Review: All Marketers are Liars | Seth Godin

Photograph was a collaborative effort between Tim Harris and I

Thank you, and I hope you enjoy.

Introduction

I finally got my hands on All Marketers Are Liars (Tell Stories) by Seth Godin. Seth Godin is an American author, entrepreneur, marketer, and public speaker. If you have ever read Purple Cow, Tribes, or any one of his 17 (official) books, you would know that this is an individual that lives and breathes marketing. To put it simply, he knows his stuff.

My mentor (Ben Terry, Access Ventures) asked me how I felt about this book before reading it, my answer was “uneasy.” The title is not very encouraging, in fact, it struck a lot of confusion and emotion within me. “Are Liars” is crossed out and “Tell Stories” is written instead, which spurred me to think that marketers are not just liars, but they are also deceitful. Now, I am not going to go on about how this book made me feel before I read it, so I’ll get into what matters, how I felt after I read it.

What’s the point?

In All Marketers are Liars, Godin proposes that marketers are in fact not liars, but storytellers (though a vast number fail at telling good stories). There is a liar though, and it’s the consumer. Consumers lie to themselves everyday, he writes, whether it be about what they wear, where they live, or who they vote for. People choose to believe the stories marketers provide because it’s what they want to believe about themselves, a “self-fulfilling truth.” He believes that if a great story is told, you win your audience’s trust and belief, and in today’s market, that’s everything you need.

“All marketers are storytellers, only the losers are liars.”

Structure

At first, the chapter set-up stuck out to me, it was very unorthodox. In fact, there are no traditional chapters, but rather numerically ordered steps containing subheading after subheading, similar to a blog post. This was not a deterrent for me, Godin was able to turn complicated ideas, into several simple and concise areas of focus. Godin is a renown blogger, famous for his work on Typepad. It is very likely that his career as an author has been heavily influenced by his work as a blogger (i.e. structure, idea flow, etc.).

As I mentioned before, the book is structured as a five-step process, this process is what consumers go through when they encounter successful marketing:

  • Step 1: Their worldview and frames got there before you did. A consumer’s worldview, which is a combination of their current rules, beliefs and biases, affects the way they notice things and comprehends them.
  • Step 2: People only notice the new and then make a guess. Consumers notice things when they change or appear different.
  • Step 3: First impressions start the story. A consumer’s first impression causes them to make a quick, permanent judgment about what they just witnessed.
  • Step 4: Great marketers tell stories we believe. In order for consumers and marketers to win, the marketer must tells a story authentically and the company must create a product or service that is consistent with what the marketer says it will do.
  • Step 5: Marketers with authenticity thrive. If your story fails to be authentic, your audience won’t believe the story that’s being told to them, and they will not share your story with other people. Authentic stories are shared, survive scrutiny, and remain profitable.

My humble, yet honest opinion

I believe that in general Seth is spot on. We don’t need a product or idea, but rather we want it, and all that we “need” is a story to convince us enough so we can “want.”

With that being said, I had problems with this book.

At times, I felt that the support for his claims were unfounded. There is no real experimentation, or scientific conclusions, just stories about telling stories. It’s difficult to implement what I’ve learned from the book because it’s almost entirely theoretical.

Additionally, the content felt repetitive at times. Its possible that what was once a long-form blog post, had now been stretched far enough to become a book. I wonder if my experience would have been better (it still was great) if I had read the piece as a blog post, rather than in between the covers of a book.

I’ll close.

I enjoyed this book, a lot. It helped me harness the point of view of a marketer, and a consumer. Not only was I able to feel like I was on the outside looking in, as a marketer, but I also realized truths about myself as a consumer. I would recommend this book to someone that is interested in unlocking the power of authentic storytelling. This book is a necessary resource and a light, especially in a world where bad storytelling is pervasive, and dishonest marketing continues to exist.


Through my internship with Access Ventures I was able to acquire this book and study it’s content. Access Ventures is an impact investment firm located in Louisville Kentucky. You can learn more about them here.

If you’d like to purchase All Marketers are Liars, you can do so here.