All Marketers Are Liars: The Book’s Context and Impact

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "All Marketers are Liars" by Seth Godin. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What is the book All Marketers Are Liars about? How has the book been received?

Published in 2005, All Marketers Are Liars offers a fresh take on marketing—one that focuses on connecting with your customer, rather than on catchy advertising jingles or gimmicks. Seth Godin wants you to tell your customers or audience a great story about your product, your political campaign, your job experience, or even just yourself. This book explores new marketing concepts that you can use to tell a better story in any area of your life.

Read more to learn about the book All Marketers Are Liars.

All Marketers Are Liars: Overview

Using anecdotes and examples to illustrate his points, Godin guides you through understanding your customer, staying authentic with your storytelling, and troubleshooting common marketing problems. While Godin addresses marketers, these insights are also helpful for anyone with a story to tell.

Author

Seth Godin is a writer, marketer, entrepreneur, public speaker, and blogger. He worked as a brand manager and the head of game development for a software company, and in 1986, he started a book packaging business. 

Later, he founded Yoyodyne, a company that used interactive online games and contests to market companies to users. During this time, he pioneered the concept of permission marketing—advertising to people who give consent to being marketed to—and he published Permission Marketing. Eventually, Yahoo purchased Yoyodyne, and in 1998, Godin became Yahoo’s vice president of direct marketing. In 2018, he was inducted into the American Marketing Association’s Marketing Hall of Fame

He published the first book about online business, E-Marketing, in 1995. Godin has written 19 books—mainly focusing on 21st-century marketing—and Purple Cow is one of the best-selling marketing books. He was an early advocate of the power of consumers, and he’s known for his conversational writing style.

Other notable works from Seth Godin:

Connect with Seth Godin:

Publication

Publisher: Portfolio, a division of Penguin Group

Originally published in 2005, All Marketers Are Liars follows the publication of Purple Cow and Free Prize Inside! Godin expands on ideas introduced in the books about mass marketing, the power of consumers, and the importance of telling a great story about a great product. 

In 2009, an updated version of the book was released with a change in the book jacket design and explanation of the title. Shortform’s guide is based on the 2009 version.

Historical Context

The internet sparked the transition away from old advertising and toward Godin’s idea of new marketing. It gave marketers new ways to sell products and interact with consumers. Having seen the marketing landscape change due to the internet, Godin became a leading voice in advocating for more thoughtful and honest marketing tactics. He coined the term “permission marketing” in his book of the same name, in which marketers advertise to consumers who are aware of and consent to being advertised to. 

By the time of the book’s publication in 2005, social media platforms had begun to emerge—MySpace and LinkedIn were started in 2003, and Facebook was established in 2004—which would eventually change the marketing industry. Many of his marketing concepts are similar to brand marketing, which was popularized by social media. Brand marketing focuses on building a company’s identity. 

All Marketers Are Liars also seems to have been influenced by the 2004 presidential election, as Godin references it a few times throughout the book. This election (which Godin describes as “brutal”) saw George W. Bush defeat John Kerry, despite Bush’s fluctuation in popularity during his first term. Godin argues that Bush won the election because he told a better story to voters (that he was a decisive leader, unlike Kerry, who “flip-flopped” on issues). 

Intellectual Context

Following the changes to marketing sparked by the internet, viral marketing gained popularity in the mid-’90s. This refers to a strategy used by companies to encourage the spread of an idea or product throughout a community, often like a virus. In 1995, the term was coined during the marketing of Sony’s first PlayStation. While it can occur via word of mouth, the inherent network structure of the internet makes it easier for viral marketing to succeed.

Godin’s ideas seem to be a reaction to this concept (he even uses the term “ideavirus” in the book). He advocates for viral marketing and the spreading of ideas through a community. He takes the strategy one step further, advising that you market to people who want to be marketed to (his idea of permission marketing).

Compared to his previous books (Purple Cow and Free Prize Inside), which stick more to marketing in the traditional sense of selling a product, Godin expands his definition of marketing to a broader spread of ideas. He says you’re a marketer if you have an idea to spread, and he lists religion, politics, dating, job hunting, and nonprofits as examples of areas with marketability. 

Additionally, Godin’s marketing ideas are often compared to those of David Ogilvy and William Bernbach, who were both major advertising influences in the 1950s and ‘60s. Their ideas are still widely cited today, and they generally focus on knowing your customer, honesty, and creativity—which are themes in Godin’s writing. 

Impact

All Marketers Are Liars didn’t have quite the impact or popularity of some of Godin’s other books, particularly Purple Cow. Many readers commented on the book’s repetitiveness and were confused by the book’s title. People who were unfamiliar with or were beginners in the world of marketing enjoyed this book, while those with more marketing experience didn’t find it as helpful. 

Critical Reception

The book was serialized in Fortune Magazine, and it was cited in The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, and The Miami Herald. Godin was praised for his forward thinking and understanding of the internet. All Marketers Are Liars made the Amazon Top 100 bestsellers list. 

Commentary on the Book’s Approach

Godin takes a conversational approach to discussing marketing. He relies heavily on anecdotal evidence and case studies of specific products, rather than scientific studies. Some readers liked this approach, while others wanted more hard evidence. Readers have also noted that the book could be condensed. 

All Marketers Are Liars has a loose organizational structure, and Godin often explores tangents in the middle of a section. However, he does attempt to organize this book by breaking down his points into Steps 1 through 5. 

All Marketers Are Liars: The Book’s Context and Impact

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Here's what you'll find in our full All Marketers are Liars summary :

  • The difference between lying and telling a great story
  • How to better understand your customer
  • How to overcome common obstacles you’ll encounter in marketing

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, science, and philosophy. A switch to audio books has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a creative nonfiction book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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