You are currently viewing 5 Non-Marketing TED Talks with Valuable Takeaways for Your Business

5 Non-Marketing TED Talks with Valuable Takeaways for Your Business

If you’ve never found yourself browsing through… actually, I don’t even know how to end that sentence.

You’ve undoubtedly spent at least a few hours of your life browsing through TED’s collection of over 3,500 videos — and have probably gained a ton of insight in the process.

One of the best things about TED Talks is the versatility of the content. While most Talks do focus on specific topics, interests, or industries, the lessons held within them can be applied in many other areas of life, as well.

That said, today we’re going to be looking at five TED Talks that don’t necessarily focus on marketing, but nonetheless can provide valuable insight to bring back to your team.

Check out these TED Talks that are focused on all-things marketing, too!

1. The Danger of a Single Story, from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


“The Danger of a Single Story” meditates on the idea that, as humans, we tend to make assumptions about the world around us based solely on what we know and have understood to be true.

To a degree, this makes sense.

As Adichie explains, it’s easy to assume — consciously or not — that the symbols of a certain demographic, culture, or country are a picture-perfect representation of the whole. For example, Adichie mentions that she had, in the past, included mentions of ginger beer in her fictional stories set in Great Britain “because the characters in the British books I read drank ginger beer.”

As innocuous as that example is, Adichie also tells of the many subtle (and not-so-subtle) assumptions we often make that harm the people in focus, and our relationships with them. To be sure, this is a sensitive subject that deserves everyone’s attention, regardless of where you’re coming from.

For marketers, Adichie’s Talk gives us a lot to think about in terms of how we treat our customers.

Again, the same lesson applies: Don’t make assumptions about your target audience.

Yes, creating customer profiles and personas is essential to refine your marketing and overall approach to engaging with your audience. But it’s crucial to remember that these personas are mere rough sketches of your customers — and that each customer you serve is an individual, with unique needs and a unique personality.

(Micro-segmentation helps you get closer to the long sought-after segment of one, allowing you to deliver a tailored experience to your individual customers, based specifically on their unique needs.)

That said, it’s also dangerous to assume your individual customers will remain unchanged as time goes on. Really, your customers are always evolving in some way or another; continuing to serve them as if they aren’t growing and changing is, again, seeing them as their “on-paper” profile as opposed to an actual human being.

To that end, gaining a better understanding of your customer lifecycle, and the journey your customers embark on with your brand, will allow you to anticipate growth in your individual customers. In turn, you’ll stay focused on delivering ever-increasing value to keep your evolving customers onboard well into the future.

The key message to take from Adichie’s Talk is that people’s stories are constantly evolving and expanding. By keeping up with our customers’ stories as they unfold, we’ll always know exactly how to best serve them moving forward.

2. 10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation, from Celeste Headlee


Celeste Headlee’s TED Talk is pretty honest about two key facts:

  1. Thanks in large part to technology, our attention is typically spread pretty thin
  2. Because of this, our ability to communicate with one another has suffered

Headlee’s Talk, of course, is more focused on helping listeners improve their interpersonal communication skills — and, in doing so, improve their interpersonal relationships.

Still, there are a number of lessons we marketers can take from Headlee’s advice that will help us better understand and communicate with our customers.

Headlee’s first tip is not to multitask during conversation, period.

This is pretty straightforward when it comes to engaging with individual customers. If it’s clear to them that your support staff isn’t fully focused on the conversation at hand, you run a very real chance of losing them for good.

Additionally, whether communicating with your individual customers or overall audience, it’s important to have a singular focus for the message at hand. Delivering too much information at a single time can overwhelm your audience — and cause them to completely miss the message you’d hoped to deliver.

Headlee also advises that we be honest and transparent when communicating with our audience, too.

In context, her advice is to err on the side of caution when making any sort of statement or claim. As a modern brand serving the modern, conscious consumer, being completely open about your company’s vision, mission, and operational processes is essential to building a strong relationship with them.

Another key piece of advice from Headlee: When engaging with your customers for any reason, go with the flow.

Yes, you definitely want to have a blueprint of sorts to help you steer conversations and customer engagements in the right direction. But, sticking too closely to a script will not only be off-putting to your audience, but will also cause you to miss out on opportunities to engage with them more deeply than you’d anticipated.

Finally — and, as Headless agrees, most importantly — communicating with your customers is more about listening than speaking. Chances are, your customers are already saying much of what you need to know to better serve them.

Instead of just looking for emerging channels to deliver messages on, look to the platforms your customers use to make their voices heard. By reaching your audience where they are, you stand a much better chance of getting the conversation started.

3. How to Make Hard Choices, from Ruth Chang


In all areas of life, the difference between achieving and falling short of your goals is your ability to consistently make the right choices.

