All Marketers are Liars: The Underground Classic That Explains How Marketing Really Works–and Why Authenticity Is the Best Marketing of All

The indispensable classic on marketing by the bestselling author of Tribes and Purple Cow.

Legendary business writer Seth Godin has three essential questions for every marketer:

“What’s your story?”

“Will the people who need to hear this story believe it?”

“Is it true?”

All marketers tell stories. And if they do it right, we believe them. We believe that wine tastes better in a $20 glass than a $1 glass. We believe that an $80,000 Porsche is vastly superior to a $36,000 Volkswagen that’s virtually the same car. We believe that $225 sneakers make our feet feel better—and look cooler—than a $25 brand. And believing it makes it true.

As Seth Godin has taught hundreds of thousands of marketers and students around the world, great marketers don’t talk about features or even benefits. Instead, they tell a story—a story we want to believe, whether it’s factual or not. In a world where most people have an infinite number of choices and no time to make them, every organization is a marketer, and all marketing is about telling stories.

Marketers succeed when they tell us a story that fits our worldview, a story that we intuitively embrace and then share with our friends. Think of the Dyson vacuum cleaner, or Fiji water, or the iPod.

But beware: If your stories are inauthentic, you cross the line from fib to fraud. Marketers fail when they are selfish and scurrilous, when they abuse the tools of their trade and make the world worse. That’s a lesson learned the hard way by telemarketers, cigarette companies, and sleazy politicians.

But for the rest of us, it’s time to embrace the power of the story. As Godin writes, “Stories make it easier to understand the world. Stories are the only way we know to spread an idea. Marketers didn’t invent storytelling. They just perfected it.”

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3 Responses to All Marketers are Liars: The Underground Classic That Explains How Marketing Really Works–and Why Authenticity Is the Best Marketing of All

  1. First Godin disappointment

  2. Lynne A. McBride

    Professional Book Review (Marketing Project)

  3. The title of Seth Godin’s book All Marketers Are Liars is misleading; in fact, it’s a lie. This is because in his book Godin explains that all marketers merely tell stories (as indicated on the redesigned cover). Although geared toward a marketing minded audience, as we read we find out that we are all marketers. This insight is gained in Godin’s explanation of how the storytelling technique is an everyday paradigm; people tell themselves stories and believe them. Thus, good marketers tell us authentic stories that we believe and then spread. He notes that as the technology is becoming more efficient, the emphasis is on the spreading of ideas by marketing, therefore on storytelling. Some of Godin’s notable points that explain this phenomenon are: consumers’ worldviews were there before you, people notice new and then guess, first impressions start the story, great marketers tell stories we believe and marketers with authenticity thrive.Godin’s first point that a consumer’s worldview was there before you proves to be very important in proving his argument. He describes a worldview as “the rules, values, beliefs and biases that an individual consumer brings to a situation.”(p.39) Worldviews, along with frames (“elements of a story painted to leverage the worldview a consumer already has”) govern what stories consumers will believe. To support this, Godin uses the example of the General Mills team adapting to changes in a worldview when Atkins was implemented. General Mills quickly changed their popular Lucky Charms cereal recipe to a whole grain based product and leveraged this with the same old slogan “magically delicious!” Godin exemplifies that a company, to be successful, must tell an authentic story that adheres to the worldview of an audience and if that worldview changes adaptations must be made. This, along with multiple others of Godin’s examples, successfully explains that worldviews are there before you and a story must be framed in terms of this worldview to be successful. Godin sets up the rest of his book with this idea.Next, Godin explains that people on notice what is new, and then they’ll guess about what to expect next. His most important example in explaining this is at the very end of this chapter. He talks about how diners at the Union Square Café rave about the service. However, these customers only do this because that is what they have persuaded themselves is true. Therefore the customers get the good service they expect because that’s the story that plays in their head and their brain makes their expectations come true. (p. 84) This human tendency, as Godin successfully describes, makes it easier to trick people into believing something is new and different. Godin’s clever use of describing how the brain works makes it clear that marketers can easily tell a story that isn’t all accurate and succeed in doing so. It’s interesting to see that this behavior is so common yet overlooked in being such a huge part of what succeeds and what doesn’t.Godin goes on to explain another human behavior, snap judgments, which affect what a consumer thinks. He realizes that people will make snap judgments when buying something and will refuse to change his mind after that initial decision. This makes first impressions, not overly important, but pretty crucial in that it is the beginning of the story, even though the time of this first impression is ambiguous. Therefore, authenticity matters in generating a story that is going to be heard and repeated. He speaks about how people get upset when they find out recycling isn’t as effective as they thought and how New Yorkers were outraged when recycling was cancelled. Godin says, “The recycling lie was subtle, multifaceted and deeply seated.” (p. 94) Which he affirms is exactly the story you want to create for a brand to last. His explanation of this further proves that people will make loaded judgments in a fraction of a second, and refuse to change it once the decision has been made and marketers must realize this to be successful. Again, it is very interesting that such a behavior of stubbornness can have such a great affect on what stories will be believed. If someone makes this judgment and believes the story they will spread it, which rises the realization that marketing is almost entirely reliant on behaviors on the consumer.Great marketers tell stories we believe. Godin starts this chapter by engaging the audience by making us the marketer. He then offers the idea of how to get elected as president. John Kerry failed at doing this because he didn’t tell a coherent story or a lie we wanted to believe because he didn’t live his story in everything he did. This non- cohesive story was unattractive and not believable so he wasn’t elected. This example shows that…

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