Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Truth Matters, Seth

The always brilliant Seth Godin writes about Authenticity and Reality and Intention, arguing that truth doesn't matter quite so much as our interpretation.

  • A very skilled cover band is indistinguishable from the original, so it doesn't matter that they're inauthentic.
  • A comedian who delivers pre-written material is still funny.
  • A vegetarian who is served trace amounts of chicken broth won't mind, if she doesn't know.
  • A YouTube video of cell phones popping popcorn doesn't resonate any less because it is a hoax - a staged video of a physically impossible occurrence.
I'll give you the first two. The essence of good music is the patterns of sound. If you can replicate that, the music can be just as enjoyable, in a completely honest way. Same with the comedian, if all you care about is laughing, a funny joke from an actor will do (like George Burns who said, the secret of acting is sincerity, if you can fake that you've got it made).

Perhaps a vegetarian won't care if she eats a little chicken. What if instead of a vegetarian, you serve trace amounts of peanuts to someone with a severe allergy. Now all of a sudden the truth matters, urgently.

The cell phone corn popping video only resonates if we think it's true. The resonant reaction is "oh my god, my cell phone can do that, and I put it next to my head?!" If the video is fake, then the entire experience is instantly negated.

The point is that you must identify the relevant piece of the experience, and preserve the honesty of that. Good marketing is about delivering real experiences to people. Perhaps you manufacture the setting or context, but the relevant piece cannot be faked. A cheerful salesperson might not actually be happy, but the customer doesn't really care about that, they just want to see a smile.

Using false information to scare people into or out of some behaviour, when there is no real threat at all is slimy marketing. Seth is usually above that.

p.s. Seth, it's more than generally assumed the video is fake. This is science, we're pretty damn sure.

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