Trust, Manipulation and Responsibility in Marketing with Seth Godin

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Daydreaming with Seth Godin – All Marketers Are Liars, part 6

The table of contents for the whole series is here.

This is the sixth part of daydreaming with discussions about Seth Godin‘s bestseller book “All marketers are liars”. Have a look at the previous part where Seth Godin defines his own truth and says about promises. This post is about trust, manipulation and responsibility.

Disclaimer: Everything written is this post is not true, or better to say, it is a story. Please believe it or not on your own risk.

Ideas from Seth Godin's book "All Marketer Are liars", part 6

Take these secrets

Me: It is interesting how Seth Godin deftly balances between the extremes such as truth, lie and trust. For example he says that stories are lie and that great stories are trusted because people need to trust.

Raah: But isn’t it how the world works?

Me: Yes, the world is balancing between such extremes but the point is in where your bias is.

Raah: Right.


Me: It is also about sort of manipulating or, speaking in more tolerant way, about following people’s needs and then going ahead of them to be followed by people.

Raah: Why do you call it manipulation if Seth says about delivering people stories that people do want? It can be called manipulation if Seth would make up stories that go against people will.

Me: That’s the trick. Seth says that great stories are subtle. In other words, great stories are not perceived consciously but they act as intangible force that brings marketers profit.


Raah: In any way, marketers just deliver the subtle stories that people want. What is manipulating with it even if the pushing impulses from stories are not evident for people?

Me: The negative manipulating thing in it is that it is too narrow and irresponsible approach. Seth says to marketers to appeal to people’s senses, not logic, that’s manipulating. I agree with Seth that people live in the world of their own illusions. Moreover, I can say that we should not break their world delivering them the truth, or the truth how we see it ourselves. But the bad thing is that Seth Godin calls up to harness their illusions and profit from it. From this point marketers are not interested in truth or mental health of people but what they are interested in is only money. Marketers tell people stories that they want to believe at that moment, and marketers do not care what will happen next. Marketers will adjust their stories when people start wanting anything else.


Raah: Tell me again what is bad in it.

Me: First of all it is bad because really powerful subtle stories create people’s desires against their will. To be precise, such stories alter people’s will. People start wanting what they don’t actually need. Even worse, such stories transform people’s minds making them believe they really need this or that product. And then come into play kind of harmless marketers like Seth Godin and say to deliver people what they sort of want. Also, anyway, it is bad to sell people stories only because people want it. It is sometimes the same as in case with drug-addicted people – it is not good to sell people drugs only because they want it. And moreover, it is not good to make other drugs that people will want. And subtle marketing technologies create exactly this kind of desire – new kind of drugs that people want more and more. New! Improved! Try now! Etc.


Raah: Are you sure that your analogy with drugs is correct for marketers?

Me: It is a close analogy for those marketers who really are biased to making money and do not care about what is good indeed, because both such marketers and drug dealers do not care about people’s future. All they care about is that they get profit now and that their profit channels will maintain and become bigger. There is no responsibility and concerns about if it is really good for humankind.


Raah: We come to the question about how to determine what is good or right for humankind. I guess it is too much for a single person to think about it. What they want is to make money in a legitimate way. And there is nothing wrong with it. And drugs are not legal, that’s why drug dealer analogy is not correct.

Me: Well, it is not that clear about drugs. I mean I don’t want to accuse the countries governments and different corporations now. So I don’t want to speak about whether drugs are that really not legitimate. It is not the topic of our talk. But my analogy is more or less correct. The important difference between drug dealers and marketers is that drug dealers can destroy humankind much faster than marketers can if the marketers don’t take responsibility on what they do.


Raah: I can’t believe you compare like that! All in all, simply speaking marketers are not evil and can not compare to drug dealers!

Me: Marketers can be good players if they know their boundaries. But if the only boundaries and goals are money, then it is not good. Marketers are much less destructive than drug dealers, but they are not good either if they do not care about what is really good or not for humankind.


Raah: But generally speaking people are free not to consume anything if you don’t want to.

Me: If the only criteria for marketers is just making money within a law, or better to say, not to be caught, then marketers will fool people around and people will not realize that they are fooled. Marketers will adjust lie to fool people again and again. The whole industry of consuming seduction makes is extremely hard to resist to it.


Raah: Apart from other questions that we already touched like how much lie is not bad for people and who is in charge to set the distinction between good and bad, there is another question in economic field. Our economy is based on consumption, and marketers are helping actually the economy to function. And you want kind of change the basis of it. Don’t you think it is too destructive?