Of course, the “right” choice isn’t always clear.

As Ruth Chang explains in her Talk, “How to Make Hard Choices”, we often encounter situations in which each of our options has its own set of benefits and drawbacks. What’s more, taking a strictly “by the numbers” approach to these choices can cause us to ignore all of the intangible, unquantifiable pieces of information needed to make a truly informed decision.

“The world of value is different from the world of science. The stuff of the one world can be quantified by real numbers; the stuff of the other world can’t. We shouldn’t assume that the world of is, of lengths and weights, has the same structure as the world of ought, of what we should do.” -Ruth Chang

As marketers, we’re faced with tough choices on a daily basis. At any given moment, the decisions you make can potentially change the trajectory of your company — for better or for worse. Again, the absolute best course of action is rarely obvious; in many cases, you’ll have multiple paths to choose from, each with the potential to lead your company to growth.

Now, modern technology has allowed marketing teams to quantify their potential options in ways that weren’t previously possible. To be sure, the data-driven marketer is much more informed than those who think of this data as simply “nice to have”.

But, as Chang explains, the numbers and “on-paper” data are only part of the equation.

When faced with a decision as a marketer, it’s also crucial to consider which option is most in-line with your brand’s values.

  • Which path will strengthen your brand’s image in the eyes of your audience?
  • Which path will allow your organization to achieve its financial and functional goals?
  • Which path will enable your organization to truly become what you’ve always intended it to be?

As difficult as it can be to make the various decisions we make as marketers, each decision we make further defines the organizations we belong to. To paraphrase Chang, hard choices are precious opportunities for you to celebrate what’s special about your company, and to distinguish your brand from the industry average.

4. The Power of Vulnerability, from Brené Brown


Brené Brown’s “The Power of Vulnerability” is one of the most viewed and talked about TED Talk in existence.

Brown’s Talk is a deeply personal rumination on the importance of pushing past your comfort zone, exposing your true self to the world, and embracing the feeling of being vulnerable instead of shying away from it.

On a personal level, Brown explains that vulnerability manifests in 3 ways:

  • Accepting imperfection in oneself
  • The willingness to take calculated, yet still uncertain risks
  • Compassion and connectedness with one another

Seeing any parallels when it comes to marketing and managing a business?

While “imperfection” definitely has a negative connotation, it’s a fact that nothing your brand can do will truly be perfect. Your products, your customer service, your marketing campaigns…it’s all a work in progress. By accepting this, your team can stay focused on making improvements while also being confident in your ability to serve your customers well.

As we discussed in the last section, taking calculated but uncertain risks is essentially how the business world operates. No matter how much information we have on hand, there will always be some level of uncertainty in the decisions we make. Again, success comes down to being confident that the decisions we make as marketers will lead to the best possible outcome for our customers and our organization.

Finally, being vulnerable — that is, allowing your audience to truly know and understand your brand — enables you to forge authentic connections with the individuals you serve.

Your customers want to know your brand’s story, and your organization’s vision and purpose. They want you to be open and honest with them regarding your operational policies and other pertinent information. And they need to know that doing business with your brand is the right course of action for them.

In forging authentic connections in which you’re free to deliver increasing value to your customers, you’ll easily be setting your business up for long-term success.

5. How to Start a Movement, from Derek Sivers


Let’s wrap up with a short-and-sweet TED Talk from writer and entrepreneur Derek Sivers.

(Yes, he’s an entrepreneur…but this Talk isn’t necessarily about marketing!)

In just under three minutes, Sivers uses a rather silly video clip to teach his audience “How to Start a Movement”.

In the video, a shirtless man starts dancing wildly by himself, in front of a bunch of other people. Seconds later, he’s joined by another person, who calls over his friends, who call over even more people. At this point, even those who had been sitting and watching the whole time stood up and started dancing — leaving almost no onlookers in sight.

Sivers breaks the whole thing down, explaining:

  • How one “lone nut” quickly becomes a leader
  • Why the first follower was more effective at getting others involved than the initial dancer
  • How things reached a tipping point in which almost everyone decided to join in

From a marketing perspective, there are two key lessons to take from all this.

First, as has been a theme throughout this article, your brand needs to do something special that allows you to stand out from your competitors. This “something” needs to provide substantial, one-of-a-kind value to your target audience. Developing a USP means doing something that no one else is doing — and knowing with confidence that your audience will appreciate it.

Secondly, the fact that the first follower is who really got the ball rolling makes the importance of social proof and virality crystal clear. For in today’s ever-connected world, growing a massive following starts by creating a strong core of active brand evangelists who are willing to do what it takes to get others on the bandwagon.

All you need to do is keep doing your thing.

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