Holmes Report Blog

The Holmes Report blog focuses on news and issues of interest to public relations professionals. Our main site can be found at www.holmesreport.com.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

All Marketers Are Liars: That’s the title of a best-seller by marketing guru Seth Godin, and it came into my mind as I read about Oprah’s response to the fact that her book club pick A Million Little Pieces by James Frey was a work of fiction rather than the memoir it claimed to be.
In his book, Godin asks whether it matters that the $80,000 Porsche Cayenne and the $36,000 VW Touareg are “virtually the same vehicle, made in the same factory?” His conclusion: “The facts are irrelevant. In the short run, it doesn’t matter one bit whether something is actually better or faster or more efficient. What matters is what the consumer believes.”

To let Porsche off the hook, he comes up with a theory that shifts the blame to those being lied to. “Marketer’s aren’t liars,” he says. “They are just storytellers. It’s consumers who are liars. As consumers we lie to ourselves everyday…. Successful marketers are just the providers of stories that consumers choose to believe…. I think that once people find a remarkable lie that will benefit them if it spreads, they selfishly tell the lie to others, embellishing it along the way.”

So Frey and Oprah and Doubleday (the publisher) didn’t lie to us, we lied to ourselves. Yeah, right.

Frey lied. Oprah—whose own credibility is at stake—then went on national television to endorse that lie and explain why it didn’t matter. And Doubleday insisted that “the power of the overall reading experience is such that the book remains a deeply inspiring and redemptive story.”

But if we’re looking at marketing wisdom, I far prefer “your brand is a promise” to “all marketers are liars.” Frey and Oprah and Doubleday all broke their brand promises.

ADD: Just came across this (it's hidden behind the "Times Select" barrier, which I rarely breach), but it's a hilarious parody by The Daily Show's Tim Carvell.

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