“Tell them a story,” was the advice of one witchy old woman I encountered in a nook and cranny candle shop. We had gotten to talking and she wanted to know what I was writing about. The matter was complicated enough, let alone trying to explain it in one neat little sentence to someone who looked like they popped out of the 14th century. But her words couldn’t have been more evolved – and on the money.
“People will always listen to and remember a story. People are like children,” or something along those lines was what she followed with. I applied her rule not only to my general pitch but also to my approach when building the project. Everything became clearer to me, and more easily communicated to my project. The project found its identity and purpose – all in a simple storified version of a much more entangled nexus.
Stories work. Stories get our interest. And stories motivate us to action. Now apply this to your marketing strategy.
Reimagining Your Brand
Evaluate your brand with fresh eyes. First, take a little exercise and imagine you’re turning your product or service into a bite-size version of itself. You’ll be selling to the toughest critic there is: A room full of kids. If you’ve ever taught, you’ll know the severity of the task at hand, sooner choosing to go before the Shark Tank or Dragon’s Den panel before baring your brainchild to a room full of brutally honest little people with incredibly short attention spans.
But if you can get them to understand your idea, get excited about it and communicate it to the next kid that wasn’t privy to your story, then you know you’ve pretty much aced your marketing plan. If they can get it, anyone can.
So with that picture in mind, go back to your drawing board and take another look at your business, service, product, project or message – whatever it may be. Judge every aspect of it from your logo, tagline, style; your aim is to evaluate what message you’re communicating. If you can’t figure it out and present it to that room of kids, then you’re wasting your time hoping your clients will a) understand, b) remember and c) most importantly, care.
Storytelling goes further. It’s not just about communication, branding or even your business “soul.” It’s about getting on board with something that’s been going on since about 1991, but really picked up speed in the last decade. Consider transmedia, cross-platform stories and now of course social sharing. Also pay attention to the type of news that goes viral; it’s always a story.
Next, take a look at ads. Again, ads that take on the role of a story (either true or fictional) always get increased audience attention and buzz.
“What if my business doesn’t have a story?”
Nonsense. Every business has a story, either real or created. The fact of the matter is that your “story” isn’t competing against Game of Thrones’ nail-biting plot twists and character developments. It’s not about creating a business mirror image of any literary work. Rather, it’s about communicating either a very simple message, an emotion or even pulling one of the major tenets of story telling.
An effective story will distinguish your business and share why you matter. Better stories will get your customers involved through either literal or figurative inclusion. The best stories will bring your business or message to life, inspiring empathy or allegiance among your customer base.