It’s the Story, Not the Product

Stephen Brooks at Orlando InternationalOne of Seth Godin’s prevalent themes is that people don’t really buy a product, they buy the story that they have associated with that product.  For example, his theory states that I don’t drive a 2001 Audi S4 because I inherently like fast, sporty European-built vehicles, but rather because I enjoy the self-image it gives me – the story it tells me about myself.

I have to confess that even though I am a big fan of Seth’s, this concept seemed a little esoteric up until now.  I thought that surely people were sufficiently self-aware that they could separate their subconscious personal brand-building from their cognitive purchase decisions. But, looking at a photo from our Disney trip just now, I realize he’s right.

The thing is, in the last 9 months or so, I have lost about 30 pounds.  And I really notice it.  I feel thinner and less “flabby.”  I feel like I appear  thinner, too.  I even look at this photo to the right and think I look noticeably leaner than a year ago.  But then I glanced at this old photo down below, taken last May at an awards gala.  (That’s Shawn Graham, the premier of New Brunswick with me.  Because I take most of the pictures in our family, I’m not in many of them.  This is the only electronic one I could find that was about a year old.)

Stephen Brooks and Shawn Graham

And I realized that I look exactly the same as I did a year ago.  But to Seth’s point, it doesn’t matter!  I still feel like I look thinner and better, despite the evidence to the contrary.  I like the story I’m telling myself more than the raw fact that I weigh less than I used to.

So what does this tell us as marketers?  That the product is important, but ultimately the interaction of the customer and the product is what makes a successful relationship. And defining that interaction is what marketing can and should be doing.


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