We all live for a great story. A story that we can retell that has suspense, adversity and a great ending. Humanity has been built on stories. Since the beginning of time, storytelling was the only way to transfer knowledge and inspire people to move forward. The first written story was the The Epic of Gilgamesh an epic poem dating back to 2100 BC written on 12 clay tablets. Today, there are over 129,864,880 books in the entire world according to Google’s advanced algorithm – unfortunately I can’t say I’ve read them all – yet.
Storytelling is the hottest and newest branding tool on the market. But in reality it is the oldest and most enduring element of human civilization. Except, we no longer sit around a smoky fire pit wearing stinky and somewhat revealing leather gear, while the storyteller points at the holographic on the cave wall. Today, we have progressed to boring PowerPoints and uncomfortable three piece suits.
Joh Hamm’s article Why Agencies and Brands Need to Embrace True Storytelling says “Stories are how we pass on our accumulated wisdom, beliefs and values. They are the process through which we describe and explain the world around us, and our role and purpose in it. Audiences have always known this and asked for stories—they’ve never asked for content.”
Storytelling is Best Seller on Social
It seems that social media has given new life to storytelling. For brands, attracting consumers with captivating, engaging stories that are significant and meaningful is a new competitive edge. If all employees could tell the company’s brand story (promise) with passion and emotionally-charged, descriptive language using no facts and figures you wouldn’t need advertising. Susan Gunelius’s article How to write brand stories that builds emotional connections on Forbes website states “Stories are the perfect catalyst to building brand loyalty and brand value. When you can develop an emotional connection between consumers and your brand, your brand’s power will grow exponentially.”
Close to seven million people have viewed the of Coco Chanel’s story on YouTube. A story about transforming women’s fashions, and the transformation of a woman who build the CHANEL empire.
We all know it’s much easier said than done. Recently, Colleen HendersonPresident of Perfect Pitch Consulting coached forty of my team members in how to write a good story. Everyone struggled to write one emotional sentence of what we do for our customers. It isn’t easy writing compelling and inspiring brand stories. If it was easy everyone would be doing it.
Start the Story with Why
The best brand stories are aimed to get the audience to care by answering their question “why?” Many successful brands only talk about the “why” and less about the facts. Neil Patel writer for Forbes says when someone is “interested in your brand’s story, they feel connected in a powerful way. This feeling of connection then turns them into customers.”
Toms shoes uses storytelling to convince thousands of people and customers to go a day without shoes with their annual “One Day without Shoes” campaign to raise awareness of the millions of children around the world who have no shoes.
The campaign is actually on right now until May 21. If you Instagram your bare feet with the hashtag #withoutshoes they will give a new pair of shoes to a child in need. Check out my lovely toes at #withoutshoes.
Jonah Sachs author of Winning the Story Wars: Why Those Who Tell (and Live) the Best Stories Will Rule the Future says “It’s critical for brands to shift from messaging to storytelling. After all, a brand is nothing more than an ongoing story – a set of meaningful emotional experiences – unfolding between itself and its audiences.”
So what makes a good story or story-selling? A brand DNA is all about where it came from and how it got to where it is today. But a great story needs conflict. Dove’s Real Beauty “You’re more beautiful than you think” campaign is a great example.
All good stories has the following elements: introduction to set the stage, a protagonist (the hero) an antagonist (the villain), a conflict, a climax, a resolution, and a reason why the audience should care. Better yet, you can follow Aristotle’sSeven Golden Rules of Storytelling: plot, character, theme, speech (or dialog), chorus (or music), decor and spectacle. Ideally you want to make the customer the hero but in some circumstance you want to make your brand the hero.
Don’t Mix Facts with a Good Story
Facts actually make people more sceptical on what they are seeing and hearing. Researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not correcting misinformation, but doing the complete opposite, make misinformation even stronger. We often base our opinions on our beliefs, which don’t always mesh with facts, so we chose the facts that best fit our beliefs.
Do you remember the Oscar winning movie Sidways? It was a movie set in California’s of two men on a week-long road trip in the wine region of Santa Barbara. Throughout the movie the lead actor Paul Giamatti, a wine aficionada, declared his love for Pinot Noir and his distaste for Merlot. The movie led to a strong upswing in the sales of Pinot Noir and a drop in Merlot. Facts can be questioned and rationalized, but when a beloved character that people can empathize with endorses a product or brand, follower goes along with no questions asked. Just ask Playboy model and actress, Jenny McCarthy about her crusade against vaccinations.
Today, we are inundated with information loaded with facts and figures. Benefit statements, promises, testimonials, demonstrations, research and new scientific evidence. A story well told that is authentic, relevant, engaging and human can cut through the clutter and noise.
One of the great storytellers was the late Steve Jobs because he informed, inspired and entertained. He always stuck to the rule of three. He understood the power of “3”. Not exceed the list of 3 nor going below 3 things. He also made sure his stories always had a hero and a villain; most times it was the competition. He also made sure he was prepared. His delivered flawlessly but to do so he practices until it looked effortless. And finally, he always left the audience with something inspiring like he did with the introduction of the iPhone where he said, “I didn’t sleep a wink last night. I’ve been so excited about today…There’s an old Wayne Gretzky quote that I love. ‘I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.’ We’ve always tried to do that at Apple since the very, very beginning. And we always will.”
Successful brands tell the story of who they are, not only the people behind the brand, but also how their customers connect to their products in ways that give them the ability to do more with their life. Stories that inspire passion in life and illustrate the why and how behind the what and where.
Seth Godin reminds us, “Great stories agree with our worldview. The best stories don’t teach people anything new. Instead the best stories agree with what the audience already believes and makes [them] feel smart and secure when reminded how right they were in the first place.”
Henderson suggests that everyone should have three stories ready to be given at any moment. 1. What brand do I represent? 2. Who am I? 3. Who have I helped? Each story should be engaging and well-crafted. No longer than 90 seconds and well-rehearsed.
I leave you with Steve Jobs commencement address to the 2005 graduation class at Stanford University where he tells three touching stories. “Stay hungry. Stay Foolish.”