All Marketers Are Liars: Summary, Book Review, Notes, and Quotes

Seth Godin, is one of my favourite authors, I’ve read books by him before such as Purple Cow, Linchpin and I’ve even taken his course for Freelancers.

All Marketers Are Liars: The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low-Trust World, is essentially an extension of Purple Cow, but teaches you more fundamentals on redirecting your attention from your remarkable product and onto building awareness and in-turn success.

This is summed up pretty quick before the book even begins:

Don’t just tell me the facts, tell me a story instead.

Seth brilliantly writes (p.134) why he named the book All Marketers Are Liars. He notes that in truth, the book should be called All Marketers Are Story-Tellers, but that wouldn’t get people talking would it? It’s agreeable and it doesn’t provoke conversation.

"Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make, but the story you can tell." Seth Godin.


Telling A Great Story

Truly great stories succeed because they are able to capture the imagination of large audiences. A great story is true but it’s also consistent and authentic.

Marketers are dealing in a world where trust is the scarcest resource. No marketer succeeds in telling a story unless he has earned the credibility to tell that story.

But there’s also a technique, you need to let your punter draw his or her own conclusions because it is far more effective than “just announcing the punchline.”

It’s important to keep in mind though, that first impressions are far more powerful than we give credit for.

Great stories match the voice of the consumer’s worldview. But you shouldn’t water down you story to appeal to everyone, otherwise it will appeal to no one.

The takeaway: The best stories don’t teach people anything new. Instead, the best stories agree with what the audience already believes and reinforces how right they were in the first place

Does Marketing Matter? You’re Not In Charge

Money does not equal control over the airwaves, attention or over retailers.

The marketer is not in charge. You are not in charge of attention or the conversations or even the stories you tell.

And there is no magic phrase, we don’t know which customer is going to listen to which message. It’s not “crisp”, it’s “fuzzy.”

Every message changes the marketplace. One competitor makes a change and suddenly the entire competitive landscape is different.

Read more: The 22 Laws of Marketing Summary

The Power in Making is over

The old power curve is over, and there’s a new curve on the block. But strangely, we’re still obsessed with this phenomena, that the more effort or exertion you put in, the higher the value.

The Curve of making stuff - no story

All the juicy stuff was in the middle

The old power curve rewarded people who did stuff. That’s why resumés read the way they do and why we learn what learn in school.

But that old theory has inverted.

The Curve of Making Stuff Up - Pro Story

 Making isn’t hard anymore

As marketers we’re focused on the right side of the curve, where you take something you may or may not need and turn it into something they definitely want – that’s where the money is.

  1. Invent stuff worth talking about.
  2. Tell stories about what you’ve invented.


  • Make up great stories, this is urgent for you and your organisation.
  • The organisations that succeed realise that offering a remarkable product with a great story is more important and more profitable than doing what everyone else is doing just a bit better.

Worldview and frames

Our worldview are made up of (sometimes basic) wants and needs. These worldviews are influenced by what your parents say or what your school says.

Marketing succeeds when enough people have the similar worldviews come together in a way that lets marketers reach them cost effectively. Identify a population with a certain worldview, frame their story in terms of that worldview and you win.

While changing a worldview seems fairly glamorous, it often doesn’t lead to a profit.

Who we are effects what we see and that effects three things in our worldview:

  1. Attention
  2. Bias
  3. Vernacular

Understanding how worldviews interfere with or amplify the story a marketer tells is the most overlooked element of marketing success.

Everyone wants to hear a story that supports their existing worldview.

Some of these groups may be small, but they can take your story and run with it. They can turn your small market into a cult, into a movement and then a trend, and finally into a mass market.

The Power of Frames

Every consumer has a worldview that affects the product you want to sell. That worldview alters the way they interpret everything you say and do. Frame your story in terms of that worldview, and it will be heard.

The best marketing stories are told (and sold) with frames but ultimately spread to people who are open to being convinced of something brand-new.

The best example is with Lucky Charms, the cereal market had an excellent run but then the atkins diet hit and suddenly cereals had to react. Less than one hundred days after General Mills decided to action, they had every major cereal brand available as 100 percent wholegrain.

This why copyrighting, web design and photography are so important. It reminds us that words matter, that poor word use is just a red flag for someone who wants to ignore you.

The number one mistake by marketers is jumping to the middle, the centre is crowded and jammed full of noise and devoid of unfulfilled wants. It’s at the edges you’ll find the people with an unfulfilled worldview.

innovation adoption lifecycle - tell you story to the edges

Your process for finding a worldview should like this:

  • Find a shared worldview
  • Frame a story around that view
  • Make it easy for the story to spread
  • Create a new market (to which you can own)

The best marketing goes to a group with a worldview and they end up sharing it within a community. Identifying a group that shares the same worldview can dramatically change the outcome of your marketing. Seek out a story that will change the way you do business.

The best worldviews from a marketer’s view is “oh, I gotta share this!” and a lot of people want what people are buying.

What People Notice

The purpose of All Marketers Are Liars, is to persuade you to be less rational. To realise that whatever is being sold, is being purchased because it creates an emotional want, not because it fills a simple need.

An idea in a book or on whiteboard has no impact. Just like a virus, an idea needs a brain to live in.

