Yes Mr. Godin, All Marketers Really Are Liars, Especially McDonalds!

by Marcus Sheridan

Wow, I can save a penny!!!! Thanks McDonalds!

Short and sweet today folks, but boy is it a topic that I can’t wait to talk about….

I was driving down the road yesterday and another McDonalds billboard felt it necessary to inform me, for the 73rd time this week, that I can now get a 20 piece chicken nuggets for $4.99. Upon seeing the message I couldn’t help but shake my head and think two distinct thoughts:

1. McDonald’s lies like a rug

2. Consumers are really stupid

You see my friends, for the last decade, McDonalds has been selling a 4-piece nugget on their dollar menu. So, if you’re really quick at math, for over 10 years now we’ve been able to buy 20 nuggets for exactly $5. That’s right—one little Abraham Lincoln more than this amazing ‘sale’ on chicken nuggets that McD’s has spent millions in advertising.

So the question begs: Why in the heck do they do it?

Answer: Because it works.

The truth of the matter is that all marketers(as least the great ones) really are liars(or extreme ‘truth stretchers’ ;-) ), just as Seth Godin said in his best-selling book All Marketers Are Liars(2005). Godin states:

“All marketers tell stories. And if they do it right, we believe them. We believe that wine tastes better in a $20 glass than a $1 glass. We believe that an $80,000 Porsche Cayenne is vastly superior to a $36,000 VW Touareg, even if it is virtually the same car. We believe that $225 Pumas will make our feet feel better–and look cooler–than $20 no names. . . and believing it makes it true.”

So is McDonalds’ sale on those ‘all white-meat fritters’ really that bad? ;-) The answer, of course, is not so much. What they’re really doing is giving us something to talk about. They’re making chicken nuggets relevant through an ‘amazing sale’ that is only one penny less than the product has been available for 10 years now. Freaking hilarious if you ask me.

But McDonalds understands that great marketing ain’t so much about pennies. It’s about perception. It’s about delivery. And it’s certainly about creating feelings.

When it comes down to it, this is exactly what consumers (you and I) want. We want companies to ‘lie’ to us. We want them to give us a reason to buy. We want to feel like we just got the greatest deal in the history of the world.

In fact, when was the last time someone said to you, “I bought a brand new car but boy did I get ripped off!”

Chances are you’ve never had a friend tell you that. But how many times has someone told you they bought a car and ‘got a great deal’? Hundreds, I’m sure.

We all want deals. We all want specials. Perceived or real, we want them. Anyone that says otherwise is lying. So if you really want to be a successful marketer, chances are you better do just that.

Am I saying you should lie? No, not exactly, but to make my point I’ll refer back to what Godin said regarding the title of his aforementioned best-seller:

“I wasn’t being completely truthful with you when I named this book. Marketers aren’t liars. They are just storytellers… I was trying to go to the edges. No one would hate a book called All Marketers Are Storytellers. No one would disagree with it. No one would challenge me on it. No one would talk about it.”

So let’s not call it lying—‘Story telling’ will do just fine.

That’s what you must do with your business folks. Have a story and tell it. Push the envelope. And if you do anything—get people talking.


Your Turn:

So let the debate begin. Is it OK to lie or stretch the truth with marketing? Is the fact that McDonalds is ‘lying’ about their amazing special a bad thing? And what’s the deal with all of us wanting ‘a great deal’? As always, whether you agree or strongly disagree, I’d love to hear your thoughts below.

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