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If you are involved in branding, marketing or PR, you are a storyteller. Period. Everything about moving an idea, product or new way of thinking effectively is about showing its necessity in the larger flow of events. This seems obvious, I realize. It’s something we all know intrinsically, but we can take the storyteller aspect of marketing for granted. When we do, we render ourselves ineffective. To that end, there have been a few truths I’ve learned over the years about storytelling that have changed the way I approach developing campaigns….
First, you cannot attach meaning to anything unless you put it in the context of a larger storyline. Stories connect events, individuals and details. They create cause and effect, therefore, creating significance. A list of facts has never changed a person’s world view. Graphs and statistics are empty by themselves. Stories are what give meaning to facts.
So, if our job is to make a product meaningful, then we need to connect it to a story. If I need to prove, for example, that an iPhone App is worth your time and money, I need to prove that it will be meaningful in your life. And the only way I can prove this meaning is by talking about it in the context of your story.
Stories, however, are not just a re-telling of connected events. All good stories have a single common theme: Something has knocked life off balance and there is something being set in motion to restore that balance. As hyper-intellectual as this might sound, it’s true. Basic example:
Little Red Riding Hood goes to deliver food to her grandmother’s house. Not much of a story. Everything is in balance. She has food. She is taking it to grandmother. Grandmother is waiting.
…enter the Big Bad Wolf….
BBW ate grandmother and is now wearing her nightgown, lying in her bed. LRRH has no idea. BBW is pretending to be grandmother in order to get LRRH close enough so he can eat her too. Situation off balance. Good, compelling story is in motion…
Next…LRRH is swallowed whole. Situation more off balance. Enter hunter with his ax. Hunter has the ability to put this situation back in balance. Hunter cut’s BBW open. LRRH and grandma are freed and everything is put back in its proper place.
When I am trying to create a market for that iPhone App, I need to remember Little Red Riding Hood and establish four things:
- What is the story in balance?
- What has knocked this story off balance?
- What does this iPhone App do to restore that balance?
- What is the most effective way to tell that story to people who’s lives are effected by this lack of balance (i.e.. potential customers).
You answer those four questions and you have the skeleton for a powerful marketing campaign; if you don’t, your only chance of success is someone else figuring your product out and selling it for you. Given the fact that our job is to maximize the possibility and probability of products being purchased, I’ll take the former over the latter any day.