I’m fresh out of school. I’m talking May 2015 graduate. I studied art history and marketing, granted a less conventional combination, but it worked for me. I loved both subject matters, but I always looked forward to my marketing classes. Why you ask? Because they didn’t have any textbooks – something both my back and my bank account really appreciated. I’m kidding…sort of.
This is relevant. I swear. My point is that in marketing, textbooks weren’t necessary because it changes too fast and the best way to learn was through case studies. Companies that have failed will be thrilled to know that they are used as “what not to do” examples in most business school classes.
I did have one professor who gave us a list of recommended readings. Pshh who had time for that right? But given that I was a good student, I at least read the list. One caught my eye. The title was “All Marketers are Liars.” I ignored it at first because it made me feel like a bad person, but then I started working at Gorilla 76.
As a new employee, I’ve tried to be a sponge. I listen, I read, I try, I fail and at some points I succeed. While I was listening and reading, the name Seth Godin would pop up repeatedly. I mean he’s on blog posts, he’s all over my LinkedIn and Twitter, he’s everywhere. And I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had seen his name before. You guessed it. He wrote, “All Marketers are Liars.” I finished the book in three hours.
First off, I highly recommend the book. Second, I was not the only person thrown off by the title because he reprinted it in 2012 and now on the cover “are liars” is crossed off and “tell stories” replaces it. The book was published in 2009 and there are moments where it seems dated. For example, Napster is used as a “successful” case study – whereas now Spotify is obviously all the rage (right? It’s still all the rage?). Like I said before, things change quickly. But in the book Godin discusses some topics that have remained consistent and will most likely always be relevant in the marketing world.
To be fair, sometimes the book reads like a Psych 101 study “Why are humans impossible to understand?! Read this and be more confused by the human condition!” but some sentences stopped me in my tracks and forced me to think. Sometimes the simplest things just need to be written down and seen because honestly I think we forget. The three main points I took from this reading are: positioning comes first, content is king and be authentic.
Positioning comes first
Godin’s main pitch is that when it comes to marketing, most people want to be told a story. They don’t necessarily want dry information, but they definitely want to believe in something. He also points out that “great stories are rarely aimed at everyone” (Godin, 12). Your story has to be positioned to a certain audience and within this audience; individuals will be in different buying mindsets. So if your target audience is, for example, “adventurous women over 35,” your story must resonate when she is just learning about you, when she’s considering you and once she’s made the purchase.
We as a marketing agency have to understand who we are telling the story to before we start writing it. And in a B2B environment it’s easy to forget that we are sharing a story to people, not faceless businesses. Which is why we spend a lot of energy building buyer personas and writing content for people in all different stages of the buyer’s journey.
Quote that made me stop and think: “The myth of product superiority in B2B is just that. The people who buy for business are people first…”(102).
Content is king
The reason this book resonated with me is the word “storytellers.” I understand that Seth Godin was talking about storytelling in the broadest sense of the word, but I took it in a more written sense. Godin wrote “in the last century marketers fell in love with telling stories via commercials on television and we forget about other more effective ways to spread our ideas” (26). I think he would agree that blog posts are one of those ways.
So, if the written word is how we tell stories and storytelling is the core of marketing then it only makes sense that content would be king.
Quote that made me stop and think: “Consumers care just as much about how something is said as what is said” (45).
The story you’re telling won’t be trusted or shared unless it’s authentic. The story doesn’t necessarily need to be filled with facts or features; it just needs to come from a genuine place.
*This point applies to several aspects of life
Quote that made me stop and think: “Authenticity is more important than getting noticed” (84).
I’m not sure if this is what Godin wanted me to take away from his book, but I’m sure anyone who reads “All Marketers are Liars” will learn something, and not necessarily just about marketing. But then again I’m a marketer so who knows…maybe I lied about reading it.