Humans insist of finding a theory to explain what has happened to them. We need to see explanations where there are none, because our brains are too restless to live with randomness.

We like to be able to guess and we want our guess to be right. More often than not that guess is heavily influenced by our worldview – and we’ll do whatever we can to try and prove that initial assertion right.

We get what we expect because what we get is just a story in our heads.

Takeaway: People only notice whats new, and when they do, they like to make guess about it in their head about what to expect next.

First Impressions And The Story

99 percent of the time the first impression is really no impression, because most people will ignore it.

If the story is confusing or contradictory, the consumer panics and then ignores it. But if the story is compelling and addresses basic desire like fear or power or acceptance, it might just be embraced.

We have no idea when that first impression will occur, and that’s why authenticity matters.

If you’re not consistent and authentic, the timing of the first impression is too hard to predict to make it worth the journey. On the other hand, if you cover all possible angles and allow the consumer to make their own impressions, you win.

Great Marketers Tell Stories We Believe

Stories only work because consumers buy what they don’t need. And the reason they buy stuff they want is because they way it makes them feel.

The people who buy for business are people first, and they buy things that get them promoted, that make them feel safe and secure or that give them a sense of belonging.

A consumer shapes his desires on what he’s heard about t’s utility from other people. They always point out how good their product is, how much better/faster/more durable it is.

Stories Framed Around Worldviews

Growth starts with better questions. Questions about storytelling not commodities.

This is a hard lesson for a lot of marketers to learn. It’s easy to tout your features, focus on the benefits, give proof that you are in fact, the best solution to a problem. But proof doesn’t make the sale.

The very fact that you presented the proof makes it suspect.If a consumer figures it out or finds it on her own, she’s a thousand times more likely to believe in it than if it’s just something you’re claim.

In order to be believed, you must present enough of a change that the consumer chooses to notice it. But then you have to tell a story, not lecture them.

Whole foods sells tons of potato chips, candies saturated fats, sugar-loaded juices and more. All at inflated prices. But that’s okay because people don’t shop there for food. They shop there because it makes them feel good.

Organic food is selling well, because of the way buying it makes people feel, not because of what the food actually does.

Fibs and Frauds

Nobody really minds a fib, and if your consumer finds out that your story isn’t based on facts, they’re not enraged. A fraud, when discovered enrages your consumer – probably forever.

Marketing is now so well developed and so embedded in our culture that consumers no longer base decisions on rational analysis of facts. But instead on stories they’re told.

Until marketers start to take responsibility for the stories we tell and the promises we make, consumers will get increasingly more skeptical and suspicious – and all marketers will lose.

The only robust, predictable strategy is a simple one: Be authentic.

Your story fails when the person who believed it decides it fails.

The Public demands that you tell them a story. The story is part of the product or service that they buy – in many cases it’s the story that they set out to buy.

It comes down to authenticity. Telling a story that won’t disappoint, that you believe and that your customers have no trouble living with.

Two simple tests for separating the honest stories with deceitful ones. It revolves around two questions the consumer should ask the marketer:

  1. “If I knew what you know, would I choose to buy what you sell?”
  2. “After I’ve used this and experienced this, will I be glad I believed the story or will I feel ripped off?”

Marketers With Authenticity Thrive

Personal interaction cuts through all the filters.

Remarkable ideas and services help ideas spread – not hyped-filled advertising. If you are not authentic, you will get the benefit of one sale not one hundred. The cost of your deception is just too high

If you can build your organisation around delivering a particular story, you’ve dramatically increased the chances that this story will get told.

The essence and art of marketing is the ability to use non-verbal techniques to make me a series of promises you intend to keep. We need to work hard to understand what the biases of our prospects are and which totems we can use to tell a story to these people.

Consumers are all different but essentially they want the same outcome. They want to be promoted, to be popular, to be wealthy and wise. They want to be pleasantly surprised and honestly flattered

Delivering a remarkable story isn’t easy but it’s worth it. So the place to start with your project, your service, your organisation and your resume is this: What classic story can I tell?

Competing In a Lying World

The most important principle is this: you can’t succeed if you try to tell your competitions story better than they can.

Marketers are well trained to follow the leader. The natural instinct is to try figure what’s working for the competition and try to outdo them. Instead you must tell a different story and persuade those that are listening that your story is more important than the story they currently believe.

You will find success by telling a different story to part of the community with a particular worldview that’s different from that of the masses.

Instead of allowing yourself to be pushed towards the middle, you need to look in the mirror and realise, that only a remarkable and authentic story is going to have a chance of spreading.

Start your marketing at the edges, and slowly move your product/service to the middle so it becomes more palatable to consumers who are persuaded by friends, not by you.


  • You get to pick the audience you talk to. If you choose an infertile one, you shouldn’t be the least surprised your idea doesn’t spread.
  • You can’t change a person’s worldview very easily, but you can take advantage of it when the world changes it for them.
  • If your story (read: product) isn’t remarkable, people ignore it.
  • Step one is to tell a thrilling story to the people at the edges who want to read it.
  • Step two is to back that story up with authentic action and proof that it works

All Markerters Are Liars... Or Tell Stories?Just a final note to say that this book has truly helped my marketing, communication and storytelling skills. If you’re considering purchasing it, I can promise you, you won’t regret it. Buy it now!