Seth Godin (2005) All Marketers Are Liars: The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low-Trust World
What are the most important skills a marketer needs? According to Seth Godin, it’s being able to tell a good story and then make it happen.
It used to be that if I knew someone, a student or friend, who needed a quick introduction to the basic concepts and language of marketing, I’d point them to Dallas Murphy (1997) The Fast Forward MBA in Marketing. Probably still would if what they need is to be able to sound like they’ve been to business school. But if I wanted them to get beyond the jargon to the real guts of marketing in today’s world, my recommendation would now be Seth Godin’s All Marketers Are Liars. Godin’s book is an almost too-easy read, so I’d have to warn them to slow down, read it carefully and think about what he’s saying. Here is just a taste,
It’s impossible to transmit every single fact, instantly, to every person you want to reach. So marketers tell stories. Sometimes we tell stories with packaging or with advertising or with words. Sometimes we tell a story with a smile, or with a sign in front of a building. Often those stories are well intentioned and even an attempt at communicating all the facts. But when a human being eventually confronts the idea, he will interpret it in his own way—he will lie to himself, creating a judgment without access to all the facts. The best marketing techniques, then, are the simple stories that are the most likely to break through, the most likely to be understood and the most likely to spread. And because the rules keep changing, the tactics must change as well.
That puts the basic situation pretty well. What Godin adds in the rest of the book is a lot of useful advice on how to make a story believable, ideally by behaving as if it is true. Today’s consumers want to believe but are very wary of anything that smacks of hard sell or hypocrisy. If your walk doesn’t match your talk, you’re cooked.