During eBay’s rapid rise, the company nurtured a quaint rumor about its origins, claiming that founder Pierre Omidyar had created the site in 1995 so that his fiancee could trade Pez candy dispensers with other collectors.
Alas, the Pez myth, it was later revealed, had been fabricated by eBay’s public-relations director in 1997 to generate buzz about the site. Source: Anecdotage
It’s up to you whether your story is a complete fabrication. I tend to lean aggressively toward complete honesty, delivered in a creative fashion. Ethics aside, the blogosphere will call you out at the first opportunity. And it won’t be pretty.
No matter what, you must have a story that people want to hear, and then you’ve got to live that story. In that regard, eBay CEO Meg Whitman was often photographed with Pez collections and had more than 100 dispensers displayed in the lobby at eBay headquarters, despite the fact that the company origin was a fairy tale.
Now, the eBay origin story may seem like only a little white lie, but it’s actually a big lie. Whether it be science, religion, comic books or companies, origin stories are hugely important, and that crafty PR director knew it.
Because the lie was big, and because eBay lived the lie, it worked.
Lying is easy, it‘s living the lie that’s hard. And that’s why some people are shocked when their clever viral marketing scheme turns ugly.
They end up revealing that the story is not true, and that blows it. The audience doesn’t really want the curtain to be pulled back on the story that enchanted them in the first place, and they’ll punish you for doing it.
On the other hand, telling an authentic story can be hard. Even when things like Texas native pecans are right there for anyone to see, or the water and brewing techniques performed by beer companies are taken for granted, it just seems easier to make something up rather than recognize a powerful, simple, compelling story.
So, if you’re going to lie, lie big.
And stick to it.
Here’s a guy who can help you with that:
All this was inspired by the principle – which is quite true in itself – that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods.
Adolph Hitler, Mein Kampf, 1925
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