Free Prize Inside – Book Summary, Review and Guide

One of the most important questions that marketers, business owners, and entrepreneurs are grappling with today is addressed in the book, Free Prize Inside (2004): How can you differentiate yourself from the competition and reach your audience in a world where traditional advertising is no longer effective? Seth Godin demonstrates how you can make your product, service, or business so exceptional that it will create enough buzz to cut through the noise of modern life by leveraging the power of small-scale innovations.

Free Prize Inside Book Cover

Introduction of Free Prize Inside by Seth Godin

If you’re old enough, you might recall how breakfast cereal boxes in the past would advertise a “free prize inside” in an effort to attract children. Parents saw it as nothing more than cheap plastic junk. However, the children who were vying for the prize saw it as more of a treasure and pleaded with their parents to buy the cereal.

It was a clever marketing tactic, ethical concerns about marketing to children aside. The “free prizes” were indeed free, but only for the cereal manufacturers. They were incredibly cheap to produce and offered a significant reward. Without changing the main product or starting an expensive advertising campaign, they increased sales.

Consider if you could create a comparable “free prize” for your goods, services, or company. Consider how special and alluring it would seem to your customers if it had a bonus feature, similar to the silly toy in the cereal box. And what if it were possible to rekindle that magic with the least amount of effort, money, or risk?

You’re about to learn how to make it a reality, so you don’t just have to imagine it.

Expensive advertising, product, and service innovations are not enough

Imagine that you are the manager of a struggling business. Your sales aren’t growing, and your product is out of date. How do you change the situation?

You would typically employ one of two strategies. The first step is to start a significant advertising campaign. This was sufficient to promote your product in the twentieth century. You could use magazine ads or television commercials to make people notice your product if they were ignoring it on the store shelves.

But advertising’s influence has diminished in the twenty-first century. Ads and other forms of media are competing for our attention so fiercely that they end up sounding like white noise. Most people simply ignore it.

What then is a substitute? We now come to the second conventional strategy, which is to try to develop a significant, game-changing innovation. Simple economic logic underlies this decision. You can get away with charging a premium price if you develop a desirable good or service that no other business is currently able to produce or provide. After all, you won’t have to worry about any annoying rivals, at least not until they overtake you. You will be making money on your own in the interim.

Many businesses invest heavily in large technology projects, product launches, or research and development programs in an effort to corner a market and achieve high profit margins. According to this logic, the potential rewards of an innovation increase in size. Just consider how much money you could make if you invented the equivalent of the iPod in your sector! The problem with this way of thinking is that big innovations necessitate big investments, and big investments result in big bets that frequently fail.

Iridium, a communications company, had to learn this lesson the hard way in the late 1990s. They put 66 communication satellites into orbit for $3 billion. It was a high-stakes wager that didn’t pay off. A company’s bankruptcy occurred.

The issue is that if you spend $3 billion to launch your product or service, you must earn $3 billion just to break even. Spending more money on significant innovations raises your bar for success and increases your risk of failure.

Focus on small scale inventions to profit in modern economy

Nearly everyone seems to concur that innovation is the secret to success in the contemporary economy, from TED Talk speakers to authors of business books. And many would contend that in order to innovate, we need to “think big.” After all, very few individuals are enthused by minor technical advancements, such as a computer with a marginally higher processing speed. You must launch a revolutionary product or service if you want to catch the public’s attention, right?

No and yes. Depending on your definition of “revolutionary,” perhaps. Is it something that will fundamentally alter society, much like Thomas Edison’s light bulb? If so, you’re probably overthinking things.

The main takeaway is that small-scale inventions are more likely to be profitable in the current economic climate.

The world has advanced significantly technologically since Edison’s time. As a result, most businesses are unable to meet the challenge of creating the modern-day equivalent of the light bulb. You’d need to develop a game-changing invention, such as nanorobots or space travel, which, of course, would call for a sizable budget for research and development.

