All Marketers Are Liars

All Marketers Are Liars is an aggressive title.  It’s edgy.  For some, it’s offensive.  It’s Seth Godin’s way of making a point.  He was lying when he named the title of the book (by his own admittance).  But he gets your attention, doesn’t he?  Godin’s point is that when it comes to spreading ideas, facts matter very little compared to story.  The truth is that all good marketers are good storytellers.  They can create an image for you of how life could be and, in doing so, evoking emotions that make you more likely to want to purchase whatever they’re selling.  But Some Marketers Are Good Storytellers isn’t a very catchy title.  So it matters very little that All Marketers Are Liars is an inaccurate title.  It captured your attention by telling a story and tapping into preconceived notions already floating in your brain.  Story trumps fact.

It’s a fact that human beings love stories.  We’ve been sharing them and learning from them for thousands of years.  We remember stories long after the facts have become fuzzy.  Stories are catchy because we can (and do) imagine ourselves in them every time we tell or hear one. (a good one)  Facts are just that – inanimate details that can fit nicely into a story, but rarely generate excitement on their own.

And excitement is important.  As you well know, we’re in a product and service saturated market.  We, in first world countries, have everything we need to live.  We have it in abundance actually.  There are so many suppliers to our basic needs now that virtually all of them have become commodities; products or services we buy solely on price.  We buy what we need, and generally shut out the rest of the noise.  Until.  Until something – for some unknown reason – captures our attention.  Maybe, because it captured attention, we give this “new product or service” a try.  And if we like it, maybe we keep using it.  And, finally, if this new product or service comes with a remarkable story that we can tell our friends, and it’s easy to tell, we may just spread the new thing to someone else.

In All Marketers Are Liars, Godin delves into the impact of storytelling on new product/service growth, what it means to have a good story, and some of the mechanics on building your own story.

One important point to note before we move on – everyone’s a marketer.  It doesn’t matter what your official job is, or even if you’re employed.  Anyone who has the capability of telling a story through any medium is, by definition, a marketer.  The lessons in Godin’s books (this and all his others) can be adopted and applied by all walks of life.


The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

Who’s Listening?

"Worldview is the term I use to refer to the rules, values, beliefs and biases that an individual consumer brings to a situation."
- All Marketers Are Liars, page 32

Have you ever re-read a book, or seen again a familiar piece of art and, suddenly, it means far more to you than it ever did before?  Is it not a little odd that something unchanging could have such a different impact on you than it did before?

The phenomena taking place is a shift in our worldview.  Through experience and story, our perceptions on the world alter over time.  In The Opposable Mind, Roger Martin called them “Lenses”.  Whatever name you give them, that fact is that we’re all walking around with our own personal – and truly unique – skewed view of the world.  In regards to any specific topic, issue or product however, many of those “skews” will run very similar, creating a shared worldview.  That worldview is a market for whatever it is you’re looking to sell (incl. yourself for a job position, your cause while you collect donations, etc.).  It’s a market of people that may have nothing in common other than that shared worldview.

The secret to utilizing this “market” is to break through their unconscious filters (where they’re ignoring everything that doesn’t matter to them) by telling a story that appeals specifically to them.  Stories – specifically stories that connect on a personal level – are the fastest way to reach a new potential customer.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Frame it

"Frames are the words and images and interactions that reinforce a bias someone is already feeling."
- All Marketers Are Liars, page 41

Worldview thinking is a radical shift from traditional marketing theory.  Instead of thinking in terms of demographic details (age, income, geography, education, etc.) we’re now grouping of people by mindset on a particular topic or aspect of life.  That said, we still need to be conscious of how we’re positioning our message to this group.  As Godin points out, there are three factors that we need to address:  Attention, Bias and Vernacular (page 37).  Here’s a snapshot look at each:

Attention: Think about your ideal customer.  What’s her worldview?  What’s important to her?  What would make her sit up and take notice?  Realizing we need to do something remarkable to capture her attention, let’s focus on the story that appeals specifically perfect for her.

Bias: Biases exist long before we get there.  Past experience – both joy and disappointments – will color her view of new messages.  Remember, you don’t get final cut on your story; the audience will always put their own spin on your message, regardless of how cleverly you craft it.  Be aware of that and see if you can incorporate those biases in your story.

Vernacular: What language makes sense for this worldview?  What words, style, font, medium, music, etc. is best suited?  One point of mention is the importance of consistency.  Authentic story telling is the only kind that lasts long term.  Part of being authentic is to be consistent.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Be sneeze-worthy

"Successful stories never offer the things marketers are most likely to feature:  very good quality.  A slightly better price.  The best you can get under the circumstances.  A decent commodity at a decent price.  Convenience. Nice people.  A quality brochure.  Few defects.  Industry standard warranty."
- All Marketers Are Liars, page 122

In Unleashing the Idea Virus, Godin created the term “sneezer”; an individual who latches onto a new, compelling idea and shares it with all around him.  If you produce a quality product, people will want to talk about it, but you need to make it easy for them.  Remarkable products and services are easier to sneeze because their story is that much more delicious to share.  “A little bit better” is only noteworthy to people extremely interested in that field, and even then it can slip off the radar fairly quickly.

Here’s an example.  Imagine you’re really into model trains.  You hang out with some other model train enthusiasts and “talk shop” with them, but generally keep your substantial volume of train knowledge out of conversation with the general public.  A new type of switch that allows you to go from 3 parallel tracks to 4, while nice to have, is barely worth mention at your Train Model Monthly meeting.  Until you learn that the construction of the part is actually part of an economic development project, where microloans have allowed a community in Haiti to produce the part using entirely eco-friendly material. In fact, they’ve developed whole train sets out of the material. To top it off, 20% of the company’s profits are going back to the community where the factory is located to finance the construction and staffing of an engineering school.  The “4 parallel-track switch” is now sneeze-worthy.  The train enthusiasts start telling people at work, and a few of them decide to buy full sets for their kids.  The kids love building the cities around the tracks and tell their friends.  And so on.

What makes you (and/or your company) sneeze worthy?

Perhaps what makes Seth Godin’s books so addictive is their simplicity.  Typically no longer than 200 pages and focused on one idea with two or three supporting concepts, Godin’s books are as enjoyable to read as they are impactful.  He’s got a new one launching next week.  Stay tuned for the Goose thoughts on Linchpin, as well as our exclusive interview with Seth – all coming next Tuesday.

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Chris Taylor

ABOUT Chris Taylor

Founder of Actionable Books, Chris Taylor is a writer, entrepreneur and speaker. He spends his daylight hours helping consultants and employees alike find meaning in their work and discover rich team relationships through his company, Actionablebooks...
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