Have compassion, for I am blind.
The beggar’s sign proclaimed his condition for all to see. A message like that inspires sympathy and little else. Passersby barely acknowledged his statement to the world, most choosing to conveniently ignored it.
But then a kind stranger intervened, re-writing the sign:
It’s a beautiful day, yet I cannot enjoy it.
People began to respond. Emotions were ignited. People reached for their wallets and purses. All of a sudden, the beggars cup was running over with donations.
But what changed? The message was the same, but the story completely different. That is the power of storytelling. Messages get heard. Stories get a reaction. That alone is reason enough to incorporate storytelling into our marketing efforts. We want reactions. We want prospects. We want leads. We want customers. Therefore, we want stories.
So how to turn your marketing messages into powerful stories? We like to filter our clients’ marketing messages through the following 4 key elements to make sure we are telling the most powerful stories on their behalf–
Are you communicating an undeniable truth about your brand or product? It could be a performance benefit. Or tie back to your heritage or dedication. Start with something that is both undeniable and meaningful to your customers.
Define Your Brand’s Character. Is your brand a hero, that gives people the ability to experience something rare and unique? Is your brand a friend, that is accessible and dependable, taking the angst or fear out of everyday experiences? Personality traits like serious, jovial, witty, intelligent further embellish character. This sets the stage for how your brand relates to people. What sort of character would your brand be? How do you relate to people?
How does the your brand empower people? Help them? Make things better?
Does the product or service you offer help people overcome a menacing force? Like an exterminator making a home safe from termites. Think about James Bond saving the free world. Does your company offer people the opportunity to go from rags to riches? Think Cinderella. Does your brand take people on an incredible journey, transforming them for the better because of it? Like the Wizard of Oz or Gulliver’s Travels.
Anchoring your brand story in a compelling plot will help unleash creativity and innovation around your marketing initiatives. You can read more about plots in Chris Booker’s fantastic read on the subject, The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories.
This is how we tie the other 3 storytelling elements of TRUTH, CHARACTER and PLOT together. Movies and film ideas are typically pitched with a logline – a 25-30 word summary of the story. In the world of film loglines need to be intriguing in order to capture the short attention spans of busy studio execs. They typically should convey–
- Who is the main character and what does he or she want?
- Who (villain) or what is standing in the way of the main character?
- What makes this story unique?
- Gives the beginning, middle, and end
- Describes the setting
- A sense of provocation
Some examples of loglines would be–
Fiancés face a long weekend of mayhem when bringing together each other’s polar-opposite parents for some “getting to know you” time that tests the tolerance of all involved – Meet The Fockers
A cranky, rude man must continually relive the worst day of his life until he gets it right. When he does, he finds true love – Groundhog’s Day
Transforming a marketing message to a story is seldom a priority for marketers. But the efforts will pay dividends, leading to stronger content that gets shared, stirs conversation and elicits more responses.