Most likely, you don’t have access to that amount of funding. And even if you succeed, as we saw in the case of Iridium, you might lose it on a bad bet.

The good news is that you can carry out numerous smaller-scale revolutions within your industry with a lot less money and risk. You could develop the next smartphone pricing scheme, quick oil change, or purple ketchup instead of the next light bulb. There is a lot of money to be made with these kinds of innovations, even though they may not be as revolutionary as nanorobots. They are also much more likely to become reality.

We’ll refer to them as soft innovations. There is no need for a PhD in nanotechnology to come up with these clever little concepts. And without the need for a sizable R&D department, almost any organization can implement them with enough grit and expertise.

Sadly, not every soft innovation is created equally. Most of them will never be very successful, but some of them are more inventive than others. We’ll look at what distinguishes the wheat from the chaff in the next section.

Make your product remarkable, distinct, and desirable

Consider the most recent time you learned about a trending new product. Which way did it show up on your radar? Most likely, it wasn’t via a conventional advertisement. It was probably done through word-of-mouth marketing in some way. Perhaps someone told you about it in a conversation. possibly from reading about it online.

The majority of products or services these days gain traction through word-of-mouth marketing because advertising is no longer as effective. People discuss them. However, you must give people a reason to talk about your product if you want them to. It must therefore be noteworthy, as in deserving of being mentioned to others.

Consider for a moment that you are the owner of a ski resort. Wouldn’t you want your guests to be so impressed with the on-site Mexican restaurant that they tell their friends about it? The restaurant must be so exceptional that word of mouth will naturally begin to spread about it.

Take note of the restaurant’s lack of a direct connection to skiing. It’s an extra bonus feature that’s included with the main product, similar to the toy inside the cereal box. In a strict sense, it is not necessary for the product to perform its primary function. The cereal could be consumed without the toy. Skiing could be done without Mexican food. However, these add-ons make the primary product stand out from the competition. They make it extraordinary.

They also raise its appeal. In actuality, we want more than just cereal to eat and a ski resort. Fun is what we seek. A memorable vacation is what we seek. The toy and the restaurant enter the picture at this point. They make it possible for the ski resort and the cereal to satisfy not just our primary cravings but also our supplementary ones. These supplementary desires frequently play a significant role in consumers’ purchasing choices. For instance, people don’t just purchase watches for their ability to tell the time; they also purchase them for their aesthetic appeal or status symbol value.

So small changes that have a big impact are the kinds of soft innovations you should be on the lookout for. How? By ensuring that your good or service is exceptional and appealing. When you come up with one of these ideas, you give your clients and your business something for nothing. It’s an enjoyable side benefit for your clients. It’s a relatively inexpensive way for your business to increase sales.

Okay, so it’s not really free, but it’s as close as you and your clients will ever get to a freebie when conducting business together. We’ve written separately about lead generation strategies that will dive deeper with examples related to freebies.

Develop a strong lead magnet and offer

So now all you have to do is think of a concept for a free prize that will make your good or service so exceptional and appealing that people will talk about it. It seems like something that would be much simpler said than done. But in this instance, it’s actually quite simple to carry out. Finding a soft innovation that will give you an advantage over your rivals can be done using a straightforward method. The art of giving your product or service a competitive edge is known as edgecraft.

You should make your product or service edgy if you want it to stand out from the competition. After all, the alternative is to allow it to be boring, and boring is never discussed. Consider that you run a security guard business where every guard dons a regular uniform. No one is going to talk about that because it is boring. Put them in black latex trench coats so they look like The Matrix characters. That is edgy, and it is something that people might discuss.

So how do you add some edge to your goods or services? by utilizing the periphery. That entails pushing a feature of your good or service as far as it can go in a different direction — not just halfway or almost — but completely. One of the edges of your product or service is the outer limit of how far you can push it. Take note of the plural. Any good or service has a number of points of differentiation that you can exploit. Find one of them, and take a stand on it, is your task.

