Summary of All Marketers are Liars by Seth Godin

BookSummaryClub Blog Summary of All Marketers are Liars by Seth Godin

When it comes to advertisements, we all know how clever marketers can be. They know exactly how to get into our heads and entice us, making us buy things we really don’t need. Even though we know this, we still fall under their spell, sometimes even falling for very convincible lies. However, because of this, you have to almost admire their talents. It is no easy feat to get into the minds of the public and getting them to do what you want them to. 

So, would you like to know how it is done? How do marketers create the stories they do and affect our lives on a daily basis? 

In this book summary readers will discover:

  • Marketers are incredible storytellers
  • The importance of the customer’s worldview
  • New ideas and information processing
  • Authenticity is key
  • Little lies versus fraud

Key lesson one: Marketers are incredible storytellers

A good marketing strategy begins with telling people a believable story. Take George Riedel, for example. He is a glassblower whose wine glasses are extremely popular. He tells people that wine has a unique message which is translated by the glass from which it is drunk. This, of course, has no scientific basis and research has actually shown there is no difference between his glasses and any other wine glass. However, people around the world will attest to the fact that wine from a Riedel glass tastes better. His marketing is just so good that it can change the taste of wine!

But this just demonstrates the power of marketing. Riedel’s glasses are special just because he tells his buyers a believable story. This is what all marketers do to get people to buy things – specifically, things they want but don’t necessarily need. Just consider a pair of popular branded sneakers. People purchase them just because they believe when they put them on, they will seem just as cool as the person they saw in the advertisement. This is because they believe the story that marketers have told them in the advertisement. They do not consider the comfort of the shoe or the price tag but rather how it will make them appear. 

Therefore, marketers have mastered the skill of storytelling to appeal to the public. It might seem simple, but in fact, it takes a lot of practice before they get it right. 

Key lesson two: The importance of the customer’s worldview

The reason why the skill of storytelling is a bit complicated for marketers to master is simply that every customer has a different worldview. We are all shaped as a result of our experiences, the people around us and our values. This means that everyone wants very different things. What this means for marketers is that the customer’s worldview will determine which story they believe. To give you an example, imagine a customer that was cheated by a car salesman the last time they bought a car. When it comes to their next purchase, because of their experience, they would be less likely to be trusting of car salesmen whether it is the same dealership or not. This would differ from the worldview of a customer who has had only positive experiences when purchasing a car. 

So customers are never the same but, it is possible to find similarities amongst them. A good marketer is able to group people with similar worldviews together and develop a story that will appeal to them. Take new parents, for example, who want the best for their babies. Thus, they would want a story that speaks to their worldview like Baby Einstein which promised to make babies smarter if they watched their videos. This marketing campaign resulted in sales totally $150 million in 2004 alone! The parents thought they were helping their kids get a headstart. However, studies that were done later found that the videos had little effect on their intellect at all. But the story sold by the marketers behind Baby Einstein spoke to the parent’s worldview and that was all that mattered. 

Thus it is important as a marketer that you consider the customer worldview that you are appealing to and that you tailor your story accordingly. More importantly, you have to be aware of any changes to your customer’s worldview so that you can update your story. This was something Interstate Bakeries learned the hard way. When the Atkins diet became popular, everyone was avoiding carbs and thus Interstate Bakeries products. They actually went bankrupt as a result. However, General Mills had a different approach, they updated the story along with their customer’s new worldview that carbs were bad. They began using 100 per cent whole grains in all their cereal brands making them seem healthier. This led customers to continue buying their products. This is why you need to carefully craft your story to your customer’s worldview, taking everything into consideration.

Key lesson three: New ideas and information processing

Another important part regarding storytelling is knowing how the brain reacts to new information. When people are faced with something new, they immediately compare it with what they already know. Humans tend to only react to new information ignoring the things that are the same. It is how we can tell if something has been moved around in our room. Similarly, we are to easily recognize when the grocery store has a new product on display. 

When people see something new, their brains try to understand it. They look for explanations in what they already know as they try to make sense of this new thing. The brain does not appreciate something random that it cannot figure out. For example, if you are sitting in your living room and reading a book and the window breaks, you might automatically search the floor looking for what broke it. That is your brain looking for an explanation based on the theory that something has broken the window. 

So, what has this got to do with marketing? When marketers tell a story, they allow us to make sense of the world. You are presenting them with new information but at the same time providing an explanation that will allow their brain to immediately process this new information. 

Key lesson four: Authenticity is key

When it comes to stories, the more impactful are those which are authentic. Marketers always have to make the distinction between first contact and first impressions. When people are first exposed to a new product, this is their first contact and they might not even react to it. However, the first time they react meaningfully towards is their first real impression of the product. This is where marketers have to shine and where authenticity really comes into play. 

The story that you develop should be authentic and relate to all areas of the business. This means that you may be promoting a specific item, but your story should relate to the company itself, their message and their staff. If everything is aligned, then your story is authentic and chances are you will be able to reach more people. This will occur as people share your authentic story with others. However, if you spin one story about an amazing product from an equally amazing company but the customer service is horrendous, your story seems completely fake. This will make people avoid the product and company altogether. Thus, authenticity is the key to making your story have the right impact on your customers. 

Key lesson five: Little lies versus fraud

Honesty in the marketing world is not exactly easy to come by. Most of the time they have a product to promote and the stories they spin might be a bit exaggerated. The truth is that marketers only act based on people’s irrational behaviour when it comes to purchases. Most of the time, we don’t buy something because we need it or because it is the best quality. We buy things because we want them and they’re trendy. 

It is because of this that marketers come up with little lies or fibs to sell their products. These fibs strengthen the stories they tell. But, an important factor of these little lies is that they should not have any negative effect on the customer. Much like George Riedel and his glasses, his lie that wine tastes better in his glass did not affect his customers in any way. They just help sell his wine glasses. 

However, what should be avoided at all costs is fraud. Fraudulent claims included in stories can be harmful to customers. They are not the same as fibs which are harmless. An example of the damage that fraud can produce comes from a few decades ago when Nestle claimed that bottle feeding was better than breastfeeding. According to UNICEF, this claim inadvertently contributed to the death of more than a million babies. Marketers for Nestle should have stuck to an authentic story aimed at mothers who had difficulties breastfeeding and not at mothers in general. This campaign caused more harm than anyone could have ever imagined and is a cautionary tale to all marketers.

The key takeaway from All Marketers are Liars is:

To be an effective marketer, you need to understand your customers and develop a story that appeals to them. You need to take everything into consideration and remember to remain authentic. This will strengthen your story and allow you to reach more customers. The use of little lies is inevitable in the marketing world. However, you should never commit fraud as this will not only harm the customer but also tarnish the image of the brand. Know your customers and tell an authentic story. It will take some practice, but you will get there if you stick to these two main aspects.

How can I implement the lessons learned in All Marketers are Liars:

Ensure that you do your research properly. It may be time-consuming but you will be grateful when everything works out. You cannot rush the initial stages of getting to know your customers and their worldview. By doing this properly, you ensure that your story is tailor-made for your customers and not haphazardly put together hoping for the best.

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