All Marketers Are Liars

***Timeless Biz Book Summary #3, All Credit to Seth Godin***

February 4, 2016

Everything Else


You Believe Things That Aren’t True

Or, better put, many things that are true are true because you believe them. We believe what we want to believe & once we believe something it becomes a self-fulfilling truth — so the best marketers tell stories. A story that resonates is a story that’s repeated is a story that becomes true. When you find a story that works, live that story, make it true, & subject it to scrutiny.

Got Marketing?

Either You Tell Stories That Spread, Or You Become Irrelevant

This book is not about facts. It’s about stories. It’s a story about why marketers must not communicate the facts, & must instead focus on what consumers believe.

Marketing is about spreading ideas, & spreading ideas has been around for centuries, except not as marketing, but as “story-telling.” This story-telling however, has drastically changed in the last decades.

Before the age of TV, marketing wasn’t critical — companies had commodities. During the age, as long as your product was forced on TV, you had a chance to tell a simple story — instead of just satisfying a need, one could create want.

After the age of mass marketing, came a new ballgame: no longer about buying forcing products in front of a market, it’s now about telling personal, authentic, relatable stories. Marketing is the story marketers tell to consumers & then maybe, hopefully, the story consumers tell themselves & their friends.

How Marketing Works When It Works

  1. Their Worldview & Frames Got There Before You Did — A consumer’s worldview affects the way he notices things & understands them. If a story is framed in terms of that worldview, they’re more likely to believe it.
  2. People Only Notice The New & Then Make A Guess — Consumers notice something only when it changes.
  3. First Impressions Start The Story — A first impression causes the consumer to make a quick, permanent judgement.
  4. Great Marketers Tell Stories We Believe — Marketers tell a story about what the consumer noticed. Consumers make a prediction about what will happen next; consumers rationalize anything that doesn’t match their prediction.
  5. Marketers With Authenticity Thrive — The authenticity of the story determines whether it will survive scrutiny long enough for the consumer to tell the story to other people.

Let’s make it clear: the marketer is no longer in charge — everyone will not listen to everything. Product/life cycles are much shorter now, so the quality of an original idea matters a great deal(see below).

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Positioning is no longer enough — this time even if you’re well positioned you don’t control the message.

Making isn’t hard anymore. Making up great stories. That’s the new motto. What’s difficult — really difficult — is figuring out what’s worth making & then telling a story about it.

I. Their Worldview & Frames Got There Before You Did

We All Want The Same Things — But Then, Why Do We Take So Many Opposite Tacks To Get There?

The great failure of marketing is its inability to explain variety. No marketer can tell you in advance if an advertisement or new product is going to be successful. The explanation for this variety lies in the worldview all consumers carry. As it turns out: we don’t all want the same things.

Worldview is the term used to refer to the values, beliefs, & biases that a consumer brings to a situation; the lens they use to determine whether or not they’re going to believe a story. Different people, different worldviews.

Frames are elements of a story painted to leverage the worldview a consumer already has. A frame, in other words, is a way you hang a story on a consumer’s existing worldview. Different worldview’s, different frames.

Don’t try to change one’s worldview. You don’t have enough time or money.

Marketing succeeds when enough people with similar worldviews come together in a way that allows marketers to reach them cost-effectively.

People clump together into common worldviews, & it’s the marketers job to find a previously undiscovered clump & frame a story for those people. While identifying & targeting these worldviews is essential, the magic occurs when using a frame. A frame presents an idea in a way that embraces the consumer’s worldview, not fights it. Frames are at the heart of what marketing is today. Speaking respectfully to person’s worldview is the price of entry to get their attention; a frame is the first step in telling a persuasive story.

A Worldview Affects Three Critical Consumer Perceptions

  1. Attention — This is the unstated precious commodity. Especially in today’s rapid-moving tech world. Consumers don’t notice anything until they pay attention & pay is the perfect word.

2. Bias — It’s tempting to be a marketing crusader out to convert but it’s proven nearly impossible. People don’t want to change their worldview. They live, they embrace it, & they want it to be reinforced.

3. Vernacular — Once a marketer has presented the story, the quality of branding becomes far more important than the story itself. Consumers are here for the story & the way believing it makes them feel.

Not all worldviews are created equally; by extension, not all consumers are worth the same. Every consumer has worldview that affects the product you want to sell. That worldview alters the way they intrepret everything you say & do. Frame the story in terms of that worldview, & it’ll be heard.

  1. Find A Worldview
  2. Frame A Story Around That View
  3. Make It Easy For The Story To Spread
  4. Create A New Market

II. People Notice Only The New & Then Make A Guess

Instead of Being Scientists, The Best Marketers Are Artists

It’s impossible to transmit every fact to everyone— so marketers tell stories. They realize that whatever is being sold is being purchased because it creates an emotional want, not because it fills a simple need. Marketers win when they understand the common threads that all successful stories share.