Let’s take the example of you owning a restaurant. You can alter a wide range of elements of the service you offer, including the menu, the cook, the decor, the setting, the wait staff, and a plethora of other factors. Pay attention to the wait staff. How were you able to push them to the limit? One solution is to only employ attractive individuals. Even if they have a slight attractiveness, it’s not particularly noteworthy because you are still far from an edge. What if, however, they were all supermodels? What if they were all bodybuilders? even twins? You’re getting close to the edge now!

So, when trying to find your edge, don’t play it safe. Safe is monotonous, and monotonous doesn’t sell.

How to come out with fresh ideas for your offer.

Now that we’ve examined the fundamental idea behind edgecraft, let’s get to work on the specifics of how to use it. Start by imagining you have a product, service, or company that you want to push to the limit but are at a loss for how to proceed. How do you think of an original idea?

You don’t need to use any kind of elaborate brainstorming techniques or wait for a “lightbulb moment.” You can use a straightforward four-step process to get your thinking going and discover a way to your edge.

Choose a category of goods, services, or venture to launch in order to break out of your current industry. If you run a hardware store, for instance, you might pick a restaurant. Find someone or something that is achieving remarkable success in your chosen market sector by possessing a remarkable edge.

In keeping with the previous example, suppose your hardware store is across the street from a popular restaurant in the community. What makes it successful? The night every week when chili peppers are unlimited. The restaurant’s popularity has increased ever since it began holding this signature event.

The million-dollar question is now: What’s the edge? With regard to our illustration, the solution is fairly clear. Yes, it is chili pepper night. On the surface, yes, but dig a little deeper. What stands for the weekly event? Why is it so compelling? What need does it satisfy for diners at the restaurant? What does it offer them (aside from heartburn)?

The solution is excess. Customers are given the opportunity to consume anything they want for one night without any restrictions.

Although it would be strange to start an all-you-can-eat chili pepper night at your hardware store, you can use the basic idea of excess. That brings us to the last step, which is to modify the competitive edge of the other good, service, or company to suit your needs. You could, for instance, host an all-you-can-carry brick event at your hardware store. You can leave with as many bricks as you can carry in your hands after paying $9 up front.

These types of underlying principles will become more apparent the more you examine successful examples of avant-garde goods, services, and companies. We’ll look at a few more in the following section below.

Pushing the extents of your marketing offer.

Any adjective you find in a dictionary, such as “excessive,” “fashionable,” “ergonomic,” “sensual,” “interactive,” “convenient,” and “sensuous,” can be used as an edge. We won’t be able to discuss all of them, so let’s concentrate on a select few that teach us more general lessons about the practice of edgecraft.

Let’s start with visibility. A product, service, or company that was previously hidden on the edges can now be seen clearly. People passing by a massage parlor on the street, for instance, primarily don’t notice the services it offers. The proprietor could place the massage chairs outside on the sidewalk so that people could see the clients’ backs being massaged.

However, when using this or any other edge, try not to take it too literally. A broader, more figurative definition of visibility is also possible. For instance, people can see a plain, uninteresting car just fine, so it isn’t actually invisible. It is, however, indistinct in a more figurative sense of being unnoticeable. It resembles the other ordinary, unremarkable cars zipping along the highway. On the other hand, a car like the Volkswagen Beetle takes the concept of a car and makes it extremely visible, as in highly conspicuous.

Visibility isn’t always a desirable trait for you or your clients, of course. Going to the opposite edge by making a product that is visible invisible may be advantageous in that situation. As an illustration, consider the difference between today’s transparent braces and yesterday’s metallic ones. Imagine how this innovation makes people smile.

Another general edgecraft lesson is that you can frequently start at one edge, move in the opposite direction, and end up at another edge. This is because visibility and invisibility are opposites. For example, Mike’s Famous Harley-Davidson in Delaware, where you can find almost every kind of motorcycle in existence, offers a wide variety of options, which is part of its appeal. The In-N-Out burger franchise, which has only seven items on its menu, is popular partly because of its lack of variety.

