Instead of designing businesses through much analysis and interpretation, Seth Godin describes how the long-term effects of stories can revolutionize the culture of businesses for the better. When an entire business can get galvanized on the core values of their stories, they are capable of becoming much more cohesive, operate much more efficiently and concentrate on the core values of customers (Kim, Morris, Swait, 2008). This is all possible because the story core values and concepts attract only those prospects and customers who have comparable values that align. Mr. Godin alludes to how this strategy is responsible for how fan bases are created and sustain themselves over time, and shows how a brand can become multigenerational as well.
The book also convincingly shows how trust and credibility are the new currency in customer relationships. This is prescient to the exponential growth of social networking and the rise of Facebook, Twitter and the many variations of social media channels marketers rely on today to tell their stories to prospects. Godin says that for a story to resonate with prospects and customers, it must have a very strong level of authenticity, transparency and provide affirmation of shared values through examples. To the extent a story can resonate and be relevant on these levels with customers is the extent to which it will be remembered and acted on. The more credible a story the more it embodies these values, according to Godin.
The trust factor is one that the book has its most paradoxical points on however. While the title practically invites the unethical and unscrupulous nature of marketing to be promoted, in fact the book serves in many parts as a manifesto for completely changing an organization's structure to make it completely consistent with the story being told. This is the greatest dichotomy of the book. On the one hand Godin is saying that the better the story told, the more enticing and alluring to a customer, to more effective marketing is. While this has all the makings of a fraud investigation, Godin is quick to point out that only by translating stories into realities fast within a business can real marketing me made effective. This is a very dangerous strategy in a small business if it is practiced too often. The real message of this is that within the boundaries of trust with customers, there is the opportunity to position products based on their uniqueness and value. In the case of services-business businesses, it is the experience over the basic utilitarian functionality or value of getting on an airplane to go from one point to another (Bigne-Alcaniz, Curras-Perez, Sanchez-Garcia, 2009). Godin touches only the high points of these areas of treading on the boundaries of customers' trust and instead decides to show through example how creative companies can be in constructing stories to entice entirely new audiences and segments.
Godin gets right to the point of defining the value of credibility and trust as a platform building real stories that resonate with passion, yet does not deliver on that potential direction of this book. Instead he keeps this book at the story-telling level and loses out on an opportunity to show the value of authenticity and trust across a company., He makes mention of this but it would have been far more intriguing and interesting to see how Godin perceives entire business models being redefined on this attribute. Instead, he leaves the definition of this platform to the reader, and no doubt there is much confusion about how to translate story strengths into trust and on to purchasing. As part of this framework, which has only been partially defined in the book, Godin could have also defined a more effective approach to managing the upper and lower funnels of a sales strategy for businesses as well.
This is the greatest weakness in the book; there is no tie-back of stories to the selling strategies and loyalty of customers over time. The book tends to float at such a conceptual level that getting to these pragmatic and critical aspects to drive profitability are elusive (Nudo, 2005). The book leaves the reader to connect these dots so to speak on his or her own. It is an incomplete book from this standpoint. What is needed is a more effective definition of a model for authenticity and trust based on stories and their relevance to customers. Making tis association would have made the book a true manifesto and led to the defining of entirely new approaches to approaching marketing and selling. Instead the book stops short on this point and does not deliver.
Despite its shortcoming however the book delivers on the concepts of what creates and sustains trust over time. It also is a very effective book for defining the validity of story-based marketing and selling over relying purely factual and feature-laded value propositions that so many technology-centric companies do. He also has done a good job of explaining the emerging value of blogs and social media in story-telling, which given the fact this book was originally written in 2005, is prescient and insightful. Finally the nature of social media today completely redefines the creativity, flexibility and immediacy of telling stories online and in an always-on world. The fact that stories need to change over time to stay in step with customers and show that products and services understand their needs is also a critical success factor that Godin does not completely define either (Marketing Week, 2007) . From this standpoint, there is no lifecycle to stories in the book, and that is very much needed given how rapidly customers change over time.
The idea of content or stories being discovered, the period of time it takes for customers to engage and comprehend them, share them and internalize the story's values and perception need greater analysis. This is the lifecycle of a story and it varies by customer group, audience, product, industry and business. It also varies by the attractiveness of the products or services as substitutes as well. The lack of focus on this iterative nature of storytelling warrants another book by Seth Godin to explore the multi-generational aspects of story-telling on the authenticity and trust in a brand (Nudo, 2005). This would have taken the concepts he explains and put them into a lifecycle model that would have shown the long-term valuation of this approach over being just a fad or short-term strategy.
The value of stories over facts, and the need to be ever-vigilant about how to stay relevant and focused on customers. Needs, wants and passions are the undercurrent of this book. It does an excellent job of explaining how emotions within stories can help to connect a company with customers, yet falls short of delivering a workable long-term model for re-crafting the entire marketing strategy of a business based on these insights. This book will inspire short-term strategies at potentially the expense of long-term gains.
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