What storytelling has taught me about marketing and visa-versa

StorytellerI’ve worked in marketing in some form or another for many years. Many times I was presented with the importance of a good story to provide a memorable experience to the customer. I understood this concept, but often wondered what constitutes a good story and how can I incorporate it in my marketing strategy approach. To find out, I didn’t seek out more marketing or business training resources (although those are useful for ongoing learning). Instead, I joined Two Rivers Story Spinners. This group is very small but active in my local community. The mission is based on the ancient art of storytelling in the oral tradition. I wasn’t sure what I would learn from this, but it intrigued me to find a connection between what has been the oldest form of communication since the dawn of humans and our modern society.

Comparing a good story with good marketing

There are plenty of similarities between telling a story around the ancient campfire and contemporary marketing techniques. Both have the purpose to inform, entertain, and/or persuade. A good story will convey a lesson or moral. Ancient Greeks told tales of warrior bravery and cunning with the story of the Trojan Horse and the United States Air Force devotes their website to stories about the same thing.

Grab attention from the start

If your story/message doesn’t garner attention right away, you’ll lose the interest of your audience within a few seconds. With constant bombardment of millions of messages and stimuli around us every minute, listeners have short attention spans. Create a “hook” to your story that will draw listeners into the narrative.

Have a beginning, middle and end

All well crafted stories have a beginning, middle and end. Narratives that follow a structure are much more interesting than just listing a series of events or a reciting product benefits. Storytellers/Marketers need to set the stage in the beginning to peak interest, have conflict and tension arise that is presented in the middle, then resolved in the end. The ending offers the lesson or moral. This lesson or moral should drive the audience/customer to rethink a problem, choice or mindset in a different way and therefore take a desired action.

Show/tell something remarkable

In his book “Contagious: Why Things Catch On,” Jonah Burger states “Something can be remarkable because it is novel, surprising, extreme, or just plan interesting. But the most important aspect of remarkable things is that they are worthy of remark.” When crafting your story/message think about the product that could do something no one thought was possible, or a hero that that went to an extreme to accomplish something.

Make the audience care by using emotion

Audiences connect to your story through emotion. Berger explains “Emotions drive people to action. They make us laugh, shout, and cry, and they make us talk, share and buy.” Emotional connection is demonstrated in the Budweiser commercials featuring the Budweiser Clydesdales. The “Puppy Love” ad boasted a whopping 53 million YouTube views and counting. The Clydesdales also provide 89% consumer recall. When your story/message contains emotion, it will be enjoyed, remembered and shared more than those that don’t.

Whether you are an oral storyteller performing on a stage or a marketer looking to make an impact, stories provide the vehicle to engage your audience. Stories should grab attention within a few seconds. Have the story structured with a beginning, middle and end. Tell something remarkable and use emotion to make it memorable.

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