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All Marketers are Liars by Seth Godin

by Sheldon Nesdale on 12 March 2009

in Business Book Summaries, Marketing

My Notes on “All Marketers are Liars” by Seth Godin:Seth

Aspects of a great story

    • A great story is true. Not true because it’s factual, but true because it’s consistent and authentic. Consumers are too good at sniffing out inconsistencies for a marketer to get away with a story that’s just slapped on.
    • Great stories make a promise. They promise fun or money, safety or a shortcut. The promise is bold and audacious and not just very good – it’s exceptional or it’s not worth listening to.

  • Great stories are trusted. Trust is the scarcest resource we’ve got left. No one trusts anyone. Consumers don’t trust the beautiful women ordering vodka at the corner bar (they’re getting paid by the liquor company).
  • Great stories are subtle. Surprisingly, the less a marketer spells out, the more powerful the story becomes. 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 punch line.
  • 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 match the voice the consumer’s world-view was seeking, and they sync right up with her expectations.
  • Great stories don’t appeal to logic, but they often appeal to our senses. Pheromones aren’t a myth. People decide if they like someone after just a sniff.
  • Great stories are rarely aimed at everyone. Average people are good at ignoring you. Average people have too many different points of view about life and average people are by and large satisfied. If you need to water down your story to appeal to everyone, it will appeal to no one. Match the worldview of a tiny audience – and then that tiny audience spreads the story.
  • Great stories don’t contradict themselves. If your restaurant is in the right location but has the wrong menu, you lose.
  • And most of all, great stories agree with our worldview. The best stories don’t teach people anything new. Instead, they best stories agree with what the audience already believes and make the members of the audience feel smart and secure when reminded how right they were in the first place.

“Successful marketers are just the providers of stories that consumers choose to believe”

How marketing works:

Step 1: Their worldview and frames got there before you did

  • The great failure of marketing theory is its inability to explain variety. We don’t all want the same things.
  • The lens your consumers use shows them a different version of reality than it shows you or your colleagues or your other customers.
  • Frames are elements of a story painted to leverage the worldview a consumer already has.
  • Don’t try to change someone’s worldview is the strategy smart marketers follow. Don’t try to use the facts to prove your case and to insist that people change their biases. You don’t have enough time or money. Instead, identify a population with a certain worldview, frame your story in their terms, and you win.
  • It is not impossible to change a worldview: Steve Jobs did it with the Mac and then the iPod, Shawn Fanning of Napster taught an entire generation of kids to believe music is supposed to be free.  Interesting that while changing worldview is fairly glamorous work, it doesn’t often lead to a lot of profit.
  • Marketers don’t hesitate to run different ads for men and women, for rich and the poor, for those that travel and those that don’t. We don’t go far enough. There isn’t one market. There are millions. Each filled with people who share a worldview. Your opportunity lies in finding a neglected worldview, framing your story in a way that this audience will focus on and going from there.
  • Marketing succeeds when enough people with similar worldviews come together in a way that allows marketers to reach them cost-effectively.
  • A worldview is not who you are. It’s what you believe. It’s your biases. A worldview is not forever. It’s what the consumer believes right now.
  • Who we are affects what we see. Our worldview affects three things
    • Attention. If she doesn’t think she needs a new brand of aspirin or a faster computer, she’s far less likely to notice a new one when it appears. Getting customers to “pay attention” is the perfect word. We have a finite amount of time.
    • Bias. Everyone carries around a list of grudges and wishes. When a new product or service appears on your horizon, those predispositions instantly colour all the information that comes in. People don’t want to change their worldview. They like it, they embrace it and they want it to be reinforced. Books don’t change people, they give people the opportunity to express the biases they had before they even opened the book.
    • Vernacular. Consumers care just as much about how something is said as what is said. They care about the choice of media, tone, words used, even smell. What happens when they are told a story that doesn’t match their vernacular?
  • Everyone is different, and those differences explain what we pay attention to and what we ignore. Yet just about every marketer treats every consumer as a potential customer. One that is just like all the other potential customers out there.
  • Not all customers are the same, but they are not all different either. People clump together into common worldviews. Your job is to find a previously undiscovered clump and frame a story for those people.
  • Frames
    • A frame allows you to present an idea in a way that embraces the consumers’ worldview, not fights it.
    • If you are unable to tack your idea onto a person’s worldview, then that idea will be ignored. Eg “File sharing is different than stealing”, “Firearm safety is different from banning handguns”
    • Frames are the words and images and interactions that reinforce a bias someone is already feeling.
  • 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.
  • A group that shares a worldview and also talks about it is called a community.

