I’ve never spent $10 on a chocolate bar, but you gotta to respect the story of “artisanal chocolate” these guys cooked up to win the minds of their consumers with their tale of going “from bean-to-bar”.
The Mast Brothers tale of better chocolate falls right into the vein of marketers striving to tell a better story. When you think about it, their positioning is really no different than any small batch coffee bean roaster marketing a five dollar cup of coffee rather than the 99-cent bottomless cup of caffeinated bean juice most anyone under the age of 40 likely grew up with.
All Marketers Are Liars
Seth Godin wrote about the tall tales marketers are want to tell in his book “All Marketers Are Liars” (later retitled “All Marketers Tell Stories“). In the book Godin is really writing more about about the effective use of positioning and crafting a genuine story in the mind of your customer that gets across the idea of what your company stands for and what you can do for your customers (rather than creating any sort of fictional narrative).
If the story Quartz has published about the Mast Brothers is true, it’s possible they only read the cover and took it literally. I think it would be incredibly interesting to get Seth Godin’s take on the situation. I even forwarded him a link to the article and asked him to weigh in.
If the allegations are true, Mast Brothers will lose because they lied.
The trouble won’t come from a dramatized tale of growth and evolution (“we started selling traditional chocolate and then decided there was a better way”), it will come from telling a story based on a falsehood.
What if Superman wasn’t really from Krypton?
Superman has an amazing origin story. He was the last son of a doomed planet sent to Earth where he would gain incredible powers living under our yellow sun. But what if years later Lois Lane uncovered a story about Superman actually getting his powers from a super drug he was taking? He still has all his powers and he still uses them to fight for Truth, Justice, and The American Way — but his origin story was a lie. If the “real” story of how he gained his powers from a super drug had been shared from the start it wouldn’t have been a problem (just ask Captain America), but because he started with a lie, everything else that came after was tainted by that original lie. Krypton and capes aside, isn’t this pretty much what happened to Lance Armstrong?
Take great care with the origin story of your company or personal brand.
Truth matters. Don’t embellish your marketing story for the sake of astonishment or you may end up forsaking the trust of your audience. Remember that Superman fights for Truth, Justice, and The American Way.
And the truth is, the truth is usually stranger than fiction (and frequently more interesting!) It’s certainly more trustworthy and believable.