Edges are frequently counterintuitive, despite what you might think: people prefer variety. Take operation hours, for instance. Undoubtedly, more is better. People adore stores open 24 hours a day. What if, however, a shoe store was only open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays? intriguing, huh? That is the key point, exactly.

Obstacles to creating a compelling offer for marketing

Are you prepared to start honing your edgecraft and go out and practice it? If so, both good and bad news are present. Let’s start with the positive: By the end of the day, you could probably think of a dozen excellent ideas for edges you could incorporate into your good, service, or company.

The bad news is that coming up with an edge idea is the simple part. The real difficulty is in making it a reality. However, the issue that makes it so difficult isn’t what you might anticipate.

Technical obstacles aren’t what’s getting in your way. These are typically quite basic. After all, one of the main benefits of a soft innovation is that it is a very feasible idea from a technological and practical standpoint. Do you still have any memories of the peculiar uniforms your security guards could wear? They might be available from a costume store. And do you still recall how you could advertise the services of your massage parlor? Bring the chairs out onto the sidewalk by yourself. None of these are particularly complex, and they are all a long way from launching 66 satellites into orbit.

The other people in your organization will be the real challenges. It’s unlikely that you’ll announce your plan and instantly win everyone over to it. It will probably encounter significant resistance from a wide range of people. They may be wary, dubious, critical, or even hostile.

The resistance is frequently expressed politely, but it is no less discouraging. When Phil from engineering hears you pitch your idea in the boardroom, he will interject, “That sounds nice, but. Then he and your coworkers will list all the reasons why it simply cannot be done or why it will not turn out as you anticipate.

Keep it in perspective and don’t believe them. Their response is not an indication of how good your idea is. They are simply acting out their own fear of change. fear of upsetting the balance. fear of deviating from the norm. aversion to the unknown.

There may also be some very specific, rational fears in addition to those general, irrational ones. “What if none of our clients like it?” Your sales staff might be anxious. Your managers who have stock options might be concerned about what might happen if the stock market doesn’t like it.

How to convince your colleague and team on your marketing offer will work

It would be fantastic if your coworkers toasted your new idea with a bottle of champagne the moment you proposed it. However, as we’ve seen, when they first hear about your idea, they’re likely to be skeptical of it.

You’ll need to build a fulcrum within your organization to gain leverage in order to overcome that resistance. Finding a pressure point where you can persuasively present your idea and use it to persuade your organization to support you entails doing just that. Although it appears vague and difficult in the abstract, this is actually quite straightforward and unambiguous in practice. Answering a few straightforward questions about your idea is all that is required. Will it function, first?

Naturally, you’ll want to offer any supporting information and arguments you can to support your position in your response to this question. You’ll get a lot further on this front with a well-put-together and compelling presentation.

Unfortunately, it won’t get you very far because there is no conclusive way to answer the fundamental question. You won’t be able to demonstrate your idea’s viability in advance if it is truly innovative. After all, if it hasn’t been done before, you’ll be exploring new ground by going after it. And you never know what you’ll run into there.

Fortunately, you don’t have to demonstrate that your idea makes sense from a scientific or logical standpoint. Simply convince your coworkers—on an emotional rather than an intellectual level—that it will work. And one of the best ways to encourage this kind of belief is to firmly ground the riskier, more avant-garde elements of your concept in something that feels more reliable and tried-and-true. Toyota made the Prius in this way. They installed a ground-breaking hybrid-electric engine inside a plain-appearing sedan.

Playing along with the established procedures of your company is another strategy for securing your idea. For instance, you might think focus groups are a waste of time even though your company frequently uses them to test out new concepts. To reassure your colleagues about your idea, you should still hold the focus group.

That being the case, how do you persuade your organization that your idea is workable? However, just because something is possible does not mean that it should be. But we’ll get to that question in more detail in the section after this.

