Stories are powerful.
They help you communicate emotions, concepts and the benefits in a depth that traditional sales writing can never achieve.
I could write for pages now desiccating why stories are so powerful, but I think the best way to show you their power is by showing you an example from one of the masters of storytelling.
John Lewis never fail to hit the spot. Every Christmas the marketing world is on their edge of its seat waiting for the retail giant’s latest advert. Their 2014 effort didn’t disappoint. I’m sure you were sat there with a tear in your eye as you watched the little boy and his penguin:
Why are stories so powerful?
Their power comes from the fact that we’ve grown up with them.
We are predisposed to listen to them, so they are a great way to get your personal brand out there.
If you’re not sure where to start, how about at the beginning?
Think about how you started in business. What’s your story?
This is mine:
After leaving school with a fist full of O and A levels, I didn’t have the belief in myself to go to University so I joined a high street bank on their Management Development Programme. I was there for 7 years before leaving to start a family.
Two children later I began to feel as though I needed more from life than just changing nappies and doing pre-school runs, but I still wanted to be a full time mum. Finally, after a lot of searching I found a home-based job for a charity that I could do during term time. For a couple of years it was great, but part of me still felt unfulfilled. The fact that I’d passed up university nagged me and, at the age of 31, I embarked on a 6 year BA(Hons) degree course in English Language and Literature with the Open University.
After a couple of years trying to study, work and care for my family I realised I couldn’t do it all so I gave up my job. I loved the study (although it was incredibly tough) and began to feel as though I was finally achieving something for myself. Then, one evening we went to a friend’s dinner party. I was sat next to a chap who turned to me and asked what I did. When I told him I was a full time mum and studying for a degree, he looked at me and said, “Oh, you don’t work?” and then turned to talk to the person the other side of him.
It was at that point that I vowed I would do something with my degree when I completed it. A couple of years later I graduated with First Class Honours. Still at a loss as to what I wanted to do, my husband suggested I start something up on my own. It wasn’t something I’d contemplated before, but when a local businessman asked me to do some writing for a web project he was working on, I realised that was what I wanted to do. I set up my first website, taught myself internet marketing and began Briar Copywriting.
That was 7 years ago and I haven’t looked back.
Stories in your marketing great a buzz. They go further than just showing benefits and adding a call to action; a story helps you make a real connection with your customers, generating awareness of your product or service in a context that they can relate to.
An article in The Guardian looks at the scientific side of story telling. Jennifer Aaker (a marketing professor at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business) got her students to give a 1-minute pitch. Only 1 in 10 used a story with the others sticking to a more traditional approach with facts and figures. Afterwards, they were asked to write down what they remembered from the pitches:
- 5% cited a statistic
- 63% remembered the story
“Research shows our brains are not hard-wired to understand logic or retain facts for very long. Our brains are wired to understand and retain stories,” Aaker says. “A story is a journey that moves the listener, and when the listener goes on that journey they feel different and the result is persuasion and sometimes action.”
How to use story telling
Here are 5 tips to help you incorporate story telling into your marketing:
- Understand your audience – Ask them why they bought from you? What made them look for a solution? How they found your brand? What was their experience of working with you like?
- What are their emotional drivers? – Find out what they really care about
- Be authentic – Use real life stories from employees, customers and people from your industry
- Credibility – Data (facts and figures) combined with stories is very powerful
- User-generated content – A great way to explore different perspectives. Run a competition, create a hashtag or interview someone
When you come to create your next marketing piece try story telling and see what difference it makes.
Author – Sally Ormond, Briar Copywriting Ltd