Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Power of a Story Well Told

Good agencies employ great storytellers. Good stories capture attention, build trust and credibility, and often evoke an emotional response, all worthy goals of any marketing communication. In Seth Godin’s book, All Marketers are Liars, he adds credence to this argument in suggesting that effective marketers don’t talk about features and benefits, but rather they tell compelling stories — stories people want to believe.

Good storytellers develop a deep, rehearsed understanding of the key elements to be masterfully woven together and delivered in engaging fashion. Good marketers immerse themselves in the products and services offered by their clients. This intimate understanding teaches the skilled marketer the key messages she will use in communicating the client’s story. The master storyteller knows well her audience. This knowledge is used to shape and cater the story. While speaking from a common platform, the storyteller is adept at catering and delivering her message in terms with which the audience can easily and personally relate.

During this past presidential campaign this concept was on display almost daily. Famously, Joe the Plumber became the hero of John McCain’s story to America. The candidates shaped their stories to appeal to diverse groups such as unions, corporate executives, coal miners, and even Hollywood, while the platform or underlying message remained largely intact. To a citizenry feeling unprecedented concern about their future, a simple story of change was compelling enough to make history in this country.

When the master storyteller delivers the right story to the right audience, the results are often powerful and memorable.

So, savvy marketer, tell stories about the impact going back to school will have on the lives of those that do. Tell stories about protecting those you love most with a security system. Tell stories about the sheer joy and escape of spending Saturday afternoons on the lake in a new boat. Hey, it may not be Moby Dick, but told well these stories will generate a whale (sorry, I had to) of a response.

One final note about storytelling. A wise mentor once taught me that good advertising is often about telling only half of the story. You tell the whole story upfront and you’ve taken away my incentive to ask “what comes next” and then follow up to find out (the coveted response part of advertising). The half told tale is the tool of the master storyteller.

No comments: