A popular sentiment in marketing today is, “stories sell.” But how? This directive is like the equivalent of a gym owner simply saying, “you should work out.”
Without the proper motivation, guidance, and game plan, most of us don’t know where to start with either of these. If you don’t have a trainer, an exercise plan, and a nutrition guide, you’re far less likely to succeed in your journey to fitness. The same goes with storytelling. We need a roadmap.
At some point in the life of your brand or business, you’ve probably tried using a story to sell your product or service and have seen little to no results. If that’s the case, you might assume that “story marketing” is just another fad that will fade out of style. However, if you discount the value of a story, your brand could be missing out on the opportunity to tap into one of the richest, most powerful forms of communication we have as people.
To demystify the use of story, let’s simply define it as a framework of communication. Humanity has been using stories to communicate since before recorded history. Storytelling is the road most often traveled to lead someone from ignorance and confusion to clarity and understanding, and when people understand something clearly they are more likely to act.
If you’re given a comprehensive plan for fitness, you’re more likely to embark on that health journey provided to you, right? In other words, if your customer can quickly and easily understand what you are offering them, they are more likely to buy it. Plain and simple.
In his book, Building a Story Brand, Donald Miller quotes a friend of his:
“There’s a reason most marketing […] doesn’t work […] The brain doesn’t know how to process the information. The more simple and predictable the communication, the easier it is for the brain to digest. Story helps because it is a sense-making mechanism. Essentially, story formulas put everything in order so the brain doesn’t have to work to understand what’s going on.”
He goes on to describe the way our brain prioritizes information through Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. First, we’re programmed to fulfill the needs we require to survive (think food, water, shelter). We seek these out instinctively above all else so that we have a sense of well-being and can avoid vulnerability. Once those needs are met, we can move on to our relationships with others. We search for friendships, romantic relationships, and other nurturing connections that will stick by us and help us face any outside threats. After we fill these cups, then finally we can concern ourselves with a higher level of psychological, physiological, and even spiritual needs that give our lives a more enhanced sense of belonging and purpose. First we survive, then we thrive.
Miller also describes two key areas where most marketing fails. The first mistake most businesses make is failing to emphasize how their product or service will help their customers survive and thrive. The second is that customers have to work too hard and burn too many calories to understand that product or service. These two mistakes lead to missed opportunities of engagement, because the customer is wasting precious resources trying to understand something that won’t help them in their own story. After all, none of us want a workout plan we didn’t actually sign up for.
So, how does the story come into play? Story provides a map that leads your customer from indecision: “Will this product/service help me survive/thrive?” to decision: “I NEED this to survive/thrive!” Here is the roadmap provided by Donald Miller:
At &Marketing, we work to leverage the power of story to make the biggest impact for our clients. The majority of our client partners have limited resources or team members to devote to engaging potential customers. The story framework equips us to generate more engagement with fewer resources. Not only does story increase engagement, it improves retention as our clients’ customers actively integrate the product/service into their own narrative.
We’ll dive deeper into this framework through a series of blog posts called Narrative Marketing. In this 3-part blog series, we will explore:
About the Author
Matt Vincent is the Creative Director at &Marketing. He has worked in digital illustration and graphic design for over 6 years. During this time, he has worked for a variety of clients, including IGN Entertainment and Salesforce, and a host of smaller & medium sized companies.
As a self-taught graphic designer and illustrator, he is constantly learning and growing his repertoire of creative skills, and sharing those with the world. His primary passion is equipping creatives to be storytellers; to see the narrative threads and archetypes that exist in all things, and to tap into them to get their audience to think, grow, and act.
In today’s fast paced world, many growing businesses are struggling to modernize their marketing approaches because either they don’t have the expertise or the bandwidth to do it themselves.
&Marketing provides seasoned marketing strategy professionals and a nimble execution team to help our clients achieve their goals. Our unique partnership model allows us to augment our client’s existing teams or outsource the entire marketing function in an affordable, flexible, and transparent way.