Brain Function Research Highlights Four Ways We Process Information:

  1. Look For A Difference — If it’s not new, we ignore it. Relative to our surroundings, humans notice changes most of all.
  2. Look For Causation — Once we decide to pay attention to something, our brain sets out to explain it. In the face of random behavior, people make up their own lies/theories/explanations.
  3. Use Our Prediction Machine — We then predict what happens next. More often then not, these worldviews are heavily influenced by worldviews.
  4. Rely On Cognitive Dissonance — We’ll do whatever we can to prove our initial assertion is right. Once we’ve made up our mind, we ignore contrary data for as long as we can get away with it.

We get what we expect because what we get is just a story in our heads. We expect something to occur & our brain makes it so.

III. First Impressions Start The Story

All Important Buying Decisions Are Made Instantaneously

The problem with first impressions is that we now hardly ever now when they’ll happen — which makes authenticity the name of the game.

Here’s The Deal When It Comes To Most Consumers

  1. Snap Judgements Are Incredibly Powerful
  2. Humans Do Everything They Can To Support Those Initial Judgements
  3. They Happen Whether You Want Your Prospects To Make A Quick Judgement Or Not
  4. One Of The Ways people Support Snap Judgements Is By Telling Other People
  5. You Never Know Which Input Is Going To Generate The First Impression That Matters
  6. Authentic Organizations & People Are Far More Likely To Discover That The Story They Wish To Tell Is Heard, Believed, & Repeated

Every point of contact matters. People are always superstitious about whatever it is you’re marketing. You can ignore that or rail against; both strategies will cost you. The only logical alternative is the only one what works: use personal interactions that are so extraordinary & powerful that they cause people to tell themselves a different story instead.

Facts Are Not The Most Powerful Antidote To Superstition. Powerful, Authentic, Personal Interaction Is.

IV. Great Marketers Tell Stories We Believe

People Make Decisions Based On One Thing: The Lie We Tell Ourselves About What We’re About To Do

Stories work because consumers buy what they don’t need. And the reason they buy stuff they don’t need is because of the way it makes them feel. Consumers pretend they’re rational, careful & thoughtful about the stuff they buy. They’re not. They rely on stories.

Utility of a product is not how a desire is shaped. Stories let us lie to ourselves. And those lies satisfy our desires. It’s the story, not the good or the service, that pleases the consumer.

Examples: Stories Framed Around Worldviews

Subtlety Matters.

If you, the marketer, tell the story, the consumer won’t believe it. Consumers are too clever for that. The very fact that you presented the proof makes it suspect.

If a consumer figures something out or discovers it on his/her own, he/she’s a x1000 times more likely to believe it than if it’s just something you claim. You cannot prove your way into a sale — you gain a customer when the customer proves to him/herself that you’re ta good choice. Expectations are the engine of our perceptions.

V. Marketers With Authenticity Thrive

The Story Happens With Or Without You

The only way to change the story is with direct contact with the consumer. Personal interaction cuts through all filters. 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 — these product or experiences help ideas spread, not hype-filled advertising. So how do you figure out what’s actually remarkable?

Start with a story you enjoy telling yourself. Because before we tell it to anyone else, you must believe, breathe it, & live it.

Beware, this does not mean that you should go around fabricating stories — a story only magnifies the need to honestly make or say something remarkable. The cost of deception is too high. Once fooled, a consumer will never repeat your story.

If You’re Authentic, Then All The Details Will Line Up

No one cares about your new feature. Almost none of them are story-worthy. They certainly won’t lead to consumers telling themselves stories that they’ll find remarkable enough to tell their friends. Delivering an original story isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.

Competing In The Lying World

It’s Impossible To Out-Yell Someone With The Same Story

Unfortunately, once a consumer has bought someone else’s story & believes that lie, persuading the consumer to switch is the same persuading him to admit he was wrong.

The best alternative strategy is to find a different community, with a different worldview that wants to hear a different story. Marketers should take a step back & re-invent an entirely new story that is framed around the worldview of an undeserved community.

Remarkable? The Cow Has Not Left The Building

Safe Is Risky — It’s People On The Edges That Are More Likely To Vote

A marketer can’t just use any story. The only stories that work, the only stories with impact, the only stores that spread are the “I can’t believe that!” stories. They are the stories that aren’t just repeatable: these are the stories that demand to be repeated.

Stop fighting fear & tell the best story imaginable — the rest takes care of itself. Marketers succeed by being an extremist in storytelling, then gracefully moving a product/service to the middle so it becomes more palatable to audiences that are persuaded by friends & not marketers.

All Marketers Are Storytellers. Only The Losers Are Liars.