Step 2: People only notice the new and then make a guess.

  • We make a guess about what works, and focus our attention on how often we’re right (and forget how often we’re wrong).
  • We get what we expect. Eg great food at a famous restaurant

Ste 3: First impressions start the story

  • Snap judgements are incredibly powerful
  • Humans do everything they can to support those initial judgements
  • They happen whether you want your prospects to make a quick judgment or not
  • 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
  • Authentic organisations and people are far more likely to discover that the story they wish to tell is heard and believed and repeated.
  • Facts are not the most powerful antidote to superstition. Powerful, authentic personal interaction is.
  • Eg: Fact: Recycling material gets taken to the dump. People rebel because the facts about recycling are so opposed to the entrenched worldview. Recycling makes us feel good.
  • If consumers have everything they need, there’s nothing left to buy except stuff that they want. And the reason they buy stuff they want is because of the way it makes them feel.
  • Examples of stories framed around a worldview
    • I believe a home-cooked meal is better for my family. (Banquet used this to sell frozen crockpot dinners to busy mums)
    • I believe shopping for lingerie makes me feel pretty
    • I believe sushi tastes better if the chef is Japanese
    • Amazon has the best customer service (it’s easier to Amazon to maintain its amazing reputation because people believe it because they want to believe it)
    • Organic food is better

“Storytelling works when the story actually makes the product or service better”

When Nestle sold formula to Africa it was watered down with filthy water and millions of babies died.  The story only worked because of the worldview these consumers had before Nestle even showed up – that the Western way is best. But they are still guilty.

Step 4: Great marketers tell stories we believe

Step 5: Marketers with authenticity thrive

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

Competing in the lying world

  • The natural instinct is to figure out what’s working for the competition and then try to outdo it.
  • To be cheaper than your competitor who competes on price, or faster than the competitor who competes on speed.
  • The problem is that once a consumer has bought someone else’s story and believes that lie, persuading the consumer to switch is the same as persuading then to admit he was wrong.
  • And people hast admitting that they’re wrong.
  • Instead, you must tell a different story and persuade those listening that your story is more important than the story they currently believe.  If your competition is faster, you must be cheaper. If they sell the story of health, you must sell the story of convenience.
  • Strategies:
    • Split the community (eg find the sushi lovers willing to buy the story that they should pay $200 for a chef to make their sushi fresh in front of them rather than $12).
    • Recognise that in every community, people have more than one worldview at a time.

Extremism is not boring

Consultants are all too often the bane of the storyteller’s existence. Consultants get candidates to listen to polls and restaurateurs to change their menus. Instead of allowing yourself to be pushed toward the middle, you need to look in the mirror and realise that only a remarkable, authentic story is going to have a chance to spreading.

Fox News Example

  • The slogan for Fox News is “Fair and Balanced”. It flatters the audience, reminds them that they are not a tiny minority and reinforces a message that their worldview is valid and appropriate.  The slogan “News for Conservatives” would be a mistake.
  • Sirius had satellite radio to sell but most people think “I don’t have a radio problem”. So the greatest radio station in the world isn’t going to show up on your radar. It’s invisible
  • So they purchased Howard Stern.  Not everyone want to hear Howard Stern, plenty of people don’t like him. But those who do are open to hears how they can keep getting Howard. By taking Howard off read radio and moving him to Sirius, the company has broken radio for millions of people. Radio without Howard is inferior to what it was. It needs to be fixed. Sirius can tell me a story of how they can fix it for only $10 a month. All the other gimmicks and stations don’t matter.  As the listeners discover the other features, some of them may be compelling enough to tell a story about and the story will spread.

“Your resume should be about inventing remarkable things and telling stories that register – not about how good you are at meeting specs”

“What’s your story that led you to be as great as you are?”

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