The 8 Best TED Talks for Marketers

Get educated, improve your skills and inspire yourself: We chose the best TED talks for you to upgrade your knowledge without spending a dime

Adebisi Adewusi
February 07 2018

There’s a good chance you’ve bumped into a TED Talk by now. TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) Talks are the ultra-hip, short and thought-provoking presentations from experts on education, business, science, technology, creativity and more, in over 100 languages. Since 1984, TED Talks have attracted a growing and influential audience from many different disciplines united by their curiosity and open-mindedness. Pull out your laptop, get comfortable, and settle in for these eight TED Talks on advertising, branding, and consumer behavior that’ll have you rethink your marketing and stir up your curiosity.

#1 Seth Godin: The Tribes That We Lead

What do Hugo Chavez, Zappos and Al Gore have in common? They led tribes! American Author and marketing blogger Seth Godin explains the explosion of tribes in the Internet age as he traces the evolution of ideas. Godin explains the shift in the ways ideas are created, spread and implemented over the years and why tribes matter. According to Godin, tribes are a powerful force of influence and change, led by heretics who don’t believe in the status quo.

Citing the success of The Beatles, TOMs, and CD Baby, he notes how connection and leadership are powerful components that can change the world. The author combines storytelling, and some well-placed arguments to build a case for a new marketing approach.

In 17 minutes, Godin eloquently explains why we’ve reached the end of mass marketing and why you should learn to form and lead tribes. You’ll be glued to your screen.

#2 Amy Lockwood: Selling Condoms In The Congo

“Reformed marketer,” Amy Lockwood talks about her time in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and what she learned about marketing condoms. A little context: In her talk, Lockwood mentions that due to the high prevalence of HIV in the DRC and the absence of an adequate health infrastructure, donor agencies provided free and cheap condoms to the people of DRC. Despite the low cost, however, consumers preferred generic condoms over cheaper branded ones provided by donor agencies. What went wrong? In less than 5 minutes, Lockwood highlights why you need to understand your customer if you want them to choose your product or service.

#3 Sheena Iyengar: How To Make Choosing Easier

As a graduate student, Professor of Business in the Management Division at Columbia Business School and the Faculty Director of the Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center, Sheena Iyengar executed an experiment with a local store that offered an astonishing variety of products. The store stocked 250 kinds of mustard and vinegar, over 500 fruits and vegetables, and 75 varieties of olive oil. Despite the foot traffic to the store, Iyengar discovered that very few people including herself bought anything. This 16 minute talk based on Iyengar’s extensive research on choice overload, highlights why having too many options is an issue, and suggests simple proven techniques you can use overcome the obstacle.

#4 Malcolm Gladwell: Choice, Happiness and Spaghetti Sauce

Detective of fads and emerging subcultures, Malcolm Gladwell tells a rather interesting story of how American Physicist and market researcher, Howard Moskowitz, broke the norm of testing for a single formula, and found that variety is truly the spice of life. In his Ted Talk, Gladwell explains how Howard researched forty-five different kinds of sauce just to find out which spaghetti sauce Americans liked best. His results discovered a gap in the spaghetti sauce market and made Prego spaghetti sauce $600 million.

Using the food industry as an example, Gladwell states that there is no single way to deal with consumers, the power of data and how to appeal to the needs of your customers.

If you’ve ever wondered why your local grocer carries so many options for each product, watch this Ted Talk.

#5 Renny Gleeson: 404: The Story Of A Page Not Found

How many times have you bumped into a 404 page – and how many of those times did you feel betrayed by your favorite brand? This short talk presented by marketer Renny Gleeson, examines how, through design, brands can turn 404 pages to their advantage, instead of frustrating their visitors. This TED Talk covers creativity in marketing and points out why doing the little things right matters and how well designed moments build brands.

#6 Josh Luber: Why Sneakers Are A Great Investment

Wearing limited edition Air Jordan 3 Black Cements, sneaker data expert Josh Luber, delivers an excellent Ted Talk on the sneaker resale market. Using Nike as a case study, Luber explains that by allowing the sneaker resale market to thrive, Nike has placed its marketing strategy in the hands of its consumers. Luber also argues that by ensuring supply never meets demand, Nike creates a market that keeps their shoes at the forefront of consumer culture and remains a sound investment opportunity. According to Luber, this innovative strategy has helped solidify Nike’s position as one of the most successful sneaker brands in the world. Aside from learning a thing or two about the “stock market” of sneakers, Luber discusses Nike’s ability to strongly influence consumer behaviour. This talk is guaranteed to make you see marketing in a different light and rethink the value of sneakers.

#7 Rory Sutherland: Life Lessons From An Ad Man

In this humor packed Ted Talk,  British advertising executive Rory Sutherland walks viewers through how advertising adds value to a product by changing our perception, rather than the product itself. From Frederick The Great to Coca-Cola, Sutherland dives into how marketing impacts the way consumers perceive products and services. He notes that all value is relative and that persuasion is better than compulsion. Sutherland’s talk is a short and relevant course on why perception, intrinsic value, and impressions are important for branding.

#8 Dan Cobley: What Physics Taught Me About Marketing

Former Google Marketing Director Dan Cobley discusses the similarities between physics and marketing. Using Newton’s law, the scientific method and laws of thermodynamics, Cobley proves that the foundations of science are also grounded in marketing theory.

Watch this talk and find out why big brands are hard to reposition, why you should focus on what consumers do and not what they say and how Toyota, Tiger Woods and BP botched their reputation. If you slept in Physics class, we promise this talk will leave you surprised and fired up!

Every marketer needs new ideas to help them reach consumers. If you’re open minded enough, these TED Talks will help you rethink your marketing, learn how to understand what your consumers want, and ensure they choose your product or service every time. All you need to do is watch these awesome videos and take action. And don’t forget to take notes.


Adebisi Adewusi

Adebisi Adewusi is a freelance B2B writer and a Huffington Post Contributor. When she’s not creating compelling content for businesses, you’ll find her capturing moments with her Nikon d600.

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