Lucas's Reviews > All Marketers Are Liars: The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low-Trust World

All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin
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How Marketing Works (When it Works)

Step 1: Their worldview and frames got there before you did. A consumer's worldview affects the way he notices things and understands them. If a story is framed in terms of that worldview, he's more likely to believe it.

Step 2: People only notice the new and then make a guess. Consumers notice something only when it changes.

Step 3: First impressions start the story. A first impression causes the consumer to make a very quick, permanent judgment about what he was just exposed to.

Step 4: Great marketers tell stories we believe. The marketer tells a story about what the consumer notices. The story changes the way the consumer experiences the product or service and he tells himself a lie. Consumers make a prediction about what will happen next. Consumers rationalize anything that doesn't match that prediction.

Step 5: Marketers with authenticity thrive. The authenticity of the story determines whether it will survive scrutiny long enough for the consumer to tell the story to other people. Sometimes marketing is so powerful it can actually change the worldview of someone who experiences it, but no marketing succeeds if it can't find an audience that already wants to believe the story being told.

Worldview is the term I use to refer to the rules, values, beliefs, and biases that an individual consumer brings to a situation.

If Jason got completely screwed the last time he bought a car from a used-car salesman, the worldview he has when visiting a dealership four years later is a little different than that of someone who is buying her third car in four years from the same place.

If Rebecca sees her job as purchasing agent for a big company as one where she should avoid risks, she'll view that new salesperson in her office very differently than if her understanding of her job is that she should cut costs by innovating and trying new alternatives.

Frames are elements of a story painted to leverage the worldview a consumer already has. Krispy Kreme did it with the phrase Hot Donuts. Hot means fresh and sensual and decadent. Pile that onto the way some of us feel about donuts and they had tapped into an existing worldview (donuts = sensual = hot = love). It wouldn't work on everyone, but until people changed their worldview (donuts = carbs = get fat), they did great. A frame, in other words, is a way you hang a story on to a consumer's existing worldview.

When a furniture store runs a going out of business sale with banners on every street corner, they're not talking about the furniture. They are framing the story for people who need an excuse to get their cheap spouse to finally get up and go with them to shop for furniture. This frame works on some people, but not on the folks who drive two hundred miles to an antique fair or redecorate whenever Martha tells them to. Different worldviews, different frames.

Marketing succeeds when enough people with similar worldviews come together in a way that allows marketers to reach them cost-effectively.

Your opportunity lies in finding a neglected worldview, framing your story in a way that this audience will focus on and going from there.

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.

The story a consumer tells himself about a new product or service is primarily influenced by the worldview that consumer had before he even knew about the new thing. That worldview affects three things:

1) Attention: the consumer's worldview determines whether she even bothers to pay 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.

2) Bias: everyone carries around a list of grudges and wishes. When a new product or service appears on your horizon, those predispositions instantly color all the information that comes in.

3) Vernacular: consumers care just as much about how something is said as what is said. They care about the choice of media, the tone of voice, the words that are used - even the way things smell. When the story that's told to the consumer doesn't match the vernacular the consumer expects, weird things happen.

Speaking respectfully to a person's worldview is the price of entry to get their attention. If your message is framed in a way that conflicts with their worldview, you're invisible.

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.

1) Snap judgments are incredibly powerful.
2) Humans do everything they can to support those initial judgments.
3) They happen whether you want your prospects to make a quick judgment or not.
4) One of the ways people support snap judgments is by telling other people.
5) You never know which input is going to generate the first impression that matters.
6) Authentic organizations and people are far more likely to discover that the story they wish to tell is heard and believed and repeated.

Examples: Stories Framed Around Worldviews
-I believe a home-cooked meal is better for my family.
-I believe shopping for lingerie makes me feel pretty.
-I don't believe marketers.
-I believe sushi tastes better if the chef is Japanese.
-I like books Seth Godin writes.
-I like to beat the system.
-Amazon has the best customer service.
-Organic food is better.

Storytelling works when it actually makes the service or product better.

The good news is clear: authentic marketing, from one human to another, is extremely powerful. Telling a story authentically, creating a product or service that actually does what you say it will leads to a different sort of endgame. The marketer wins and so do her customers. A story that works combined with authenticity and minimized side effects builds a brand (and a business) for the ages.

The only stories that work, the only stories with impact, the only stories that spread are the "I can't believe that!" stories. These are the stories that aren't just repeatable: these are the stories that demand to be repeated.

Your goal should not (must not) be to create a story that is quick, involves no risk, and is without controversy. Boredom will not help you grow.

Explaining failure.
There are four reasons why your new release failed:
1) No one noticed it.
2) People noticed it but decided they didn't want to try it.
3) People tried it but decided not to keep using it.
4) People liked it but didn't tell their friends.

1) Why didn't anyone notice it? Because they weren't looking. They weren't looking because there's too much to look at and not enough time to take it all in, so our default setting is to ignore everything. We walk a supermarket or a tradeshow or skim a stack of resumes and we actually notice very little.

Most of us have a very simple default frame: if it's not remarkable or exceptional, ignore it. If someone tries to sell you something, decline.

Making something a little better doesn't help you because people won't bother noticing it. (The population isn't monolithic, though, so it's likely that some people will bother noticing it. Which leads to the second problem...)

2) Why didn't those who noticed it try it? In most markets, for most products, the frame often carried around says "I'm just looking." Even when we haul ourselves all the way to the mall, that's the answer we give to a prodding salesman. It's also the way we surf the net - rarely clicking on anything, rarely staying on a website for long.

There are segments of the population that are dying to try something. Photography nuts who actively seek out a better lens. Shoe fetishists who will wait in line for a limited edition pair of Nikes. Those are the groups you need to seek out with your story - at least at first.

3) Why didn't they become loyal customers? While those early adopters (who have a bias to try the new stuff) may have tried it, it doesn't fit their modus operandi to come back for more. The very same bias that pushed them to try your product is pushing them to try someone else's tomorrow.

New products grow when they can peel off a few early adopters and persuade them that they have found the answer to their prayers. This only works when they tell their friends, though.

4) Why didn't they tell their friends? Why are voters uncomfortable recommending a political candidate to a stranger? To insist that their friends give money to a favorite charity? To talk with a coworker about a new lingerie store?

Why is it so easy to rave about a restaurant or a new CD but not about a massage therapist or the clever way one can save money by buying a casket a few decades early?

Same answer. Worldview. Long before a marketer showed up and asked (insisted, actually) that a consumer forward some note to all her friends, she figured out her comfort level. A goofy internet video is fine for some people, but you feel really weird talking about gun control. That may not be an intentional delineation on your part, but it's a fact the marketer has to deal with.

Why do certain things grow so fast on the internet (Hotmail, Napster, eBay) while others lie there gathering dust? Because of consumer bias about what people feel comfortable sharing - and not sharing. You can whine about this or you can find a category that's more likely to become an ideavirus and tie it into your frame.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
October 3, 2012 – Shelved

Comments Showing 1-1 of 1 (1 new)

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message 1: by L.P. (new)

L.P. Johnson Your post is very clear, concise, and helpful...it cleared up quite a bit, and challenged my thinking in some important areas. Thank you.


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