Book notes: All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin

All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin book summary

All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin


“Every marketer tells a story. 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 Cayenne is vastly superior to a $36,000 VW Touareg, which is virtually the same car. We believe that $225 Pumas will make our feet feel better, and look cooler, than $20 no-names…and believing it makes it true.

Successful marketers don’t talk about features or even benefits. Instead, they tell a story. A story we want to believe.

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 the iPod. This is a powerful book for anyone who wants to create things people truly want as opposed to commodities that people merely need.” -Audible

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Great marketers are amazing storytellers who tell an authentic story that enhances the customer experience with the product or service.

Opening thoughts:

I really enjoyed the last two books I read from Seth Godin, Tribes and Linchpin, so I went through the Audible library looking for the next one I would read. This one had good reviews and a pretty compelling synopsis. Plus, I was due for another marketing-type book anyways so might as well.

Key notes:

  • Marketers must forsake any attempt to communicate nothing but the facts and must instead focus on what people believe, and then work to tell them stories that add to their worldview
  • Either you’re going to tell stories that spread or you will become irrelevant
  • Stories make it easier to understand the world, and stories are the only way we know to spread an idea
  • Consumers insist on marketers telling them stories
    • Consumers are used to telling stories to themselves and telling stories to each other. It’s just natural to buy stuff from someone who is telling us a story
    • No one buys facts, they buy a story
  • The facts are irrelevant
    • In the short run, it doesn’t matter one bit whether something is actually better, or faster, more efficient. What matters is what the consumer believes
  • The way a consumer feels when they buy the product is the product
  • Telling a great story: truly great stories succeed because they are able to capture the imagination of large or important audiences
    • A great story is true, not because it’s factual, but because it’s consistent and authentic
  • Great stories make a promise, one that is bold and audacious. And not just very good, it is exceptional. Otherwise, it’s not worth listening to
    • Great stories are trusted. Trust is the scarcest resource that we have left
  • Talented marketers understand that the prospect is ultimately telling himself the lie, so allowing him and the rest of the target audience to draw his own conclusions is far more effective than just announcing the punchline
  • Great stories happen fast. They engage the consumer the moment the story clicks into place
    • First impressions are far more powerful than we give them credit for
    • Great stories don’t appeal to logic, but they often appeal to our senses
    • Great stories don’t contradict themselves, and therefore must be consistent
  • Great stories agree with our worldview
    • The best stories don’t teach people anything new. Instead, the best stories agree 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
  • Marketers aren’t liars, they are storytellers. The true liars are the consumers who tell themselves stories every day
    • Successful marketers are just the providers of stories that consumers choose to believe
    • Marketing is about spreading ideas, and spreading ideas is the single most important output of our civilization
    • If you’ve got an idea to spread, you are now a marketer
  • Step 1: their worldview and frames got there before you did
    • If a story is framed in terms of their worldview, he’s more likely to believe it
  • Step 2: people only notice the new, and then take a guess. They noticed something only when it changes
  • Step 3: first impressions start the story
    • A first impression causes the consumer to make a very quick, permanent judgment about what he has just been exposed to
  • Step 4: great marketers tell stories we believe
    • The marketer tells a story about what the consumer notices, the story changes the way the consumer experiences the product or service, and he tells himself a lie. Consumers make a prediction about what will happen next. Consumers rationalize anything that doesn’t match that prediction
  • Step 5: marketers with authenticity thrive
    • The authenticity of the story determines whether it survives scrutiny long enough for the consumer to tell the story to other people
    • Sometimes marketing is so powerful it can change the world view of the person experiencing it, but no marketing can succeed unless it finds the audience that already wants to believe the story being told
  • The two ends of the bell curve are where you take something that someone may or may not need and turn it into something they definitely want. That’s where the money is
    • The leverage is where you tell your stories and authentically live up to what you say you’re going to do
  • There are only two things that separate success from failure in most organizations today:
    1. Invent stuff worth talking about
    2. Tell stories about what you have invented
  • The manufacturing is not difficult, what is really difficult is figuring out what’s worth making, and then telling a story about it
  • Don’t try and change people’s worldview
    • Instead, identify a population with a certain worldview, frame your story in terms of that worldview, and you win
  • It’s dangerous to assume that consumers are the same or even rational
  • Your opportunity lies in finding a neglected worldview, framing your story in a way that this audience will focus on it, and going from there
  • A worldview is not who you are, it is what you believe. It is your biases, but it is not forever. It’s what the consumer believes right now
  • It’s not enough to find a niche that shares a worldview, that niche has to be ready and able to influence a large group of their friends
