Just to be clear, especially if you’re just joining us:
The truth is elusive. No one knows the whole truth about anything. We certainly don’t know the truth about the things we buy and recommend and use.
What we do know (and what we talk about) is our story. Our story about why use, recommend or are loyal to you and your products. Our story about the origin and the impact and the utility of what we buy.
Marketing is storytelling.
The story of your product, built into your product. The ad might be part of it, the copy might be part of it, but mostly, your product and your service and your people are all part of the story.
The success of the
iPhone confused the naming guys at Apple. iPhone means phone + iPod. At
launch, the part with obvious value was the phone (we knew that) and
the iPod apps were a bonus that ended up being really terrific. Success.
The formula doesn't work in naming the iPad. We already have the "i" part, and we don't value the Pad part.
just as Apple blew it with the word 'book' (Powerbook led to Macbook
because they didn't own the word power–IBM made them change it when the processor was changed–which led others using netbook, which
they don't own at all), they can't own the word Pad either. Thinkpad is
made by Lenovo, not Apple.
It's a mess. It's sloppy. It communicates nothing.
When in doubt, design like Apple but name like Procter and Gamble. Pringles anyone?
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.
Your name is now going to be added to the will call list. When you get to the TimesCenter, just tell them who you are and you’ll be admitted first, with a reserved seat and a a free book.
Your seat is transferable. Just have your friend use your name. I’m afraid that no refunds are possible, though. All proceeds from VIP seats go to pay for the venue, no one makes a profit. If you have any questions about the event itself, drop Allison a note.
While you’re waiting for October to roll around, here are some links for free reading:
For some reason, it seems like I pick on Red Lobster. It’s not a personal thing, it just happens.
Gordie Meyer sent this over (from Restaurant News):
Red Lobster Says It’s From Maine
ORLANDO, FL — Nearly four decades after it was launched in Florida, Red Lobster has decided it hails from the state of Maine–despite there not being a single unit in the Pine Tree State.
“We’ve given consumers a lot of clues over the years we’re from Maine,” president Kim Lopdrup told a group of analysts. “If you look at our menu, it’s the only state identified on the menu. That is where consumers are convinced we’re from.
“We’re from Maine,” Lopdrup stressed.
That may come as a surprise to Maine residents, who have to venture well out of state just to enjoy a meal at Red Lobster; the nearest unit is in Wethersfield, CT–some 137 miles away.
Maine restaurateurs weren’t buying it either. “They were from Maine and they pulled out,” said Scott Belanger, manager of the Sea Basket Restaurant in Wiscasset, ME. “Why aren’t they here serving the great people of Maine?”
“If the company would like to claim their roots, like ours, are on the shores of New England,” added Susan Paquete of the Weathervane Seafood Restaurants chain, “then perhaps they should try living with and serving the fine people of Maine.”
I am from Brighton in the UK and read your blog on a regular basis. Last night I saw the concluding episode of the Michael Peterson ‘Death on the Staircase’ trial in the US (Durham). This morning I read your ‘Liar’s Blog’ and it got me thinking. It seems to me that the prosecution told stories that matched the worldview of the jury. The defence however seemed to focus on the facts. Who won? The story tellers! Even the prosecutions own witnesses told stories. The defence pretty much refuted everything the prosecution came up with. It’s not just marketers and politicians who are liars. I understand that stories are acceptable for marketing ?? we all expect that. But should it work in court too? Why can’t a judge assess whether a lawyer is ‘marketing’ to the jury? It seems that the media are driving lawyers toward a marketing approach to justice. To focus purely on facts is to risk losing the case. All a lawyer has to do is understand the prevailing worldview of the jury (even select a jury with the appropriate worldview) and then tell the right story. Frightening!
Atlas (not his real name, I’m guessing) was in the right place at the right time with the right message. Before he came along almost a hundred years ago, the idea of bodybuilding was largely unknown. You spent your life trying to get lucky enough to avoid physical labor and exercise, after all.
The success of efforts like his makes many of us believe it’s easy to change the way the world thinks about an industry. It’s not.
Check in to the $300 a night room at the W Hotel in San Francisco and this high tech device is waiting for you on the desk.
No, it doesn’t run the Windows Tablet OS. Yes, it is a cheap way to tell a story about the hotel’s attitude. If you don’t “get it” they don’t lose much, but they weren’t talking to you in the first place.
June 21, 2005
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