I was rereading Seth Godin’s All Marketers Are Liars the other day. The premise is that we believe whatever we want to believe, and that it’s exactly this trait of ours, which marketers use (and sometimes abuse) to sell their products by infusing them with good stories – whether they’re true or not.
Some marketing stories are embellished with fibs, and others with downright fraud.
When is it a fib and when is it fraud?
A fib is when you tell your wife that you went to the petrol station when you actually went to the mall to buy her birthday gift. Fraud is when you say that you went to the mall to buy her birthday gift when you were in fact in a hotel with a hooker (don’t do that).
This fib/fraud dilemma is why I’m such a shocking marketer (ironic for someone who is in the marketing business). I’m always scared that I’ll tell a lie. There’s good reason for that because I lie to myself all the time. I just don’t want to out myself in my marketing copy for the world to see what a fraud I really am. It’s enough that I know.
So, generally, I underplay what I can do for my clients. Just in case they see behind the mask.
Even though I stand sentinel to the lies I could tell, a number of them slipped through … which I’ve tried to rectify.
Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story
I tell people that I’ve written more than 12 million words. Technically, it’s not a lie, but if you interrogate it deeper, it’s taken me 27 years to write those words. This comes to around 1217 words a day. I tout myself as a writer … this is patently untrue. Real writers like Kirsty Coetzee and Tiffany Markman could easily knock up 2739 words a day and produce a million words a year. Most real writers do way more than that a day. I’m not a real writer.
My favourite fib is one I see in the speaker/trainer fraternity, and it makes me uncomfortable because I think it’s fraud. And, I’ve done it before. You’ll see a list of recognisable clients on their websites: Liberty Life, Standard Bank, Discovery and the list goes on. But it isn’t exactly the truth is it? Having trained six people in a dingy training room in Sasol’s Secunda office doesn’t qualify as ‘Sasol’. I can say that because to my shame that’s what I did, and stuck Sasol’s logo on my website. It’s gone now with all the other puffery.
Oh, here’s another favourite that people use: “I get 90% of my work off LinkedIn/website/Facebook or whatever. This may be true, but 90% of two deals a month is nothing, really. Technically, it is 90%, but it’s not a real number. If you were getting 10 deals a month, then it is something to crow about.
- 98% fat-free. They don’t tell you that it’s the 2% that’ll kill you.
- No added sugar. How much was there in the first place? Any diabetics out there that this could impact?
- Our clothes are the cheapest … because we use enslaved seamstresses who are trapped on a ship that goes from port to port delivering the finished goods.
- Mass murderers Bush and Blair: “They have weapons of mass destruction”; leading to the death of more than 460 000 Iraqis after the US invasion. And they’re boy scouts compared to some of the shit that has gone down in history (Anyone want to go on a Crusade?).
You get the picture, I’m sure.
It sounds like I think all marketers are liars
I think that all of us lie (mostly to ourselves) because it helps us get along (with ourselves and others). Can you imagine being 100% truthful (Do I look fat in these jeans?), we’d never have any friends, would we?
If you’re a marketer (if you have your own enterprise then you are) you can fib a little if you think it’s appropriate because it makes a good story, and hopefully doesn’t harm anyone. But, if you want to tell a great story, tell an authentic one.
That feels more congruent.
Attracting clients to me through authenticity rather than through duplicity feels right to me, and I’m sure to you, doesn’t it?
I certainly sleep better as a consequence of that choice.