Talking with a friend yesterday, he noted that my wife was a writer and then asked if I was a writer as well. I said I was, but explained I was in marketing. “So, you write lies,” he said with a smile.
As every hip marketer knows, thanks to the ever-wise words of the all-knowing Godin-one, all marketers are liars. With his semi-snide snarkiness, my friend was merely echoing the folk wisdom that that holds marketers and marketing more generally in contempt, a subject about which I’ve written before.
Godin playfully invokes this contempt in his “provocative” title, though he was careful to avoid the the liar paradox through use of the modifier “all.” To whit: If Godin is a marketer (albeit one who has achieved “guru” status), then, if his statement is true, we must assume that he may be a liar, in which case his statement may also be a lie. If it’s a lie, however, then it is not true that all marketers are liars. If I remember anything from the “Intro to Logic” course I took as a freshman, the negation of “all marketers are liars” is not “no marketers are liars,” but, “some marketers are liars.”
Proclaiming the undeniable truth that “some marketers are liars,” of course, would not have gotten Godin much attention. Instead, he fans the flames of virulent anti-marketing-ism and tars “all” marketers with the same mendacious brush. Although I wouldn’t accuse Godin of lying with his claim that “all marketers are liars,” I would say that he was “willfully misrepresenting the truth,” and not just about the marketing profession.
If you read the book, or at least the five free pages I linked to above, you discover that he is primarily accusing marketers of “telling stories,” a common parenting euphemism for “lying,” as we all know. Though I agree with him that the goal of marketing is to tell stories, I resist his equation of “stories” with “lies.” Stories may be fabrications and fictions, but that doesn’t make them “lies.” That being said, the problem with Godin’s title isn’t that it’s a lie, the problem is that it’s false (remember that a lie is not simply or necessarily “incorrect”).
But would the book have been so popular if he had called it, “All Marketers Are Wrong”? Is the one thing going for this alternate title the possibility that it could actually be true?