    • People want their worldview to be reinforced
  • A worldview is not a community, though a community can share the same worldviews
    • The difference is a community talks to each other
  • The most important world view: The desire to do what the people we admire are doing is the glue that keeps our society together
    • It’s the secret ingredient to every successful marketing venture. The nearly universal worldview is that people like to be in sync with their peers
    • A lot of people want what everyone else is buying
  • Another prominent worldview: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it
    • The reason many effective solutions take so long to get implemented is that the fear of change is greater than the cost of sticking with what you’ve got. This is the most frustrating worldview a marketer can face
  • Another prominent worldview: I like working with you
  • Something being sold is being purchased because it creates an emotional want, not because it fills a simple need
  • Cognitive dissonance, we will do everything we can to prove our initial assertion right
    • Almost every important buying decision is made instantaneously, these snap decisions affect everything we do and we will bend over backward to you defend them later
  • People believe heavily first impressions. The truth is, however, that 99% of the time the first impression is no impression
    • People won’t usually notice the first point of contact
  • One of the ways people support snap judgments is by telling other people
    • You never know which input is going to generate the first impression that matters
    • It’s not the first point of contact that matters, it’s every point of contact. The timing of that first impression is too hard to predict
  • Irrational beliefs aren’t a distraction, they are an intrinsic part of the quality of the product
  • Storytelling works when the story actually makes the product or service better
    • Fibs are lies that make the story come true
  • A fraud is a marketing pitch that once revealed as a story, makes a believer angry. It’s deceitful
    • A fraud is a story that is told solely for the selfish benefit of the marketer. A fraud is marketing with side effects
  • Important lesson from Nestlé and baby formula in third world countries: just because people might believe your story, doesn’t give you the right to tell it
  • It’s getting harder than ever in this age to be a liar in marketing
    • The only robust and predictable strategy is to be authentic, do what you say you are going to do. Live the lie fully and completely
  • The public demands that you tell them a story. The story is part of the product or service they buy
    • In many cases, the story is what people set out to buy. But since the core of the story is the thing, the real thing and essence of what you’ve built, if you try to build on a rotten core you will succeed for a bit but eventually, you will lose
  • Crafting a story that tricks people into making short-term decisions that they regret in the long run is the worst kind of marketing sin. Refusing to take responsibility for it afterward is cowardice
  • Two questions the consumer should ask the marketer:
    1. If I knew what you know, would I choose to buy what you sell?
    2. After I’ve used this and experienced it, will I be glad I believed the story, or will I feel ripped off?
  • Changing the story requires personal interaction. This must be done with direct contact between a person and your consumer
    • Personal interaction cuts through all the filters and is how humans beings actually make big decisions
  • The goal of every marketer is to create a purple cow: a product or experience so remarkable that people feel compelled to talk about it
    • Remarkable goods and services help ideas spread, not hype filled advertising
    • The challenge lies in figuring out what’s remarkable and actually making the remarkable happen
    • The best way to do that is to craft a story that someone enjoys telling to himself
  • Key lesson of the new marketing: once fooled, a person will never repeat your story to someone else
    • If you are not authentic, you will get the benefit of just one sale, not 100. The cost of deception is just way too high
  • It’s the combination of senses that now convince the skeptical consumer
  • Important principle of competing stories: you cannot succeed if you try to tell your competitions story better than they can
    • Persuading a consumer to switch using the same story your competitor uses is the same as persuading the consumer to admit he was wrong, and people hate admitting they were wrong
    • You need to tell a real story that’s completely different from the story that’s currently being told
  • Research proves an obvious point that the edges are more likely to vote, not the middle of the curve, but those who are in sensed and focused and care deeply about only one issue
    • You succeed by being an extremist in your storytelling, then gracefully moving your product or service to the middle so it becomes more palatable to audiences who are persuaded by their friends, not by you
  • It’s hard to be remarkable when you and your organization insist on not changing the status quo
  • Technologists have found that early adopters are just as quick to fall in hate as fast as they fell in love with it
  • Things make more sense once you look at the world through the lens of the worldview
  • 4 reasons why your new product failed:
    1. No one noticed it
    2. People noticed it but decided they didn’t want to try it
    3. People tried it but decided not to keep using it
    4. People liked it but didn’t tell their friends

Closing thoughts:

Another great book by Seth Godin. It was very insightful, concise, and focused. I appreciated that there was a strong central focus on storytelling and marketing. I think this is probably one of my favorite books on marketing as it gives a great overview of what great marketing consists of and some timeless principles on how to do marketing right. Definitely a great book to read if you’re in the marketing industry or into entrepreneurship.

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