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With that provocative title and opening salvo, well known author, marketing expert and business blogger Seth Godin takes the reader on another landmark journey into the marketing field. After reading All Marketers Are Liars, your approach to marketing, advertising, and your own buying habits will never be the same again. While Seth Godin begins with the disarming premise that marketing people are liars, he softens that stance to marketers are story tellers. Good marketers are story tellers, and like all great tales, myths, and fiction, the facts are not essential.
What is really important to a good story is a universal truth. The listener hears the story, and if it rings true to the person’s perceptions, the story becomes that of the listener.
The person hearing the story internalizes the subjective truth of the story, and becomes part of the story. The facts don’t really matter. The listener hearing what is believed as truth is what really counts.
With that change of gears, Seth Godin postulates that it’s then the purchaser of the product or service who becomes the liar. The marketer tells the story. The potential customer creates the lie. When we buy or consider purchasing a product or service, we lie to ourselves. We tell our inner persona, and how we view ourselves, that the marketer’s story is true. Seth expands that concept further, and says that the marketer must devise and live the story. In effect, the story becomes the truth for that business.
The story is an act of creation for the business. It’s our job as customers to incorporate that story into our own internal belief systems. In fact, it’s more than a job. It’s our part of our need to satisfy our egos about our beliefs, ideas, and of course our purchases. In the words of Seth Godin, it’s our worldview.
A person’s worldview is the lens through which all things are seen. Whether a person considers themselves to be rugged and outdoorsy, suave and sophisticated, or up to date and a trendsetter that is how all things related to the person’s life are seen. The worldview is the story the person internalizes about themselves. To Godin, all images, stories, and messages are framed within that worldview. To Seth Godin, a worldview is the lie the person tells about themselves and their place in society. Those self told lies are the way that all marketing messages are processed by every individual. If the story told by the business fails to agree with our internal worldview, we ignore it. If the story is not heard, and accepted as true by enough people, the marketing message and the business fails.
If no one creates the internal lie, the story lacks truth. Our internal worldview, which frames all of our perceptions of things around us, determines if a story is true from our point of view. Seth understands that one person’s worldview is not like another. In fact, the book postulates one thousand worldviews held by millions of people. Worldviews range from a very few people to many millions. A wise story teller is one who finds the tale that is true for many diverse worldviews. A successful marketer needs only to have the business and product story accepted as truth by a fraction of them. If enough similar and overlapping worldviews internalize the truth of the story, the business and its products and services become a success.
All Marketers Are Liars is the third in the series, of landmark books on the process and psychology of marketing, by marketing expert Seth Godin. Following up the groundbreaking theories presented in Purple Cow and Free Prize Inside, Seth expands his philosophy to include more of the purchaser’s internal thought process. The two previous books outlined the necessity of standing out from the crowd, and providing a unique experience to the customer.
All Marketers Are Liars presents the need to create and live the company and its story. The book correctly defines the need for the buyer to become part of the story as well. By combining the lessons of all three books, the marketer can successfully create a unique business, spread the business idea, and now live the story of that business. As a group, the three books outline a powerful marketing strategy that involves both the company itself and its customers.
Not ignoring his own lessons, Seth Godin has added the buzz building touch of long Pinocchio style fake noses for his readers. As a meme, the noses build a story, and spread the book’s idea. Are all marketers truly liars, or do the business customers the ones who create the lie? Seth answers that question very well with the fake liar’s noses. The reader wearing the nose has already internalized the story. It’s no longer a lie, but a true story. The reader listening to and understanding Seth Godin’s marketing philosophy internalizes the book’s concepts of storytelling, into her own worldview. The book and its story becomes a truth for that reader.
While the title may be a bit gimmicky, it is a common belief shared by many people – just like other stereotypes such as all politicians are crooks, all lawyers are greedy, and all used car salesmen are pushy. But that common belief emphasizes a key point. We all view life from a particular worldview that we’ve constructed from our own experiences, beliefs, and knowledge. This worldview acts as a bias or filter for how we interpret what’s going on around us right now. You and I might hear the same set of facts, but because of these biases and filters, we might come to opposite conclusions – both conclusions will fit neatly into each of our worldview and align themselves with what each of us wants. Yet, not all our beliefs are based on facts. Many are based on our gut reactions, our emotions, or things we’ve heard from friends, family, or others whose opinion we value.
Take, for instance, the Riedel wine glass, about which wine guru Robert Parker said, “The finest glasses for both technical and hedonistic purposes are those made by Riedel. The effect of these glasses on fine wine is profound. I cannot emphasize enough what a difference they make.” Many other wine experts share this opinion as well, and in turn, Reidel glasses cost $20 vs your typical $1 glass. Which leads one to wonder – in a scientific, double-blind study where there was no way people could tell one glass from another, could people really taste the difference? It’s doubtful. Yet, wine enthusiasts that insist that wine taste better in a Reidel glass continue to pay top dollar for this luxury because they buy into the story that their wine tastes better in this type of glass. The facts are irrelevant here. It’s the experience that matters. The point is that we tell ourselves stories all the time to justify our wants.
How many times have you procrastinated doing something until the following day, splurged on a shopping trip because something you wanted was on sale, or bought magazines you didn’t want to support a fundraiser because you felt bad saying no? In each case, you told yourself a story to justify your actions. This isn’t just about hype but about crafting an authentic story about a remarkable product or service that a target audience will relate to and believe in. If your product or services isn’t remarkable, people won’t talk. With the example of the Reidel wine glass, the marketers told the story of superb craftsmanship, people bought into the story, and suddenly, the notion that the Reidel glass is the best of the best became true. People continue to believe the story, buy the glasses, and spread the word. As Godin states, “Successful marketers are just the providers of stories that consumers choose to believe.”
Think about it – how often do you tell your family and friends about a mediocre experience you just had? Now, how much more do you proclaim the wonders of something you love or warn how terrible of an experience you just had? It’s the extremes that make an impression, not that your product or service was just good enough or your price was just reasonable enough. Of course, there are problems with storytelling. Some people use it to make up stuff about impossible things their product or service can do and in the end, people become the victim of fraud or can even be harmed. Godin uses Nestle as an example. Some time ago, UNICEF accused Nestle of contributing to the death of more than a million babies by telling moms of third world countries that bottle feeding was better than breast feeding. Initially, they provided free samples, but later, people had to buy the formula.
Often, however, because families were too poor to keep buying enough formula, they’d water down the powered mix. As a result, many babies got sick. Nestle could have prevented this by specifically targeting moms who couldn’t breast feed or with AIDS, but instead, they told the story to everyone who’d listen, people believed the lie, and babies died because if it. Godin stresses that as a marketer, it is your job to tell authentic stories. Marketers are wrong when they insist that “all we do is offer options – it’s up to consumers to decide for themselves.” Marketing is now so well developed and so embedded in our culture that consumers no longer make decisions based on a rational analysis of facts.
Instead they decide based on the stories they’re told. To disclaim responsibility for a fraud is cowardly. Storytelling isn’t a new concept in marketing. One of the fundamental principles of marketing is crafting a marketing message that will be relevant to your target audience. Storytelling takes that one step further – instead of bombarding people with endless facts and trying to remain unbiased, you show them how your product or service fits into their worldview. Stories make concepts simpler to process and remember in a world overloaded with too much information.
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