lies marketers tell
Business writer states the obvious for you
All Marketers Are Liars: The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a
Low-Trust World, by Seth Godin, Do You Zoom, Inc., 2005, 186 pages.
I’d sum up the
experience of reading a Seth Godin book this way: wow… what?
The “wow” comes with
the book’s premise (usually one that you can state in about a sentence)
and the “what” comes after, when you’ve closed the book and have the
sense that the only thing you’ve successfully learned about marketing is
that Godin really knows how to market his own stuff.
Godin, best known for
Purple Cow: Transform Your Business By Being Remarkable and Permission
Marketing: Turning Strangers Into Friends and Friends Into Strangers, is
the business equivalent of a Danielle Steel or John Grisham. His books
are easy and fun to read, hold your attention and contain only one main
idea that you must keep in your head. Far from being how-to guides to
good marketing, these books are like a lunch with a slightly nutty,
fairly smart senior executive. Most of his thinking more or less boils
down to the thought that the marketing of anything — a cable network, a
bottle of water, soap — comes from the product itself. It must be
extraordinary (a purple cow) and be easy for people to show or talk
about to friends. And, in All Marketers Are Liars, he adds that the
product should have a good, compelling story to go with it.
What makes Godin’s
books interesting even to those who aren’t directly involved in
marketing is that they lean very heavily on the kind of pop psychology
that can be applied to anyone selling anything — whether you’re a person
selling yourself to a potential employer or to a date, whether you want
to increase the traffic on your website or increase the willingness of
your coworkers to listen to and trust your ideas. They also, however,
touch on the hows and whys of campaigns for JetBlue, Fox News and Fiji
water so that you get what appears to be practical business advice and a
backstage peek at how the products you buy became the products you buy.
Godin’s advice is both
commonsense and sort of absurd — yes, being better than everybody else
is helpful to selling a product. But what if you’re not better and it’s
still your job to sell it? How do you reach the
employers/customers/potential boyfriends you want to reach if what
you’re working with isn’t as good? In this book, Godin seems to suggest
that you tell a really good “authentic” story about it. “Authentic”
being different from “true” in the sense that an authentic story leaves
out some of the messy, complicated, uninteresting details that make up
the truth. An authentic story is simple and compelling and fits the
world view of the person or people to whom you are telling your story.
Some people might call
this “glossing over important facts” or “lying.” Some people might call
this “putting the best face on things.” Without picking ethical sides, I
prefer to call this idea “obvious.”
“obvious” describes what’s best and worst about most Godin books since
Purple Cow. His ideas are innovative in how simple and uninnovative they
are. What makes them more or less worth $24 per book is that they point
out things you already knew in a simple and uncluttered way. His books,
All Marketers Are Liars included, won’t make you a business star. But
they may tidy up your thinking in a way that lets your own good ideas
become clear and easier to carry out.