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Three Reasons Marketing SPIN Must Die

The Last Spin

Your corporate data has a story to tell, and often it flows from the CIO to the CMO before makings its way to customers in some form of marketing. Are you ensuring that the story that ultimately reaches your customers is relevant, truthful, and accurate? CIOs should carry the responsibility for all three. And they should definitely ensure that the cancer of spin never attaches itself to that data at any point in the journey from database to customer.

One starry evening in January of 1610, Galileo Galilei turned his newly crafted spyglass heavenward to observe Jupiter. He noticed three very small “stars” closely nestled next to Jupiter and lying along a straight line. After a week of observations, he noticed that there were four lights and that they occasionally disappeared. He concluded that the “stars” were in orbit around Jupiter.

Later than same year, Galileo observed that Venus had phases like the moon, effectively proving that the Ptolemaic proposition of an earth-centered universe was incorrect. Instead, as Copernicus concluded, the planets were in orbit around the sun.

Galileo published his observations, offering the plain truth and little if any spin. He told the story of Jupiter’s moons in words and in simple pictures that showed what he saw over the course of several nights.

Galileo’s simple observations and straightforward storytelling brought down centuries of spin in both the scientific and religious communities. Spin for the purpose of this discussion, is defined as presenting information in way that is favorable to a desired goal, but in actuality hides, distorts, or denies the truth. Spin is the set of all lies told about something in an attempt to get others to buy a larger lie.

We live in a culture where businesses still think the universe revolves around them, and that leaves them in a tenuous position. They are forced, by the sheer fact that they are wrong, to spew spin in their efforts to get the rest of us to buy the lie. But no longer. Enough is enough. It’s time for us to look through the spyglass to see the truth, destroy the spin, and live in a new age where all of us revolve around something bigger together. The no-spin policy will be key for businesses to survive in the new age of the connected consumer.

SPIN is self-serving. Service is self-offering.

Information, whether we are talking about big data or the specs on products or services, is assumed to be a set of facts. What businesses do with that information depends on their primary agenda. If money is more important than providing goods and services in the context of quality customer experiences, then spin is inevitable. Greed drives marketing schemes based solely on the art of pointing to something that isn’t really there, or hiding something that is.

Shouldn’t marketing be the telescope instead of the smoke and mirrors? If we have something worth offering, a telescope only magnifies its benefit. It’s about help, not hype.

For example, this revealing article explains why Travel Loyalty Programs are DeadIn short, it is because the claims of the loyalty programs were all spin, and customers are looking through the spyglass to find out that they are being penalized instead of rewarded for their loyalty.

Heritage fights the temptation to spin every day. We recently sold a half disme coin from 1794 for $1.4mm. There is an old story that Martha Washington supplied the very silver contained in this coin from her personal silverware collection. Such a story, if true, would obviously help fetch more money at auction. However, our coin experts chose to reveal the research that suggests this story originated much later as 19th-century spin.

Customers are smart enough and connected enough to see through the smoke and mirrors. But they are also capable seeing through your lenses of magnification if you just provide them. We just have to ensure that the focal point is the truth.

Service in the form of quality customer experiences must be the primary agenda for businesses. A core goal of customer service (versus self service) drives truth-in-advertising, which drives customer experience, which drives good business. Revenue is produced inherently. Marketing should always be a service.

Honesty and simplicity, and doing something that you believe has real value. Many companies do market research to try and anticipate the needs of the customer. I say just develop great products and tell an honest story about them. All the excess marketing spin in the commercial world has created a desire for authentic goods. — Rob Forbes

SPIN is a lie. Transparency reveals the truth.
I attended high school with Mason Locke Weems VII (yes, the seventh). He and I raced each other on the track team and in speed-solving the Rubik’s cube. His great-great-great-great-grandfather (Parson Mason Locke Weems I) invented a story about George Washington and the cherry tree to teach the rest of us why we should never tell a lie. Interesting, isn’t it? The very story that inspires us to tell the truth was itself a lie, or at least an exaggeration. Or was it? We don’t know for sure. Regardless, don’t we feel pride in thinking that our founding father told his father that “I cannot tell a lie” – even if the truth hurt him?

One of our primary goals at Heritage is transparency. When we offer an item for auction, we try to include every piece of information about the value and rarity of that item right there on the page, with third-party authentication, grading, and pricing information that allow fully-informed customer purchasing decisions. We believe that everyone deserves this level of transparency.

Your connected consumers can smell your marketing fluff. They can sense when you choose to hide things that would make their purchasing decision easier and better. They see you when you’re sleeping. They know if you’re awake. They know if you’ve been bad or good, so tell the truth, for goodness sake.

SPIN tastes bad. Story built from the truth brings the truth to life.
I’m the greatest CIO ever. I have the greatest blog ever. I can beat you at Letterpress, chess, and the 5k. Are you still reading? I wouldn’t blame you if you weren’t. It is human nature for you to begin to tune me out when I start beating my chest. Customers do the same thing. Spin just tastes bad.

I stumbled into this job when looking for a change and trying to capture that sense of wonder I had as a 10-year-old boy when, while snooping in the recesses of a dusty china cabinet, I found an old coin collection that my father had started but never completed. I can’t explain why that moment means so much to me, but it does. In one moment it bonded me with my father, with collecting, and with the treasure hunt of information and things that strengthen those bonds. Because of that, I believe in being a Galileo for others. I want to invent new telescopes and share the discoveries shining in the universe of information (both ours and others) to help others experience the joys of collecting or owning objects of significance that stir the soul.

That’s a true story without spin. Which makes you more likely to do business with me or engage in a conversation – a ridiculous ego trip or a story that identifies with your own sense of what matters in life?

I love being a CIO and working where I do. I am passionate about what happens to the information under my care. I must secure, store, govern, and utilize it to drive business strategy. And I see no room for spin, only discovery and storytelling with integrity. Spin must die so that good business can live.

In the internet era, your story is going to be inspected, held up to scrutiny and scoured for half-truths. But if your story is true, if it not only resonates with the worldview we insist on but actually delivers, then you’ve created something of lasting value. Seth Godin


Brian Shipman is the CIO of Heritage Auctions – a fantastically unique place to work. Heritage’s mission is to help people successfully acquire or pass on rare and significant objects that have both monetary and soul-stirring value. His job is to create a quality customer experience using the red carpet of technology.

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  1. […] customers are frustrated. Those businesses who alleviate that frustration with quality engagement without spin at all levels will thrive in the new […]

  2. AutismMan11 says:

    Reblogged this on AutismMan11's Unpredictable Future of Autism Blog and commented:
    Truth in adverstising, Story versus Spin…Can businesses and organizations become transparent in the market? Read CIO Insider’s Brian Shipman for a look at why spin must die…

  3. […] Three Reasons Marketing SPIN Must Die […]

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