Fishing Tales

I have a friend who’s originally from Cuba who says Cubans are the ultimate weavers of fishing tales.  In other words, nobody ever caught a tiny fish in Cuba.

Fisherman exaggerating the size of their catch is axiomatic.  The one that got away was always a whopper.fishing tales

My friend explained that with Cuban fishermen, the expectation that you’ll exaggerate the size of your catch is so ingrained that everyone accounts for it when they consider what you actually caught.

You say you caught a 10 pounder, they assume you’re exaggerating, so everyone guesses you caught about a 5 pounder.  If you caught a 5 pounder and told the truth, everyone would assume you actually caught a 2 pounder.

As a Cuban fisherman, if you tell the truth about your catch, you’re underselling yourself.

I recently told a friend that my SEO work was generating about 600 leads a month for our company.  He replied, So you’d tell everyone you’re getting about 1200 leads right?”

“What?” I asked in surprise.

“If you’re promoting this you’d surely tell everybody you’re getting 1200 leads a month,” he said, as if it was obvious.

What a pity, I thought.  Why does everyone think marketers are liars?

Then it occurred to me.  Much like the Cuban fishermen, it’s ingrained in many people’s minds that marketers and advertisers exaggerate.  We claim buying the right car will win you love.  Drinking the right beer will make you more cool.  Owning a larger house gives you more status.

The exaggeration is assumed.  We add intangible value that’s often unconnected to the uses of the product.  If you tell the straight truth, you’re selling your story short.

This, however, is starting to change.

It’s not hard to see the illogic of Cuban fishing tales.  When the exaggeration becomes the norm, the facts – and real point – are obscured.

Needless to say, you wouldn’t want to buy fish from one of these guys based just on what he’s telling you.  Before you pay, you’re going to weigh.  You need to know what you’re really getting.

Online consumers fit this pattern. They’re task oriented, and tend to get frustrated with content that takes them away from completing their task.

When we test website content that is heavy on “exaggerated” marketing/sales content, we hear people complain directly.  “I don’t have time for this marketing crap,” they say.  “Where’s the stuff I need?”

Internet empowered consumers are more methodical and informed than ever.  They want to know what they’re really getting, and they want to know it now.

This is not to say you can’t sell using a message of intangible value, but even that value must have a clear connection to what you’re selling.  It’s not necessarily an exaggeration that a new car will make your family safer – and that will please your wife.

But if you take too much time on the intangible you may mis-communicate about the central value, and that’s likely to cost with online consumers.

More and more, you can tell the truth about the size fish you caught.  More and more, you must tell the truth about the size fish you intend to sell.

By: Scott Yoder