Why do stories sell so well?
February 6, 2011
You can try and force your sales message down someone’s throat. But it doesn’t work. And there’s a better way.
People have always been suckers for stories. From cave paintings to strip cartoons, from Beowulf to Alien, and King Arthur to Harry Potter, human beings just can’t get enough of them. Stories have been engaging people for thousands of years, and they work just as well today as they ever did.
Right now marketers and communicators desperately need help – because audiences are switched off
Why? Because people are spoilt for choice and punch drunk with information – they just want to be left in peace. Because consumers have already got virtually everything they need – show me someone with money who doesn’t have a mobile phone, car, TV, or bank account. And because every market is overcrowded – differentiating one business offering from another is tough.
So, what’s the solution?
It’s partly about finding more efficient and better targeted delivery methods. So you need specialists, like web, digital or interactive guys, to help you make the most of the different communication channels. But that only gets you as far as the door to the consumer’s consciousness. To go any further you need a message that’s persuasive.
Persuasion is an art, not a science. So a geek is as much use as a chocolate fireplace. They can run a program to find the words most likely to be picked up by search engines. But they are not so good at arranging them, with brevity and wit, in ways that will influence human beings.
The buzzword of the moment is “engagement”. Engagement is about getting consumers to enter into some kind of meaningful interaction with your brand. Or, to use an acronym (doesn’t everyone?!), you must get them to GAS (Give A Shit). It’s simple – if they don’t GAS you haven’t got engagement.
It’s the way you tell ’em
Storytellers have been achieving this for thousands of years. So, taking a leaf out of their book, a smart way to get engagement is to create narratives, such as case studies, success stories, day-in-the life articles, personal interviews and mini biographies, where real people overcome real challenges, thanks to your products or services.
These work really well, because true and compelling stories are a powerful way to communicate features, benefits and results. They give the audience evidence, based on the experiences of others – and the customer’s word is more credible than the company’s. Successful brands are built on trust, and using such stories is a very effective way of laying the foundations.
However, you can also apply the tricks of the story telling trade to increase the engagement quotient of all your marketing collateral – even when the format is not strictly that of a story.
What tricks are we talking about? The art of storytelling has been constantly evolving. But the best stories all have the same key elements – they work because we care about the characters, because there is suspense, and because we become emotionally involved with what’s going on.
You keep a knockin’ but you can’t come in
How much difference does effective storytelling make? We think it makes all the difference. And here’s why. The geek will get you to the door of someone’s consciousness. The average designer and copywriter will then hammer on it, pushing features and benefits. But there’s a catch – the door is marked PULL…and has no handle for you to grasp. The people inside will only open up to you when you engage them on an emotional level, and draw them out. And to achieve that you need to use the tried and tested techniques of the storyteller.