How to convince your colleagues and team your idea is worth pursuing

You’ve now dispelled the doubt that your colleagues had about the viability of your proposal. However, it doesn’t stop them from asking the following query: even if this is possible, is it even worthwhile to attempt?

Recognizing that different people value different things for different reasons is the key to reassuring your coworkers on this front. If a new project offers Bob in engineering an engaging challenge, it might seem worthwhile for him to take on. Sally in sales, on the other hand, may only be concerned with keeping her job, so she just wants the business to survive. Jim may be keeping an eye on the value of his stock options while working in management. You must adjust your pitch for each person to address their unique concerns.

While you’re at it, you can also use jujitsu to divert your colleagues’ fear from your idea and toward the status quo that you’re attempting to overthrow. Keep in mind that the main cause of your colleagues’ opposition to your idea is fear, and that fear is rooted in a sense of security in the current situation. They believe that things are going well right now and do not want them to change. Although our profits aren’t through the roof, they are still respectable, they might say. Your proposal thus appears to jeopardize this comfortable state of affairs by endangering the status quo.

However, the truth is that the status quo itself is the threat to the situation, not your idea. Since your company’s current weaknesses are part of the status quo, they will gradually undermine your company’s position in the market. Your suggestion actually offers a means of protecting your business by making it stronger where it is currently lacking.

So make sure to express this to your coworkers in specific terms. Let’s take the example of your suggestion being an innovation that will result in better customer service. Let’s also assume that 12% of your customer service calls at the moment are from dissatisfied clients. Then you respond, “Look, each of those customers is a potential source of unfavorable publicity for our business. If we don’t do this, our reputation will get worse the longer this situation persists.

Build your reputation before pitching your idea

You’ve persuaded your colleagues that your idea is a good one, so the only thing left to sell them on is you. You are the one driving the initiative, after all. Your idea might be the most practical and valuable invention since sliced bread, but unless you have the leadership abilities to lead your team and make it a reality, it will remain merely an idea that exists only in your head.
It should be relatively simple for you to persuade your colleagues that you are capable of handling the task if you have a track record of successfully completing projects that are similar to this one. However, you will face an uphill battle if you lack experience. Your reputation—or lack thereof—is established before you. Steven Spielberg finds it much simpler to pitch a movie when he enters a Hollywood producer’s office than a first-time director would.

However, even if you’re more like a first-time filmmaker and aren’t the Steven Spielberg of your field, don’t give up before you’ve even started. Everybody has to begin somewhere. Your breakthrough moment might come from your idea. However, you’ll likely need to warm up to it.

Begin modestly. By offering to take on a lead role with simple tasks, you can demonstrate your leadership abilities. The first one might be something simple like planning a group lunch, but hey, that’s harder than you might think and it shows your leadership potential. You need to choose the ideal location, schedule a time with your coworkers, give the restaurant your orders, divide the bill, and other details.

From there, you can start taking on increasingly challenging tasks and showcasing a wider range of leadership competencies in the process. For instance, you might try to fix a minor customer service issue following lunch. Then you could suggest making a small change to the company’s logo.

You’ll be in a much better position to put forth your idea once you’ve established your reputation. You will already have developed your leadership abilities by the time the day of your presentation comes around. The confidence component is the only thing left to add. Your coworkers need to sense your self-confidence if you want them to believe in your ability to complete the project.

Just keep in mind that you are presenting yourself as the champion of your idea, so act and speak like it!


Major technological advancements are currently out of most businesses’ price range, and traditional advertising is no longer an effective means of connecting with consumers. Fortunately, there is an effective substitute: small-scale, soft innovations that give your product, service, or company a competitive advantage. These innovations serve as free gifts for you and your clients, giving you a low-cost way to build buzz and giving them an alluring bonus feature. To accompany this reading, I’d recommend check out How brands grow and Marketing made simple book summaries

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