Tuesday Marketing Book Club #3, All Marketers tell stories by Seth Godin


This Tuesday, I’m picking a more recent book than in the past weeks: Seth Godin’s new edition of All Marketers Are Liars, retitled All Marketers tell stories.

I think the whole premise is in the title and the title change of the revised edition: it’s about marketing. How marketers now need to be storytellers. And there is some ambiguity about what Godin calls a “lie”.

In a few words: Marketers make up stories which are not completely truthful, yet not disingenuous, and then, if it befits her “worldview”, the customer will adopt it, make the stories hers, telling herself and others a “lie”.

Overall, Godin is right and really gives a hard time to marketers who clench on to the “golden age” (1960’s type of TV ads). The brand doesn’t belong to the marketer anymore but to the customer.

Either you’re going to tell stories that spread, or you will become irrelevant

There are a couple of strong theories developed in the book which is sound advice to businesses and marketers. The first being that stories are key to marketers:

Truly great stories succeed because they are able to capture the imagination of large or important audiences.

Throughout the book, Godin hammers what a story is, how to tell a compelling one. The dos and don’ts. All this in a very down-to-earth way, using many examples.

The second important point to me is that marketers don’t have much control anymore and need to be ok relishing it. The point has not yet sunk in with a lot of marketers.

Successful marketers are just the providers of stories that consumers choose to believe.

This is important. People tell themselves stories. It’s much more powerful than marketers telling them stories. And Godin even argues that, then, people go to great lengths to make those stories true.

Besides, Godin warns:

As a marketer, you can no longer force people to pay attention.

This is not new of course. And, by the way, it echoes Della Femina’s 1970 book (our #2): “Nobody buys any magazine to read an ad.”

Another of my favorite ideas in the book is “the curve of making stuff up”. How the paradigm of value producing has changed from “production” to “invention” and “storytelling”. Concluding in the two keys to success:

1. Invent stuff worth talking about.

2. Tell stories about what you’ve invented.

And if I have to sum up the overall method in the book.

People have worldviews (your beliefs and biases of the moment) which influence their decisions. Marketers need to find groups who share such a worldview and address those by framing their stories accordingly. And if that niche can influence a larger group, then you’re on your way to grow!

There is really more to it:

  1. How to craft stories (in a large sense) and how only remarkable stories succeed.

    Because Successful stories never offer the things marketers are most likely to feature: very good quality. A slightly better price. (…) Convenience. Nice people. A quality brochure. (…) None of these attributes are story-worthy.

  2. The role of authenticity: being genuine and consistent in telling stories to get and keep customers – because most of the time, the first touchpoint the consumer notices is not the one intended by the marketer. And good stories drive enjoyment and satisfaction.
  3. The role of repetition (by the marketer and the consumer):

    The only stories that spread are the “I can’t believe that!” stories. These are the stories that aren’t just repeateable: these are the stories that demand to be repeated.

  4. How to compete with stories.

    You can buy cheaper somewhere else. Cheap is not Marketing.

    Godin also explain that it’s now impossible to compete with the same story as competitors, taping the same worldview – yep, you need to differentiate. Be remarkable.”

Let’s face it. It’s no easy task. But what better inspiration for today’s marketer?


A word of warning: Of course, as with a lot of 21st-century marketing gurus, Godin’s prose is repetitive. And the man goes overboard, like here:

Marketing is about spreading ideas, and spreading ideas is the single most important output of our civilization.

Still, I say the book is worth reading once and good to keep around for marketers to stay grounded.

All details about the book on Amazon: All Marketers Are Liars

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