All Marketers are Liars by Seth Godin

Seth GodinMarketing’s reigning king of the hill exploring and connecting ideas from his new book All Marketers Are Liars. “Take Leo Burnett, David Ogilvy, Bill Bernbach and Mark Twain.” Jay Levinson, author of Guerrilla Marketing said. “Combine their brains and shave their heads. What’s left? Seth Godin.” Great remark— remarkable, even— and true. Seth is brilliant, insightful, funny, aware, perceptive, bold and… also human. And that’s a formula when shaken, not stirred, which just may have produced the smartest marketing man alive today. This is my second interview with guru Godin. Both times I’ve learned lots. This one gets neck deep into network marketing. Fun-learning. Enjoy. All Marketers’ Are Liars. You don’t really mean that. Actually, what I mean is all marketers are storytellers and that people tell themselves lies. Good marketing is about giving people a story that they want to believe, that they’re glad they believed, and that the act of believing it made their lives better.  NULL The consumers are telling lies to themselves. Is that what you said? It’s impossible to know the truth about anything, particularly in our busy world. Most people don’t even want to know the truth. We buy the bottled water because of the way it makes us feel not because we’ve done the chemical analysis of the mineral content and the molecular structure. We go on vacation to places that aren’t necessarily the best use of our money. We buy our house in a certain neighborhood, send our kids to a certain kind of school, buy a certain kind of car, all of the decisions we make in our life, business, social, charitable, aren’t based on an exhaustive analysis of all the facts, they’re based on the story we tell ourselves. The way that we talk to ourselves, our friends and to our family about what we are doing and why we are doing it. Is this the essence of what people mean when they say we buy on emotion Seth? That’s absolutely true.

We don’t just buy on emotion, we do everything on emotion.

People like to talk about the stuff in their life. They like to talk about the products they’re buying, the music they’re listening to, etc. and that’s all very emotional. It’s very important to understand that just about every person in this country has everything that they need and that all the money we’re spending is on stuff that we want. And wants are very different than needs. The first way you can tell is that needs are actually cheap.

Stuff like clean water and the food you need to survive isn’t particularly expensive in this country. It’s the stuff that we don’t need, but want, like a Ferrari, that costs money.

If needs are very inexpensive, then those of us that are marketing anything else are marketing to people’s wants, and if that’s the case then one perspective has to say ‘everything is discretionary spending’. Do you agree? That’s absolutely true— your competition isn’t another skin cream or another vitamin, your competition is the entire universe of things that make people feel good. Those things can be anything from a massage to the peace of mind that someone gets from sending that $100 to a charitable organization that builds schools in Nepal. It’s all about satisfying the same basic set of wants and desires and those all hook up to stories. I think we’ve got to segue here for a minute and talk about the fact that not everyone wants to tell themselves the same story and that’s what makes it interesting but also makes it difficult. When we look at a population, everyone carries around what I call a series of ‘worldviews’— the biases, the expectations and the beliefs you have before you encounter that next marketer, before you even hear the next story. Two very simple but emotional examples here— When either John Kerry or George Bush was giving a speech last year, different people heard them say different things. The minute John Kerry opened his mouth some people would believe every word he said and give him the benefit of the doubt and want to hear his vision. Other people decided before he said a word that they didn’t like him. Well, obviously that’s not an analysis based on rational thought or detailed thinking. It’s just based on the worldview, the bias. The same thing is true with, for example, network marketing. There are some people in the world who will not buy something from a network marketer, ever, if they can help it… …before they even know if it’s the right price, the right product, the right deal, the right anything, because that’s their worldview, that’s the way they’re approaching it. They made that decision long before they met you.

What marketers have to understand is that if you’re trying to change a worldview; that almost always means that you have to try to persuade someone that they are wrong.

Persuading somebody that they’re wrong is really hard. How do we discover a person’s or a group of people’s worldview, Seth? It’s interesting. A lot of worldviews get linked together. The kind of person who owns an Apple computer is often the kind of person who likes recycling and who goes to certain kinds of conferences. I’ve been at conferences that have had nothing to do with computers, nothing to do with design, I pull out my Powerbook and everyone else has a Powerbook too— whereas, I’ve been in certain airports where I had the only Apple in the whole building. So, the first clue you’ve got is that certain worldviews travel together. We know, for example (because it works) that when it came time to sell cosmetics to middle-income and lower middle-income people that there was a good match there for direct selling and for this industry, because that kind of person seems willing to spend $6 on a cosmetic from someone down the street. You can’t do that with Tiffany Jewelry and you can’t do that with cosmetics that cost $60 a bottle just because the worldviews don’t travel. The kind of person who wants to spend $60 on lipstick is not usually the person who has a worldview that says “I’m likely to believe someone down the street that wants to sell me something.” Is there a ‘why’ that you can say more about? I’m not certain that I understand why an individual giving me personal attention and more information couldn’t sell me a $30, $40, $50 item, instead of the $6 item. Does that mean network marketing is made for the more inexpensive products? Let me start by saying that I’m not sure that people need to spend time on the ‘why’ discussion, because just knowing it’s true frees you in a whole bunch of powerful ways. It frees you to spend your time more productively; it frees you from being demoralized when you don’t make a sale when the sale couldn’t be made because the worldview was too strong.

The challenge of success in the network marketing world is not about ‘how do I change the worldview of people who are biased against me?’ it’s ‘how do I find the people who are biased for me?’ because we haven’t used those people up yet.

That said, it is endlessly fascinating to me to speculate about why certain worldviews travel in certain bunches and how you craft a story— and this is where I spend a lot of time in the book which says, not, “follow everybody and just do what’s already been done because you’re not creative enough to deal with different worldviews”— but instead figure out how to craft the way you tell a story about your product so that it matches certain worldviews. Let’s talk about Whole Foods Market. Whole Foods sells a lot of junk food. They sell chips, candy and they sell soda, but that ‘junk’ comes with a story and it’s not a story of caffeine and cheap bottles of stuff. It’s a story of putting it in a certain kind of packaging, giving it a certain kind of name, making the colas clear instead of brown, there are all sorts of ways you can tell a story
that will give satisfaction to a customer who might be inclined to not buy it if the same product was in a convenience store in a different package. Often, what happens in the network marketing world— in every world actually— is that people get lazy and they resort to the tried and true stories, which are everything from the way the brochures look to the way the salespeople dress to the cars they drive to the way the interactions go. Then someone comes along, like Pampered Chef, and they change the vernacular, they change the way the story is told. By doing that, Warren Buffet’s company has figured out how to sell lots and lots of stuff to people who would never ordinarily buy from a ‘Mary Kay’ because they told a story in a very different way and they gave the audience a chance to believe something that matched their worldview.

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