You don’t have to be a liar to be a great marketer
May 01, 2017 - MARKETING
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Olivier Stapylton-Smith

If you love stories like I love stories (ie. even more than Australian coffee, fresh sheets and working wifi (over 12mb) combined), then you’ll know that the ability to tell a compelling story is an incredibly beautiful thing.

I was at a party a few months ago and met a dude that could spin a story better than my late father, the man of the brilliant anecdote himself. We had the stupid conversation you have while enjoying a wine. Or two. Or eight. Whatever, we had nowhere else to be. He was spinning yarns and crafting a rather wonderful image of the charismatic guy he was. I was enthralled, not by what he was saying but how he was saying it. The guy was captivating. Interestingly enough, by the end of the night, I’d received a strong book recommendation from said funny man. The title was All Marketers Are Liars, by Seth Godin — a book purely about telling stories to captivate people. Ah, you could smell the irony.

What a joy it was to read this book and reflect on how it got to be in my hands. A wonderful story by a wonderful story-teller, recommended by another master of the stories. Inception, or what? I was in anecdotal paradise, unpacking gem after diamond after jewel of intriguing thought and insight. Below are ten truths I learned from the new love of my life, Seth Godin. Sorry, Thomas.

1. CUSTOMERS DON’T BUY A PRODUCT, THEY BUY A STORY: “Stories make it easier to understand the world. Stories are the only way we know to spread an idea. Marketers didn’t invent storytelling. They just perfected it.”

2. ALL MARKETERS TELL STORIES: 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 is vastly superior to a $36,000 Volkswagen that’s virtually the same car. We believe that $225 sneakers make our feet feel better—and look cooler—than a $25 brand. And believing it makes it true.

3. 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.”

4.GREAT STORIES DON’T APPEAL TO LOGIC, THEY OFTEN APPEAL TO OUR SENSES: Pheromones aren’t a myth. People decide if they like someone after just a sniff. And the design of an Alessi teapot talks to consumers in a way that a fact sheet about boiling water never could.

5. 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.”

6. EVERYONE IS A LIAR: “You are a liar, and so am I. We all lie to ourselves because we are superstitious. We use stories to fill the gaps in information that comes to us throughout the day. The stories are lies to make it easier to live in a complicated world. We tell ourselves stories that couldn’t possibly be true, but believing them is what allows us to function. Marketers are Liars because the people demand them to be. Marketers tell stories and consumers believe them. Some do it well, others not so much... But the truth is the consumer needs a good story in order to feel good about making a decision. It’s just natural to buy something from someone telling a story, it’s become part of the norm. People can’t handle the truth, so marketers lie.” 

7. MARKETING IS ABOUT SPREADING IDEAS: Marketing is about spreading ideas, and spreading ideas is the single most important output of our civilisation. Hundreds of thousands of Sudanese have died because of bad marketing. Religions thrive or fade away because of the marketing choices they make. Children are educated, companies are built, jobs are gained or lost — all because of what we know (and don’t know) about spreading ideas. If you care about the future of your social commerce company, your new online business, marketing matters. Marketing matters because whether or not you’re in a position to buy a London tube advertisement, if you’ve got an idea to spread, you’re now a marketer.

8. CONSUMERS WANT TO CREATE AND BELIEVE THEIR OWN STORIES: “This is a hard lesson for a lot of marketers to learn. It’s easy to tout your features, focus on the benefits, give proof that you are, in fact, the best solution to the problem. But proof doesn’t make the sale. Of course, you believe the proof, but your audience doesn’t. The very fact that you presented the proof makes it suspect. If a consumer figures something out or discover's it on her own, she’s a thousand times more likely to believe it than if it’s just something you claim.” And “the facts are irrelevant. In the short run, it doesn’t matter one bit whether something is actually better or faster or more efficient. What matter is what the consumer believes, the story they tell themselves.”

9. MARKETING IS STORYTELLING: “The story of your product, built into your product. The ad might be part of it, the copy might be part of it, but mostly, your product and your service and your people are all part of the story. Tell it on purpose.”

10. 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 worldview was seeking, and they sync right up with her expectations.”

*FYI this book is so easy to read. If you’re boarding a domestic flight, I recommend grabbing it at the airport and chewing through it alongside a little glass of somethin’ somethin’ in the air. 

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