How Marketers Use Stories to Win Minds
(Reading time: approx 3 minutes)
Why do we have the innate desire to tell stories and what is it about a good story that makes us want to retell it to others? Essentially stories tap into human emotion. I recently watched a video called ‘Winning the Story Wars’ which breaks down the components to telling a powerful story. Stories evolved from myths which provide symbolic thinking, story, explanation, meaning and ritual all wrapped up in one nice package. By deconstructing the formula of a myth we can create stories that make our voice stand out in the post-broadcast era.
The most successful marketers have become myth makers
Today, many of our stories come from marketers. Now, this could either be a terrifying or exciting, I’m not quite sure. Nearly every successful marketing campaign since the 1950s creates new myths. Take the Marlboro Man as an example. The marketing campaign behind this iconic figure lead us to believe that if we smoke Marlboros we will take on this look and radiate this carefree, outdoorsy persona. Myths, of course, aren’t a literal representation of facts. The act of smoking Marlboros won’t actually turn us into this icon that the marketers have created. However, marketers are still telling myths this way by launching products and giving the audience a new explanation of how the world works and how we should live.
Marketing hasn’t shifted much from this paradigm. Typically, the consumer was seen as a helpless damsel in distress with the brand being the almighty hero who comes swooping in to save the day. This was a simple story, but this story doesn’t cut it anymore. Consumer’s have the choice to pick or skip over stories they want to take in. They are no longer passive. Now, the story you tell needs to be more complex and reshaped. Some iconic brands such as Under Armour, have begun to break these traditional stories and tell real-life stories instead. Under Armour’s tagline ‘I Will’ has shifted the spotlight onto the consumers. The brand tells a story of empowerment and encourages their audience to tackle their goals.
It’s survival of the fittest for ideas
Brands used to have guaranteed attention. They had their idea, put it into a commercial spot on television or radio, and it was nearly guaranteed their audience consumed it. Alas, times have changed and not all content soaks in anymore. What kind of ideas survive and get retold? Stories. Try thinking of your brand as a story. Establish characters, setting, and a conflict. Try telling a moral of a story, and dig deep to express your brands values. You will find that people tend to act on things that are aligned with their moral judgements. The most universal successfully stories call audiences to higher values like community, justice and self expression. Remember, it’s a competitive world out there and only the the best stories survive.
So brands, how do you tell your story?
Going back to the example of Under Armour and their latest tagline “I Will”, they instill a sense of competency in their audience. They say their job is to make you better. They don’t focus on themselves or their products first, they let the audience be the hero. If you are stuck on how to tell your story begin by applying this formula:
1.) Start with a hero
Start with an outsider to your brand. Make your audience the hero, not your brand.
2.) Be the mentor
You as the brand are the character that reveals more is possible. You work to connect your audience to deeper values. Teach a truth, a moral of a story. Stop talking about how great you are and start talking about how great your audience can be.
3.) Have a differentiator
Think of this as your gift to the audience. What are you going to give them that has meaning and can be beneficial to them and their world? Any brand can become a story brand by finding relevance in its values. Be consistent around your morals and find resonance in your voice as the mentor, not the hero. You need to commit and live to your values. The brands that execute on this will light up the digitoral landscape.
Take a risk for your brand archetype
Jonah Sachs, author of the book ‘Winning The Story Wars’, says the world is a mess and we need more stories. Everyone knows that they need to stand out, but there is fear in taking risk. Don’t think of it as risk think of it as differentiating yourself. I urge you to get out there and tell your stories and tell a dang good story while you’re at it. Stories that empower are always better performers. Bare in mind, when we hear stories that speak to us it is more that we are remembering something then learning something.
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