Q&A: All Marketers… and the challenge of telling the right story


Our series continues with All Marketers are Liars, a prime example of what happens when you tell a story wrong. I’ve done some pretty poor book titling over seventeen books, but this one was too clever by half.

Most people, of course, have never read any of my books, and even most of my blog readers haven’t read any given Seth Godin book. So a book is judged by its cover, just as you and your brand and your product are judged by your (conceptual) cover.

People saw this cover (with the original ridiculous photo) and immediately assumed that they knew what it was about (how to lie) and that the title offended them (“hey, I’m a marketer and I’m not a liar”).

But, of course, the book isn’t about how to lie, it’s about the imperative to tell the truth, a truth that resonates, a truth you can live with. The title messes with our perceptions, but in a way that instead of welcoming in my very busy, very picky potential reader, pushes her away. One newspaper reviewer slammed the book without even reading it, deciding that the title alone was sufficient cause for dismissing it.

So, to answer David Meerman Scott’s (and others’) questions: I changed the title for future editions to All Marketers Tell Stories because, even though it’s less artistic, it takes my own advice (at least a little). An even better title would have been: TRUE STORIES (and the Smart Marketers That Tell Them).

The advice: find the worldview and the bias and the cultural preconceptions that your audience carries with them and then place your story (you do have a story, whether you want to or not) as a hook that leverages those biases.

In the internet era, your story is going to be inspected, held up to scrutiny and scoured for half-truths. But if your story is true, if it not only resonates with the worldview we insist on but actually delivers, then you’ve created something of lasting value.

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