Storytelling is Not Lying
There were two big life lessons I learned from my parents when I was a kid. From my mother: there is good attention and there is bad attention. Bad attention is easy to get but is ultimately hollow and damaging. From my father, don’t lie.
I happen to believe that storytelling is not lying. Lying is far more deceptive and sinister. Fiction may be removed from fact but it is not a deviation from truth. A good story is so much more positive than a good lie. And “liar” is never a desirable label for anyone to wear.
Having read all of Seth Godin’s latest idea-in-a-book All Marketers Are Liars, I’m fairly certain the author gets that. The subtitle is, after all, “the power of telling authentic stories in a low-trust world”. But then I also think he may be trying to make “liar” as awkwardly fashionable as “sneezers” and “purple cows”.
And lest the Godin groupies out there pounce on me for such heresy, it shall be stated for the record that I’ve read nearly all of Seth’s books, I regularly scan his blog, and I think highly of his inventiveness with such things as ChangeThis and IdeaVirus. He knows his stuff and I respect his contribution to the field. And, overall, I enjoyed AMAL. True to form, it’s a simple and relevant idea, clearly presented, and supported with loads of poignant examples. His discussion of customers’ worldviews, I thought, was spot on.
But I really just can’t get past the title and terminology. Besides being misleading–and Godin admits as much midway through–it’s also terribly irresponsible. It’s an easy grab at bad attention simply to boost sales. Fine. I really wasn’t planning to post my opinion on it but when I read the phrase “Marketing has a marketing problem” today on Seth’s blog, I just couldn’t bite my tongue any longer. How conveniently hypocritical!
Uh, marketing has a marketing problem partly because its superstar frontman marketer is filling book stores, review pages, and blog banter with a smear line many people will agree with without reading further. It’s a bestseller, so it must be true.
And that’s a lie.