Tell A Story Every Customer Wants To Hear

Marketing, since the beginning has been all about telling a customer a story about a product, brand or company, that will entice and enamor him and ultimately result in a purchase. All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin aims at giving insights about the world of marketing, how marketers think, and above all, how telling customers stories that are meaningful and authentic, and should be aimed at creating lasting relationships.

Additionally, it delves into marketing practices that – for better or worse – often rely on fibs and frauds in order to tap into the minds of consumers, and how these practices impact people.

Marketing A Believable Story

How can a story make marketing powerful?

The fundamentals of good marketing are about telling customers a story that is believable. Let’s take the example of George Reidel. Reidel is a 10th generation glassblower. Apart from his other glass products, his wine glasses are popular to effect that people swear by their quality.

Reidel believes in stories, and this belief makes his products connect with his consumers. He says that every wine has a message; and the glass through which a person drinks it, is the medium that conveys the message. While scientific comparisons have proved that there is no difference between other brands and Reidel, wine enthusiasts and experts world-over insist that wine tastes better in a Reidel glass.

A story, is thus, powerful enough to change the taste of wine!

Consumers all over the world today, buy what they want as opposed to what they need. And thus, marketers who cash in on the power of a story achieve success. Today, marketing sells if a story sells. Take an example of a woman who buys a pair of Puma shoes for $125. While these shoes were produced in China at a cost of a mere $3, her purchase is based on how the shoes make her look and feel, as opposed to the value or the comfort they offer.

All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin
All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin

Feeling The Customers Worldview

Each and every individual has their own needs and thus, their own worldview of what they want in life. This worldview is based on their own assumptions, biases, and values. Therefore, one’s upbringing, parents, school, current surrounding environment, as well as the different places he/she has resided in influence one’s worldview.

For example, the impression of a person who has been cheated at a second-hand car dealership will have a different view than one who has had repeated success at buying cars at dealerships.

Now while not all customers are the same, they aren’t entirely different either. For example, two people with similar environments and backgrounds will have similar worldviews – at least to some extent. Hence, it is the responsibility of a marketer to find the similarities and the similar people in the audience and market their story to them accordingly – a story that will resonate with this shared worldview.

Thus, the group of new mothers will look for products that help prioritize the growth and safety of their babies, and stories that appeal to this common worldview will attract new mothers. For example, in 2004, Disney’s division Baby Einstein sold $150 million worth of videos to parents of newborns, who thought that the videos would make their babies smarter. It was a combination of a brand name, an aggressive campaign, and the common worldview of having the best for their babies that worked.

Tailoring To The Worldview

Once the common worldview of the target audience is known, marketers next need to create a story or a framework that matches that worldview and resonates with it meaningfully.

Twinkies and Wonder Bread’s Interstate Bakeries went bankrupt when Dr. Atkin’s low-carb diet became famous. People wanted a healthier alternative for their children. Their worldview had changed!

During that time, General Mills cashed in on this worldview and tweaked their story by aligning with the ‘carbohydrates are unhealthy’ worldview. They started using 100% whole grains in all their cereals.

Therefore, in addition to understanding customers’ worldviews, marketers should also be able to identify those who are willing to shift their worldview and open to hearing a new story and tailor their messages accordingly.

Thus, if the marketer of a salty snack has to change the perception/worldview of mothers who consider salty snacks unhealthy, they would have to create stories that shift the focus from the salty potato snack to ‘made with soy’, or say that they are low-fat, with healthy sea-salt, etc.

Understanding How The Brain process New Information

A shift of story focus amounts to new information that customers will have to understand and process. Thus, it is vital that marketers understand how the human brain works too and how consumers process information.

Firstly, humans are attuned to change. Whenever they see something new, they immediately compare it with the information they already possess about that concept. The moment they notice the ‘new’, the brain works to process and understand the difference, and people look for explanations for the change because the brain becomes restless with the ‘newness’ and the randomness. Thus, for example, if a person sees a broken window, the brain instantly tried to find the explanation of what could have broken it and the eyes instinctively get directed to the floor in search of the object. 

Therefore, for the target audience has to be able to wrap their brains around the new information the marketer gives them, the marketer has to be able to tell their story, or present the new information with authenticity. Authenticity will enable the customers to make sense of the shift in the worldview that is brought about by the story.

The Resounding Impact Of Authentic Stories 

Purchasing decisions rely on the judgment people make about the brand, company, story, campaign, product, etc. Therefore marketers have to ensure that their targeted customers make the right judgments about their product when they are first exposed to it.

At the same time, there is a vast difference between a first product contact and a first product impression. While marketers often get confused between these two, the first contact is just that – the customer’s first contact with the product or brand. It isn’t necessary that the first contact gets a reaction from the customer, however, the first impression most certainly will – and will generate a meaningful reaction.

For example, a new online e-commerce store sends out promotional emails to customers. This email will be the first contact. While some would ignore the email, any customer who makes a purchase and has a bad experience due to damaged delivery will have a first impression – and a negative one at that!

It is impossible to ascertain when and how a product or brand can create a first impression. Thus it is essential that marketers endeavor to create a positive one. This can be achieved with authenticity. Authenticity is seen when the product, the message, the business, the marketers, and down to the last employee of the company are aligned with the story.

For example, if a company has a great product and a great message, but the salespeople and staff are rude, neither will the message be coherent to the customer, nor will the story, or brand, or product seem authentic. Thus it is vital that all the first points of contact the customer have with the company/product/brand resonate with the message that needs to be conveyed.

The Fine Line Between Fibs And Fraud, And Never Crossing It

Marketing is rooted in understanding the irrationality of buying behavior. Consumers do not always make rational buying decisions. With the fight of want over need, everyone is guilty of buying an overpriced product or making a purchase without having proper information about price or quality.

And marketers understand this well and exploit this irrationality to the fullest. Some marketers resort to using fibs and frauds to sell their products. While fibs can be small harmless leis that focus on making a story seem authentic, frauds are outright overt lies that do harm consumers.

Reidel for example is a fibber. His ‘honest lie’ makes his products sell, despite scientific evidence that his wine glasses do not make wine taste better. The customers’ belief in his story makes his fib true.

Nestle, for example, had committed fraud, some year ago, when they advertised that bottle-feeding is better than breastfeeding, a piece of information that has, according to UNICEF, inadvertently resulted in the deaths of a million babies. A simple shift in their target audience (new mothers who could not or had trouble breastfeeding) could have averted the disaster.


Telling a story – an authentic and a meaningful one – is a sure way to reach out to the right customers. Marketers have to understand the concept of ‘worldview’ and adjust it to fit it with the audience they wish to target. Additionally, they should be able to align every aspect of their business with the story they are telling their customers, and at the same time avoid fraudulent stories at all costs!