Somehow, I persuaded the publisher to change the cover of this book, and that new cover hit the streets today. The book is the same as before, but there’s a new foreword. Here it is, so you don’t have to buy a second copy. (Old cover is on the left, new cover is on the right).
More than almost any book I’ve written, this is the one that comes up in conversation when I talk to people about getting their ideas out into the world.
This book is about worldviews—the biases and expectations and shortcuts we use to get through the world. Here’s a punchline: when you try to change someone’s worldview forcibly, they get a headache. People become defensive in the face of a frontal assault on their worldview. Cunning is far more effective. And of course, I ignored my own advice by challenging the worldview of my reader right there in the title.
You believe things that aren’t true.
Let me say that a different way: many things that are true are true because you believe them.
The ideas in this book have elected a president, grown non-profit causes, created billionaires and fueled movements. They’ve also led to great jobs, fun dates and more than a few interactions that mattered.
I’ve seen this book in campaign headquarters and carried around at evangelical conferences. I’ve also gotten email from people who have used it in Japan and the UK and yes, Akron, Ohio. The ideas here work, because they are simple tools to understand what human beings do when they encounter you and your organization.
Here’s the first half of the simple summary: We believe what we want to believe, and once we believe something, it becomes a self-fulfilling truth. (Jump ahead a few paragraphs to read the critical second part of this summary)
If you think that (more expensive) wine is better, then it is. If you think your new boss is going to be more effective, then she will be. If you love the way a car handles, then you’re going to enjoy driving it.
That sounds so obvious, but if it is, why is it so ignored? Ignored by marketers, ignored by ordinarily rational consumers and ignored by our leaders.
Once we move beyond the simple satisfaction of needs, we move into the complex satisfaction of wants. And wants are hard to measure and difficult to understand. Which makes marketing the fascinating exercise it is.
Here’s the second part of the summary: When you are busy telling stories to people who want to hear them, you’ll be tempted to tell stories that just don’t hold up. Lies. Deceptions.
This sort of storytelling used to work pretty well. Joe McCarthy became famous while lying about the “Communist threat.” Bottled water companies made billions while lying about the purity of their product compared to tap water in the developed world.
The thing is, lying doesn’t pay off any more. That’s because when you fabricate a story that just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, you get caught. Fast.
So, it’s tempting to put up a demagogue for Vice President, but it doesn’t take long for the reality to catch up with the story. It’s tempting to spin a tall tale about a piece of technology or a customer service policy, but once we see it in the wild, we talk about it and you whither away.
That’s why I think this book is one of the most important I’ve ever written. It talks about two sides of a universal truth, one that has built every successful brand, organization and candidate, and one that we rarely have the words to describe.
Here are the questions I hope you’ll ask (your boss, your colleagues, your clients) after you’ve read this book:
“What’s your story?”
“Will the people who need to hear this story believe it?”
“Is it true?”
Every day, we see mammoth technology brands fail because they failed to ask and answer these questions. We see worthy candidates gain little attention, and flawed ones bite the dust. There are small businesses that are so focused on what they do that they forget to take the time to describe the story of why they do it. And on and on.
If what you’re doing matters, really matters, then I hope you’ll take the time to tell a story. A story that resonates and a story that can become true.
The irony is that I did a lousy job of telling a story about this book. The original cover seemed to be about lying and seemed to imply that my readers (marketers) were bad people. For people who bothered to read the book, they could see that this wasn’t true, but by the time they opened the cover, it was too late. A story was already told. I had failed.
You don’t get a second chance in publishing very often, and I’m thrilled that my publisher let me try a new cover, and triply thrilled that it worked. After all, you’re reading this.
So, go tell a story. If it doesn’t resonate, tell a different one. When you find a story that works, live that story, make it true, authentic and subject to scrutiny. All marketers are storytellers, only the losers are liars.