All Marketers are Liars

I just finished re-reading Seth Godin's book All Marketers are Liars. Granted it was published nearly a decade ago but the premise holds true now more than ever.

"The organizations that succeed realize that offering a remarkable product with a great story is more important and more profitable than doing what everyone else is just a bit better."

He opens with a fascinating example on Riedel, the wine glass company. Riedel's website purports: "The delivery of a wine's message, its bouquet and taste, depends on the form of the glass. It is the responsibility of a glass to convey the wine's messages in the best manner to the human senses."

content tells a story

Even the king of wine reviewers, Robert Parker, Jr., has bought in. He says, "The effect of these glasses on fine wine is profound. I cannot emphasize enough what a difference they make."

In fact, double-blind tests have proven that there is absolutely zero detectible difference between glasses. But the facts are irrelevant. It doesn't matter one bit whether something is actually better or faster or more efficient.

What matters is what the consumer believes. The reason the wine tastes better is that people believe it should! Marketing -- and the story that goes with it -- actually makes wine taste better.

Here's how it's done:

  • A great story (great content) is true. Not true because it's factual, but true because it's consistent and authentic.

  • Great content makes a promise.

  • Great stories and great content are trusted.

  • Great stories are subtle. They don't appeal to logic, but they often appeal to our desires.

  • Great stories are rarely aimed at everyone.

  • Great stories coincide with what the audience already believes and makes the members of the audience feel smart and secure when reminded how right they were in the first place.

Starbucks: transformed coffee from a commodity to an experience that proves "I'm not like the rest of the crowd and I'm worth it."

Tom's Toothpaste: made with all-natural ingredients and packaged using recycled materials whenever possible.

And, the examples go on and on. Prius. Whole Foods. Kohler fixtures.

The best marketers are artists. They realize that whatever is being sold (a religion, a candidate, a widget, a service) is being purchased because it creates an emotional want, not because it fills a simple need.

But the most important point Godin drives is that your story must be authentic. If you're not authentic, you'll get the benefit of just one sale -- not a hundred.

So, what's your story?

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