Why Telling Stories Is Vital To Your Marketing

Why Telling Stories Is Vital To Your Marketing

Hooked On Stories!

From childhood onwards we all love to hear stories!

But why?

One of the reasons is because stories conjure up our emotions.

They make us feel happy or sad, excited or satisfied, intrigued or terrified.

Think Harry Potter!

They capture our imagination; they broaden our horizons; take us to places we had never dreamed possible; introduce us to things we had never heard of before.

Not only that, but as human beings we give continuity and stability to our lives by imagining ourselves as the subjects of our own biography!

In order to do this, we aid our memories through rituals of storytelling, photographs, video and audio recordings.  We use certain vocabularies and explanations to make sense of things to ourselves.

“The rain was absolutely pelting down on the freeway and suddenly…

I couldn’t see two feet in front of me and then there was this almighty roar as a massive truck flew past and suddenly my windscreen was flooded with an absolute deluge of water.  Next thing I knew…”

And there is another phenomenon… we remember in scenes!  Try it … remember something from your childhood.

See… told you!

Marketing With Stories

So basically, the reason storytelling is so darn effective in marketing is because we all love them.  Great stories capture our audience!

But in marketing, we are not telling the ‘Once Upon A Time…’ type of story.

The stories we tell when marketing are stories of experiences.

To quote James Gilmore, ‘we are now in an experience economy based on staging experiences’.

Consumers want sensation-filled experiences that capture and engage them in a memorable way.  We have moved way, way beyond simply marketing the product or the service.

For example, a university social work department can tell prospective students that social workers help people with a wide range of issues, including psychological, financial, health, relationship and substance abuse problems.

Or…they can make a video for their homepage like the one below, showing the kinds of situations that their clients (the ‘would-be’ social worker) will be experiencing.

This video immediately invites the potential social work students to place themselves in the scenario, possibly confirming to themselves that this is exactly the kind of work they want to do.  Possibly intrigued to know how they would deal with such challenging situations.

The Video:

‘Help Give Them A Voice’ Advert

Which approach do you think will be the most effective at grabbing the attention of someone who is seriously thinking about becoming a social worker?  The text about the services (the ‘issues’ social workers deal with/service) or the video vignettes of powerful stories?  A no-brainer, right?

Storytelling Tips For Marketers

#1: Be Subtle!

The fewer details you spell out, the more powerful the story becomes.

This is because the consumer can then fill in the blanks, drawing upon their own knowledge and memory bank.

The trick here is to allow the consumer to place themselves in the scene.  This is called ‘conditional positioning’.

The video above for potential social work students is an excellent example.  I think it would have been far less effective, if it had shown vignettes where a social worker was working with each of the clients.

#2: Use Of Photos

When using photos, use ones that invite the consumer to insert themselves into the picture, rather than showing someone else doing so.

In ‘dot BOOM’, Weigelt and Boehman describe this as using photos that are ‘suggestive, rather than definitive.’

For example, the photo below invokes lazy getaways where the consumer can relax and unwind.

They can picture themselves in the hammock, touched by a soft breeze, kissed by the sun and listening to the lap, lap, lap of the ocean as it gently caresses the shoreline.

Image of hammock suspended from a tree over the beach with the blue ocean a step or two away.

Add sound to the picture and you bring in another of the 5 senses to invite that emotional response from your prospective customer!


Take me there NOW!

#3: Make It Relevant

There is no point in using ‘conditional positioning’ and engaging the 5 senses to tell a story if that story is not relevant to your niche market, to your ideal customer.

Furthermore, your customer or client has to see the imagery and the message as being natural and, most important of all, as being authentic.  You might want to ditch those stock photos!

#4: Wants NOT Needs

If you want to be an influencer with your market then your story and its message must be relevant to the topic and the wants of your audience.

I say the wants, rather than the needs because, as Peter Sheahan says in his book FLIP:  ‘Getting what you need is yesterday.  Today is getting what you want.’

Everybody today must fulfill their customer’s needs.  It’s mandatory!

Now, if you want to make big profits, you must move beyond satisfying customer needs to fulfilling customer wants!

And customers want more in our Western world, where so many of our needs are met.

Here is an example:

You are a relationship coach and your ideal client is a woman in her mid-30s to mid-50s, experiencing major challenges with her marriage partner.

You know you have the techniques, strategies and resources that your ideal client needs to address her relationship challenges.

But that’s not what this client WANTS.

She wants Prince Charming, the guy who swept her off her feet so many years ago.  She wants HIM back!

You recognize this need/want distinction and have far greater success with your opt-in rates when you write your marketing copy to that WANT!

#5: Show – Don’t Just Tell

Make sure that as much as possible you show your audience what you are telling them.

Demonstration – more action – is more powerful than simply telling the story verbally.  I hope you found my use of the photo and two videos above more effective in demonstrating my points, than if I had only written about them!

Coming Attraction!

Now that we have established why telling stories is vital to your marketing, in my next post I will look specifically at how to tell everyday stories from your life in your marketing and become a legend in the minds of your customers!

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Watch out for the follow-up post!

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  1. Karen J Miller  June 1, 2011

    Hello Kisane!
    Waht a wonderful article! I too value the impact of telling stories. We are emotional beings and genuinely need to connect on an emotional level befroe we will take action.
    Loved your great tips, especially the one about adding sound to images…I was on that beach!

  2. kisane  June 1, 2011

    Hi Karen

    How lovely to hear from you :-) Hope all is going brilliantly with your biz and children!

    LOL! I love that beach shot and the sound of waves too. I even sold myself whilst putting it together!