So over the past two years gas prices rose about $2/gallon from what they were. Supply and demand? That can’t be causing it. The oil companies were sticking it to us. Let’s start a chain email to not buy gas on a certain day. That will show them. If gas prices change that dramatically in only two years, the outrage in the streets showed that something must be horribly wrong.

Meanwhile, gas prices have fallen back down the same $2/gallon in only about two months. Where’s the congressional inquiry this time?

In 2004, Bush won 50.7% of the popular vote. We were told this meant the country was divided. Last week, Obama won 52.6%. We’re being told this means the country is united.

Prior to big news the next day, the main news story on Sept 10, 2001 (and for many weeks before) was about an FBI intern who might have been murdered by a US congressman. Can you remember either of their names?

In the end, marketing is nothing more than telling a story to people who want to hear it. And even though they are not viewed as marketers, the media and government are some of the best marketers on the planet. While your marketing budget struggles to achieve proper reach and frequency, those who have constituencies or who own printing presses, transmitters, and online attention have a constant captive audience who don’t filter information the way they might from other sources.

An unfortunate side effect of the 24 hour news cycle is that there’s a lot of filler. And sometimes the filler becomes important just because there’s nothing else to take the place. All the really smart people I know keep their mouths shut 99% of the time. When they do speak, what they say carries some weight and you know it’s important. When you used to read a single newspaper and watch one of three nightly newscasts, the important stuff was distilled out for you. People are still consuming it that way, even though it’s no longer produced that way.

And throughout history, politicians and governments have steered the masses. Everyone knows this. But other than a few who are well-informed, everyone usually goes along with the propaganda.

Here’s the marketing lesson for you: People are irrational and will ignore facts, common sense, and their own memories if you can manipulate their worldview.

But how to manipulate that worldview? Tell them a story they want to believe.

I think this coffee is better because of how the company selects the beans. Every one knows that this computer OS is better than the other one because of the kinds of people who use it. Everyone is wearing these jeans. This car is superior because of how the company produces it.

With all the facts and common sense, we’d see that many current consumer decisions would be different. But marketing is not about the facts. It’s about the perception. And perception is reality.