1-Sentence-Summary: All Marketers Are Liars is based on the idea that we believe whatever we want to believe, and that it’s exactly this trait of ours, which marketers use (and sometimes abuse) to sell their products by infusing them with good stories – whether they’re true or not.
Read in: 4 minutes
Favorite quote from the author:
This will round out the 5-pack of Seth Godin books I managed to find on Blinkist. After completely inhaling The Dip last week and starting to change my entire life after it, All Marketers Are Liars was one of the next must-reads for me.
Speaking with the same breath that brought Gary Vaynerchuk’s Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook to life, this book is all about storytelling. More so, it distinguishes between good stories which are just that – good stories – and those that are authentic.
Seth is obviously a fan of the latter, and here are 3 reasons why you should too:
- Marketing is about telling stories that people want to believe in.
- It’s important that we want to believe in a story, because of the way our brains work.
- While fibs can make a story better, you should never cross the line to fraud.
Want to tell an authentic story in a fuzzy world? Here we go!
Lesson 1: Successful marketers tell stories people want to believe in.
George Riedel has been telling a powerful story about wine glasses for ages. His company has been in the business of glass-blowing for over 4 centuries. Leading the family business in the 10th generation, Riedel introduced a special series of wine glasses, where different glasses are meant to bring out the best qualities of different sorts of wine.
He says that every wine tells his own unique story and the glass is the interpreter, which translates the message for the person who drinks from it. Scientific tests have later proven that there’s no difference between his glasses and others, but still wine experts and connoisseurs from all over the world swear that wine tastes better from a Riedel glass.
That’s the power of storytelling. It goes to the point where it changes the customer experience, just because of what people believe.
We live in a world where people buy what they want, not what they necessarily need. Most of us have bought a designer piece of clothing, sportswear, device or even food from a certain brand, not because of the quality (which is something we keep telling ourselves), but because of the way it reflects our beliefs and view of the world.
Lesson 2: You have to want to believe in a story, because that’s how your brain works.
The reason you think a pair of Nike’s is high quality and justifies a steep $100 price tag in addition to making you look cool, when they really just cost $5 to manufacture (hint: Macklemore’s Wings tells a great story about those) is the way your brain reacts to new information.
Like a frog can spot a moving fly by ignoring all static parts of his environment, our brains never compare new things to old things by considering all features.
You don’t check whether your new iPhone can do the same things the old one could do, that’s a given, you only look for the features that are new, like the better camera, lighter weight or new exterior design. For each new feature you discover, your brain instantly starts to make up information that justifies it and leaps on to every bit of reasonable evidence it can find.
That’s because our brains don’t like chaos and randomness. They thrive on logic. Have you ever thought your iPod is really smart, because it seems to play the same few songs you like over and over again, even when it’s set to shuffle?
Well, it’s not, but a random order of songs does never guarantee an even distribution of the songs.
Stories help us make sense of the world, so whatever we want to believe in, we end up doing so, because our brains start to support our beliefs, and not the other way around.
Lesson 3: Fibs can improve the customer experience, while fraud always hurts your authenticity.
According to Seth, there’s a difference between fibs and frauds. A fib is when you tell your spouse you had a late meeting, when really you were out shopping for their birthday present. It’s an “honest lie”, because you tell it to improve their birthday experience, not with mean intent.
Even though we’d love to believe it, it’s become impossible to never buy a product that’s overpriced, because marketers have long caught on to the value of a good story. But actually, that’s okay.
Because these little fibs, like in Riedel’s story about the wine glasses, can actually make our experience better. If you believe those Nike’s to be the most comfortable shoes you’ve ever worn, well guess what, they become just that. Fibs are okay to use on occasion, as long as they genuinely improve the experience.
Frauds however, are a whole other topic.
For example, when VW lied about the amounts of CO2 their cars emitted, key people, including CEO Martin Winterkorn, lost their positions, their stock went down the tubes and they had to recall 500,000 cars. Consumers always catch fraud, it’s just a matter of time.
Instead, target the right people with an honest message from the get-go and build a long-lasting relationship instead. The short-term benefits never outweigh the long-term value of a true connection.
My personal take-aways
One of the most fun things to do with any Seth Godin book is look at the many many examples he provides and then try to come up with your own or more recent ones. The book is from 2005, so it’s easy to find new examples, like the VW one, for all of the scenarios he describes.
What can I say? Another set of valuable lessons learned from the master – don’t think about it, go check out this book!
What else can you learn from the blinks?
- What creates your worldview and how to find out more about that of your customers
- How the Atkins diet ruined one company and helped another thrive
- The difference between your first contact with a product and your first impression
- What makes a story authentic and why that matters
- How Nestlé could’ve turned a million-dollar loss into a million-dollar win by telling a different story
Who would I recommend the All Marketers Are Liars summary to?
The 32 year old shoe sales rep, who frequently makes up features about shoes to meet the sales quota, the 54 year old with a company, who’s product is struggling because it’s too feature-focused, and anyone who’s a fan of one particular brands products.