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BeTuitive Book Review: “All Marketers Are Liars: The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low-Trust World"

Posted on October 26, 2005 by Sarah Eaton.

By Susan E. Fisher

What if Seth Godin had entitled his latest book “All Consumers Are Liars: Successful Marketers Just Tell ‘Em What They Want to Hear with the Help of a Memorable Yarn?” Would you still fork over the $23.95 to buy the hardback? Maybe you would, or maybe you wouldn’t. My revised title certainly doesn’t have the catchy ring that “All Marketers Are Liars” has.  However, the label would be closer to the essence of Godin’s own tale.

“All Marketers Are Liars” is really about crafting and communicating appealing stories about your products or services that capture the imagination of customers and, not incidentally, fit their preconceived notions (or “worldview” in Godin’s lexicon.) These fantasies should fulfill (often irrational) desires rather than needs, he contends.

Consider Godin’s advice for weaving these effective marketing tales:
• “A great story is true. Not true because it’s factual, but true because it’s consistent and authentic.”
• “Great stories make a promise. They promise fun or money, safety or a shortcut.”
• “Great stories are trusted. Trust is the scarcest resource we’ve got left.”
• “Great stories are subtle. Surprisingly, the less a marketer spells out, the more powerful the story becomes.”
• “Great stories happen fast. They engage the consumer the moment the story clicks into place.”
• “Great stories don’t appeal to logic, but they often appeal to our senses.”
• “Great stories are rarely aimed at everyone. If you need to water down your story to appeal to everyone, it will appeal to no one.”
• “Great stories don’t contradict themselves.”
• “And most of all, great stories agree with our worldview. The best stories agree with what the audience already believes and make the members of the audience feel smart and secure when reminded how right they were in the first place.”

Godin goes with the “All Marketing Are Liars” title because not only does it give the idiosyncratic marketing guru a chance to snatch our over-stimulated brains with an attention-grabbing headline; it gives him the chance to have fun with the reader. Godin’s title is a lie. It is a lie that makes a great story. It is a lie that works because it is something we like to hear. And, that is what he is suggesting you offer to your customers.

The 176-page book is a quick, entertaining read, and the guts of it are in the first 30 pages. The remainder of the book provides a process for creating stories, a few caveats and plenty of interesting examples. A notable caution: Remember you are dealing with a moving target: “A worldview is not forever. It’s what the consumer believes right now.”

If you love Godin, you’ll love this book. You can add it to your collection of his other well-received, thought-provoking works including “Permission Marketing” and “Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable.”

My biggest problem with Godin may not be yours. His conceit is that marketing is really, truly, deeply important. He states: “Marketing is about spreading ideas, and spreading ideas is the single most important output of our civilization.” (From this are we to believe that marketing equals the best of civilization? A frightening jump in logic if one is to believe one of marketing's best tools is the ability to bend the truth so it fits preconceived notions.)

Marketing is important, but the author, who makes his bread and butter talking to marketing true believers, tends to brush aside the other issues in a business as if they are trivial compared to the challenges of marketing. If you want to tell a great story, you have to have a great story to tell. That involves a whole bunch of non-trivial processes and people in other areas of your company who face hard truths.

To be sure, nobody should confuse marketing with journalism. When you get your marketing B.S., you don’t pledge to honor truth, pursue justice or declare freedom of expression, but Godin has his principles. He is quick to declare that the power of storytelling should not be used to nefarious ends.  So, while he admires a wine glass company that fudges the truth to encourage customers to believe their wine will taste better in a $20 glass than a similar $2 one, he admonishes the formula maker that hinted to impoverished women that a man-made formula was better suited to their starving infants than the mothers’ milk nature had already supplied.

So, spin those tales. Ultimately, you aren’t the one bending the truth. Your customers are, and they’ll be happy that you let them enjoy it.

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October 26, 2005 in award winning magazine, award winning newsletter, Blog Outsourcing, blog publish, build credibility, Business editorial, Business newsletter, Business relationships, Corporate newsletter, Corporate publications | Permalink

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