… Even if you’re not home!
That’s, essentially, what the 404 page is all about and why it’s so important. You’re owning up to your mistakes, leaning into transparency, and building trust with your customers one micro-moment at a time.
2. Christopher Bell: Bring on the Female Superheroes!
Dr. Christopher Bell is the Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Communication at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs where he teaches both theory and methodology courses in critical analysis of popular culture.
Bring on the Female Superheroes! is an inspiring talk about the challenges of how society is taught ideologies, for example, like learning how to be a “man” or a “woman” or how to learn to behave in public, or how to act. In other words, how we learn, what we know about other people, and about the world.
In this 2015 TED Talk, Bell talks about the importance of female superheroes.
As brands and marketers, we have the power to shape and influence perceptions, not only for current consumers, but for future generations as well. With great power comes great responsibility. It’s on us to create a media environment in which all genders, nationalities, and affiliations can thrive.
Plus, studies show that diverse teams create better work!
It makes sense that bringing in a variety of perspectives, cultures, and inputs will create a world in which the media isn’t dominated by one group or another.
As I mentioned in the beginning, some TED Talks are meant to challenge your view of the world and get you thinking in a different light. This is one of those TED Talks.
3. Sheena Iyengar: How to Make Choosing Easier
Known for her research on choice, culture, and innovation, Sheena Iyengar is a Professor of Business at Columbia Business School and the Faculty Director of the Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center.
Research shows that the average human makes more than 70 decisions per day. You might think with all of these opportunities to make a decision that we’d be experts as choosing quickly and correctly. However, Sheena’s research shows that the opposite is often true. In her TED Talk, Sheena suggests 4 techniques you can use to improve decision making in customers.
Today customers are faced with choice overload — often paralyzed by the sheer amount of options out there. And when people are faced with too many choices in the decision-making process, they tend to become disengaged, make poor choices, and often end up dissatisfied with the choices they make.
Sheena discusses the 3 main consequences of offering people too many choices
Engagement : They tend to procrastinate
Quality: They tend to make worse choices
Satisfaction : They are less happy with their choice, even if their decision is objectively better
Tune in to find out how to reduce complexity, improve decision making, and increase sales and satisfaction.
4. Seth Godin: The Tribes We Lead
Seth Godin doesn’t need much of an introduction— he authors one of the most-loved blogs on the internet, has written a dozen+ bestselling books, and launched a social site with more than 50 million viewers per month.
But perhaps one of his best-known and most powerful ideas is what Godin calls your “Tribe.” Humans have, since the dawn of time, needed to belong to a group, a tribe (to be exact). The internet has provided us with the opportunity to select our own tribes, and these groups are incredibly powerful forces for positive change.
As leaders (or on the path to leadership), one of the most important things leaders can strive for is change. Positive change. And in order to fuel change, leaders must challenge the status quo and question everything.
But it’s nearly impossible to truly make a change on your own. That’s where your tribe can make a world of difference.
The internet enables people all over the globe to connect with each other. It is tribes, not individuals, money, or power, that can change the world. Seth discusses how we need assemble a tribe to spread ideas until they finally become a movement. Start with one person that cares about your idea, then two, then 10, then 100, then 1,000.
5. Malcolm Gladwell: Choice, Happiness & Spaghetti Sauce
Malcolm Gladwell, one of the most popular minds, journalists, and authors of this generation has an uncanny ability for turning conventional wisdom on its head. In his podcast, Revisionist History, Malcom reinterprets something from the past: an event, a person, an idea — allowing us to learn something new from what we all might consider mundane or obvious.
In his TED Talk, Choice, Happiness & Spaghetti Sauce, Gladwell explores the story of the man who refused to believe in a “perfect” spaghetti sauce. Of course, the point of the story is not about the pursuit of the perfect spaghetti sauce, rather, it’s how one man’s research impacts our broader understanding of human choice and happiness.
One of the biggest takeaways I got from this TED Talk is that people don’t always know what they want or what’s best for them. If you were to ask soda drinkers, for example, what they’d want in a perfect soda, they would say one thing, but in reality what they deem to be a perfect soda is something completely different.
The iPhone is another great example of this. If you were to ask customers what the perfect iPhone looks and feels like, very few would answer with, “no home button.” But that’s exactly what Apple did with the iPhone X — no home button.
There are lots of great takeaways from Gladwell’s TED Talk which you’ll have to watch to get!
Bonus: If you’d like to hear a great interview with Malcom Gladwell (and how he thinks), check out Adam Grant debating Gladwell live in New York city.
6. Linda Hill: How to manage for collective creativity
Linda Hill is a Harvard Business School Professor who studies collective genius — an idea that it takes more than exceptional talent or the right investments to maximize team leadership and productivity. This 2014 TED Talk covers her fascinating findings from a study of leaders of the world’s most innovative and creative companies.
Hill discusses how most leadership books will talk about the importance of creating a vision and inspiring others to execute it. However, leading a creative organization is less about directing people than it is creating an environment in which people discover their own innovative way forward.
I found Linda Hill’s TED Talk to be very valuable because it taught me that it’s important to understand that the art of creation is not a simple process. Rather than creativity being a single skill or event, creativity is a collaborative journey that involves people with different expertise and varying points of view.
Hill pulls examples from lots of large organizations such as Google and Pixar in order to better illustrate her point. For example, one of the ways that Pixar encourages creative interactions is through the design of their buildings, she explains. It’s intended to generate as many random interactions as possible. And individuals at all levels and in every department are encouraged to openly provide feedback and opinions with senior people.
7. Derek Sivers: How to Start a Movement
Derek Sivers is historically known for being the founder and former president of CD Baby, an online CD store for independent musicians. More famously, however, Sivers gave a TED Talk in 2013 titled, How to Start a Movement, which continues to be quoted as one of the greatest presentations on being an effective leader.
Obvious, but true, Sivers discusses how one of the unspoken rules of leadership is that you need (at least) a follower. There are lots of important and relevant concepts in this talk, including how a leader has to be doing it for her or his own sake — not trying to start anything for any other purpose.
There are a lot of well-known resources for how to be an effective leader, including books like Tribes and The Tipping Point. But this marketing TED Talk makes use of an extremely obvious, instant, and visual example of how to start a movement.
One of the most tangible takeaways from Sivers’ talk is that if you want to be a starter — a leader of a movement — then you have the courage to stand out. And more specifically, make your actions easy to imitate and inspiring to follow. The old saying, “lead by example” is extremely effective in getting people to follow you, but you have to make whatever you’re doing look fun and exciting!
The 7 Best TED Talks on Marketing
TED Talks are just one way to become a smarter, more enlightened marketer.
What I like about the 7 TED Talks on marketing above is that they are actionable and extremely easy to digest. You don’t have to read a book or article or take a course to learn what you can in about 5 minutes from these inspirational thought leaders.
TED Talks get us thinking in a way that is completely unfamiliar to our minds.
We could all use more of that.