We believe what we believe and that is the end of it. I can tell you all the facts in the world, but you will still believe what you believe. It’s part of human nature. There are people out there who still believe that the earth is flat and we still support candidates who lie. Once we make our mind, even telling ourselves that we were wrong hurts our ego.

If you are starting with marketing, Seth Godin is one of the people you look up to. He has changed the marketing landscape with his numerous books (Tribe, Purple Cow etc.) and is someone who is changing the industry by introduction new, but common sense ideas.

Since the birth of our species, we have created stories. Now that story may be in a cave as a painting or a commercial on your 4K TV. Stories not only engage us; they give us a summarized view of the world. When I picked up this book, I thought that Seth Godin was going to talk about how marketers lie and teach me few insider secrets. But, after finishing this book, the title just does not justify the content.


We want to believe in things. There is a reason reidel wine can sell millions of dollars of merchandise on the claim that their glasses will make your expensive wine taste better. Even people who are skeptics at first, eventually praise the wine glasses. Even after numerous blind studies have shown that there is no difference in the taste of the wine because of the glass, people still believe it. It’s all how we perceive it. We perceive that the wine will taste better, so it does.

When you think about buying a car, you focus on how that car will make you feel. You tell yourself a story that this car will improve your life. Pretty much every car advertisement focuses on feelings and stories rather than functionality. Once we see that car, we tell ourselves how we will use it every day. The weekend trips we are going to take and how it will save us “money” because it gets 1 mpg more than our current car. Every marketer out there tells you a story. May that be Volvo telling you a story of safety or Ford telling a story of being tough – those wheel arches are there for a reason.

He breaks the book down into 5 sections:

  • Different people have different worldviews
  • People notice new things and then they make their own story about it
  • First impressions are important to start a good story
  • Great marketers tell great stories
  • People who tell authentic stories win

We believe what we believe

BeliefHumans are a very diverse species. From our genetic composition to our life experiences, we are very different from each other. A person who was scammed when buying an item on craigslist will be very cautious the next time he/she thinks about purchasing an item on craigslist. Our past experiences guide us to on how we view the world. Different people can look at the same thing and come to a totally different conclusion.

Think about the supreme court. We have 1 constitution but most often than not, when there is a decision from the supreme court, it is usually a split decision (5-4). So, why people who have access to the same data come to different conclusions? Because we all are wired differently.

Seth talks about two things: Worldviews and Frames. Worldview is something people believe in and a frame is how you tell your story within their worldview. One of the commercials that caught my eye was this. This talks about how high fructose corn syrup is ok. This commercial would have been fine 10-15 years ago when our world view was different. But now, anything with high fructose corn syrup is not good for you. The worldview has changed, so this frame does not work anymore. He also brings a good point that there are numerous people with very different worldviews and they are asking for them to reinforced.

Once you frame your brand story in a way that gets the customers attention, then you have to be authentic and consistent. From your web page to your typefaces, everything has to be consistent. Because if you are not, the customers will figure it out and leave your brand.

One of the videos that explains this concept is from the creator of 5-hour energy. When he wanted to get into the energy game, there were a lot of big players. People had a worldview that you needed a 16 oz. drink to have few hours of energy. But, Bhargave created a small bottle and put it at the front counter. Now instead of competing with a monster energy story, he was competing with a candy story. He told a different story. He told a story that you only need a small bottle to have hours of energy.

People only like shiny things

We have an evolutionary instinct. We pay attention to things that stand out. It saved us from animals that could cause us harm. When we look at new, we evaluate it and then compare it with our past. If it stands out, we look for causation and then tell ourselves a story. The story that will serve us during the next encounter. Over time we have trained our brains to ignore the majority of the “stuff” and only pay attention to stuff that really matters.

It’s the first time

When we look at a brand or a story, we compare it with our past experiences. We make judgments. And once we make a judgment, it is very hard to change our mind.

In order for us to live in this world, we depend on making snap judgments. So, the way your brand interacts with the customer matters. People make judgments on how your logo looks, or how your staff dresses – the little things matter.

Even though there is data to contradict their worldview, people will still trust their judgments/instincts over your data.

You have to make sure all the aspects of your brand tell a good story because you don’t know when the customer is going to interact with your brand. It could be a video on Youtube or a table at a trade show – a good story should be consistent. So, tell a story that is genuine and if people are convinced, they will believe it and buy your product.

People don’t believe in marketers. If you say you are the best, they will ignore you and move on. This is the worldview most people have. Your best bet is to be subtle. If you are subtle, customers are more inclined to believe you.

When I go to Publix and get a sub, usually they have two brands, Boar’s head and Publix brand. I and my wife like the same kind of sub. So, I ordered one with Boar’s head meat and the other one with regular Publix sub. After eating my Publix sub, when I took a bite of the boar’s head sub, for some reason it tasted better.  I told myself that as I was spending more money, the Boar’s head sub is better.

But storytelling only goes so far. If you don’t deliver consistently on that story, people will leave your brand. If your restaurant is telling a story, then the décor, menu,typefaces and the food must match that story. It should not only match, but every interaction should be consistent. 

Now, if the customer has believed in another story, it is hard to convince them to believe in yours. So, tell them a different story (don’t compete) that will go with their worldview. Seth points out that it better to look for a new community than to tell your story to a community that is already in love with another. 

If you are starting with marketing, I would highly recommend this book.