Storytelling in marketing

I’m finishing up Seth Godin’s book All Marketers are Liars. There are a lot of major ideas in the book. This post is a taste.

Marketers tell us stories. A great example of this deals with car buying. If you buy a Prius, you’re communicating to the world that you’re smart and eco-friendly. If you buy a Jaguar, you’re communicating that you value class and can afford expensive tastes. If you don’t buy a mini-van, it’s because you don’t want to be seen as a soccer mom.

It doesn’t matter that the Jaguar is made by Ford or that it isn’t as reliable as, say, a Honda.

It doesn’t matter that the SUV you bought instead of the mini-van is more dangerous, less fuel efficient, and less comfortable.

Sometimes these stories are true like with Starbucks and providing a great coffee experience. Sometimes they’re not like with Beats headphones, which don’t actually provide great sound quality for their price point.

The power of the placebo is real.

What’s it matter if the expensive, organic soap you got was made considerably cheaply and doesn’t offer that noticeable of a difference in terms of cleanliness? It’s about the story that you get to tell yourself about the type of person that you are because you bought that soap. It’s about how you got to feel buying it at the store. As Seth would say, it’s about the lie that you told yourself.

Seth’s point throughout the book is that all marketers aren’t liars. No, they’re storytellers. They’re telling you stories that relate to the lies you tell yourself.

But it’s more complex than that.

Because sometimes the storytelling is actually manipulative and harmful to our health and to the world.

It’s a great book. It’s intentionally provocative, and I don’t agree with everything, but it’s compelling at the least. I highly suggest you give it a try.