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Take your Marketing Strategy from “Zero to One” : Lessons from Paypal founder Peter Thiel’s book.

Zero to One

To benefit most from this article I want you to think of yourself as a startup founder for the duration of the read.

I studied Zero to One a book by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters and got super excited about how some startup world insights would benefit us in the Marketing world.

“Horizontal Progress – 0 to n  
Vertical Progress 0 to 1″

Peter is trying to explain that if you start a business that is just going to provide what several other businesses already provide, you will be part of the Horizontal progress o to n but when you think about creating something new then you will be able to progress from o to 1.

“The act of creation is singular as is the moment of creation and the result is something fresh and strange.”

As a marketeer try to aim for Vertical growth, o to 1. You can do so by utilising new channels of distribution for your campaigns so you can reach out to your target audience in new ways and engage with them at a more meaningful level. Another way to achieve this is by making content that will help you stand out from the rest of your competition. Content that is inspiring, fresh, unique and truly ‘you’ as an organisation. I do believe that it is easy to find out whether your content is a labour of creative imagination and trying to tell a story or simply a task on your monthly content plan to-do list.

“Spreading old ways to create wealth around the world will result in devastation not riches.”

Sometimes marketeer and advertisers have a tendency to emulate the best campaigns, both creatively and in deployment, in the hope of securing the same success in their campaigns. Thiel describes a similar situation in “Developed vs. Developing countries”. So your company is a challenger brand when it comes to marketing and you are learning tricks from the best in your trade. Yours is a ‘developing’ marketing strategy in comparison to the ‘developed’ marketing strategies you idealise. From a countries point of view Thiel explains that if China was to double its production over the next two decades, it will also double its air pollution. If everyone of India’s hundred’s and millions of household were to live like Americans do using only today’s tools the result would be environmentally catastrophic. So don’t adopt a blind copy paste strategy for your marketing campaigns. Sometimes it is better to stay in a ‘developing’ mode and constantly innovating content and technology.

“All happy companies are different: each one earns a monopoly by solving a unique problem. All failed companies are the same: they failed to escape competition.”

Thiel speaks about how happy companies are different to what Tolstoy opens Anna Karenina with – “All happy families are alike. Each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” I agree with Thiel’s version in relation to happy companies. I will extend that to happy marketeers and their successful marketing campaigns. As a marketeer you will create a successful marketing campaign if you have come up with a unique marketing campaign strategy, which mostly is differentiated by content and story telling. Otherwise you run the risk to fail if your campaign looks too similar to that of your competitor’s.

“Most companies believe that big data automatically creates more value. But big data is usually dumb data.”

In marketing we all know how important it is to have a bulk of well segmented data so we can run targeted campaigns. I believe that as a marketeer it is extremely important that you don’t just rely on the computer doing all the analysis for you and running multiple campaigns on your behalf. Read all your copies, approve them personally, make sure they make sense, are personal and that the content adds value to your customers or prospects. If your campaign is not adding value to their lives then it is not serving the true purpose. By having a “human machine symbiosis” where human marketeers are creating bespoke, rich content driven engaging campaigns for their segmented target audiences which are being presented to the marketeer by the computers, then winning becomes possible. As Thiel points out that in the early days of PayPal when they were trying to get more users they found success in going after a small niche of “power sellers” on ebay. They had multiple auctions, ending each day and they bought as much as they sold, which meant an instant stream of payments.


Another very interesting insight for a marketeer to possess when she is working on a marketing campaign or an annual marketing roadmap is to be able to differentiate between four different mindsets – “Indefinite Pessimism”, “Definite Pessimism”, “Indefinite Optimism” and “Definite Optimism”. The most advantageous state for you and your marketing campaign is “Definite Optimism” which allows you to reap the benefits from the successes of your marketing campaigns. and put them to good use, such as spend on innovation, resources and more spent on the quality of the content. If you are in a mindset of “Definite Optimism” then you will also be able to gather the courage to take your shining campaign results to your CEO and ask for more budget for next year and might even go to the extent of telling your R&D team to better the product because you will know what the customers are saying when they interact with the features and benefits of the product via your marketing campaigns.

“In an “Indefinite Optimistic’ state if the founding entrepreneur sells his startup for a lot of money he will not know what to do with it. So he will give it to a large bank. The bankers will not know what to do with it. So they will diversify by spreading it across a portfolio of institutional investors. Institutional investors don’t know what to do with their managed capital so they diversify by amassing a portfolio of stocks. Companies try to increase their share price by generating free cashflows. If they do that they issue dividends and buy back shares and the cycle repeats. At any point in the chain no one knows what to do with the money.”

Hope this article inspires you to create that perfect marketing campaign which will aims for 0 to 1 instead of 0 to n.