Me: I really appreciate that you think now on a larger scale now. Yes, you have come to a very important question that does not seem to be resolved even on a government level. At least now. Consumption is a engine for the nowadays world economy. I assume that it is going to change but I am very unsure that it will be a good outcome. Restriction of consumption as it seems to be implied can be even a much more serious evil than what we see now.


Raah: I am lost, Michael. You don’t like how marketers promote stuff with their untruly stories pushing forward the consumption. At the same time you say that restriction of consumption is even a more awful evil. What do you want after all?

Me: I don’t say that restriction of consumption is evil, but it might be evil the way it can be implemented in the world. But we go away from our main topic. Unfortunately it is not that easy to handle all the questions at once because it requires a complex approach. A lot of things like economy, education, development strategy, interests of might corporations are mixed together. Not easy. Absolutely.


Raah: So what do you expect from Seth Godin then? He does a good job adjusting himself to the world. He makes some money, he helps other marketers to be successful too and he is famous. I hope he is happy too. So what is wrong with it?

Me: I’ve said once that the bad thing is that promoting mediocre stuff as if it were a very good one is not good. That’s why I hate some marketers for. They deceive me when I want the truth. They do not give me a choice. When I want a really good thing I am lost in marketing lures and can not pick out the really good one.


Raah: Is Seth Godin guilty for it?

Me: No, I don’t want to accuse him. The issue is much more complex than accusing one single preacher of marketing. I just can be a little sorry that he is one of those who promotes marketing lie that is not worth promoting in the way when the boundaries and long-term responsibility for actions that marketers take are not clearly outlined.


Raah: Seth teaches how to make money with marketing and that’s it. He does not preach how to be a decent person. Go read other authors if you want. So it seems to me that you just have your opinion and view on it all. And you want everyone else follow your way of morality.

Me: Sounds harsh but after all it might be close.


Raah: I think you demand something unrealistic. It is like your dream for your nice world order and that’s it.

Me: It is not just my freaking dream or whatever you call it. But don’t you agree that there is definitely something wrong with marketing and advertisement as a part of it? Do you remember book and a movie “99 francs”? I perceive it as the tragedy of one person outlined as a metaphor for the tragedy of all society based on consumption and lack of honesty that is also the result of marketing lie.


Raah: I understand, but what a single person can do? Everyone just tries to find a little place under the sun and that’s it. Why should they think of all humankind or strategic things and thus leaving themselves as outsiders whereas others do successful marketing things not bothering much about all the stuff you are talking about.

Me: I see. And all I can say is that it is too pity that people have nothing to do but act on an individual level. And if they want to succeed, they need to be skillful and deceitful marketers like Seth Godin preaches. I am just sorry that there is no global or state projects that could let people develop not to the direction of being marketing liars but to the direction of making the world better somehow.


Raah: Do you realize that such global projects could be a very dangerous weapon in wrong hands?

Me: That’s why I am afraid of future changes that are going to take place in the world. The current model of consumption is going to its end, but the decent backup plan is not there. The backup plan which exists as I see it and which is being prepared is very frighting as I can imagine. But again, this is another topic although connected with marketing and lie, and propaganda as a kind of marketing.


Raah: I don’t think Seth Godin was speaking about model of the world, change of the world order and other things you hint about.

Me: I would be happy if he could speak about it. Our society lacks those who can speak loud telling people useful truthful things.

Raah: Heh, truthful things. Who know them after all? Anyway, most people don’t want to bother about economy, world crisis, change of paradigm etc while it does not touch them personally. It is too complicated for them. And brings no or very little money that people need.


Me: Moreover, I would say that governments of all countries do not want their people to be so educated. They want you to be a cog in mechanism that they drive.

Raah: Is it bad?

Me: I’d say it could be not too bad as long as there is a confidence that they drive to a good direction.


Raah: I am puzzled that we move from discussing Seth Godin ideas to world government issues.

Me: It is just a dialectics – go from the little to the common and then, when yo come back to the little again you will have more necessary knowledge.

Raah; You think we have gathered the common picture now?

Me: It is not easy, but it was a starting attempt at least.

Raah: So can we go back to Seth ideas then?

Me: Okay. The ideas we have touched are the following:
– Great stories are trusted. Trust is the scarcest resource we’ve got left.
– Great stories are subtle. Let people speak their lie to themselves.
– Great stories don’t appeal to logic, but to senses.

…to be continued. In the next session we will be talking about contradictory stories, lying marketers and consumers and how it all can lead to consumerism Apocalypse.

Please feel free to say in the comments what you think about it. Do you think people fully realize that marketers appeal to their senses, not logic when the marketers try to sell anything?

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