All Marketers are Liars by Seth Godin: Book Review

Seth Godin is a storyteller, an edgy marketing guru pushing the idea that the main weapon of marketers now is no longer advertising, but storytelling. In this digital age, where attention is scarce, the best storytellers win. This is the basic concept taught in the book All Marketers are Liars

He emphasizes, “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.” Key word is on purpose.

The challenge for marketers is to tell stories with clarity and clear intentions.  Authentic stories dominate the conversation and drive business towards profitability. Those who tell lies will be revealed easily and punished appropriately by the market.

The title is misleading but intentional.  He grabs your attention, making clear the point that if your story doesn’t stand out (just like his book title and his core thesis in his book Purple Cow), then your business won’t make a dent in the universe. Not all marketers are liars, but he proves the storytelling point with the title of the book.

Good marketers simply tell stories that consumers choose to believe.  They simply need to identify the belief of consumers and weave the company’s story into that narrative.

In his book, Godin shares examples of flawed and successful corporate storytelling. A good story involves understanding the worldview of the customers and then framing the business’s story into that worldview. The story then becomes believable and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy for the consumer.

Godin cautions marketers trying to change someone’s worldview forcibly. He argues that this is ineffective because people become defensive when you directly challenge their beliefs.

A great story is subtle. Marketers should not push the message directly to the consumer. Through the art of storytelling, the consumer should intuitively get the message and draw out the conclusions from the story. After which, the consumer acts on the message (e.g., buy the product).

Most the time, consumer action happens quickly because a great story engages fast and connects powerfully with the consumer. Great stories appeal to our senses where intuitive and impulse buying is triggered. It’s a magical (and marketing) moment when great stories strike us.

Seth emphasizes that first impressions matter. Marketers need to craft a really effective story because the consumers make buying decisions almost instantly after being exposed to the story. Thanks to social media, stories go viral easily.

Seth Godin is not the best writer in town but he is among the best storytellers (go watch some his TED talks) which makes him a best-selling author. As a marketer, this is your goal too. While your product may not be superior, it will be in the eyes of your target consumer through proper storytelling.  

Seth speaks his mind and lives authentically. His books are short and easy read as he knows the brain loves stories, but doesn’t always enjoy a long read.   

For traditional marketing managers, this book might seem hogwash or fluff, but for real-world marketers, Godin’s core messages about storytelling will resonate after reading the book.


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