Make me care

I recently watched a TED talk by Andrew Stanton. Andrew Stanton is a storyteller who has worked on A Bug’s Life, Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and Wall-E. Storytelling is a concept that is mentioned with increasing frequency when it comes to promoting one’s business. It’s not exactly a new idea. David Ogilvy, copywriter extraordinaire, noted, “I have a theory that the best ads come from personal experience. Some of the good ones I have done have really come out of the real experience of my life, and somehow this has come over as true and valid and persuasive.”

What does storytelling really mean in a business environment though? Stanton referenced two points that illustrate how storytelling can be used to help promote a company’s products and/or services. Let’s discuss these in more detail.

“There isn’t anyone you couldn’t learn to love after hearing their story.”

According to Stanton, Fred Rogers (of Mr. Rogers TV fame) used to carry this quote around in his wallet. Not exactly a surprise from a man who created such vivid characters (King Friday was always one of my favorites). What does this really mean? When you’re talking about individuals, it means that anyone  can become “accessible” to you. You can build a bridge that helps you understand them better just by listening to their stories.

What does this mean for a company? Well, think about how much competition there is for your customer’s attention. If you advertise in a print publication, you’re competing with at least ten other print ads, probably more. Many online banner ad positions rotate between 3-6 companies. If you enter the world of social media, you’re competing with hundreds or thousands of people that your customer follows. That’s a lot of noise to break through, right? And until you break through, you’re not YOU. You’re another company/brand/entity vying for attention.

What happens if you start telling your story? Suddenly you’re no longer just another company. Now you are slightly more 3-dimensional, right? People are getting to know about you. They know your story and thus they can perhaps relate to you with greater ease. That gives you an advantage. Customers and prospects are more likely to love you after understanding better where you’re coming from.

Make me care

Of course, people “loving” your company isn’t necessarily the key to sales. That’s where another quotation Stanton mentioned comes into play. “Make me care.” Why should people care about what your product does? Why should people care where or how your product is manufactured? Why should people care about the lengths you go to to offer good service?

Tell a compelling story. Separate yourself from your competition. Separate yourself from the rest of your industry. Make people care.

The question is, how can you apply this tactic to your own company?

Different types of stories

In his book Winning the Story Wars, Jonah Sachs mentions a few different kinds of stories that companies can use to weave customers and prospects into a caring community. These types of stories include:

A genesis story: How did your company get started? Is your business a family business that started with just one or two family members in a small room? Was there a world event or a personal event that got you started?

A good vs. evil story: Does your company try to fight off an opposing force? Is your product intended to prevent something bad or to fix something that is broken?

An empowerment story: Will engaging with your company help a person feel empowered in some way? Can you tell a story that will help make your customer feel empowered?

What elements in your company can be highlighted to inspire care in your customers and prospects? What about your story could help you stand out from the crowd?

Let’s talk about it!

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ronsombilongallery/5255376344/ via Creative Commons


7 comments on “Make me care

  1. It reminds me of Seth Godin’s ‘All Marketers are Liars,’ which is really all about the use of storytelling in marketing. His take on it is to identify the worldview of your target market — their shared beliefs, their assumptions, their presumptions — and then tell your story inside that framework, in such a way that the audience is compelled to put itself into the story. (Easy, right? All you have to do is make a viral video! lol)

  2. One thing that’s common in stories but uncommon in corporate communication is vulnerability. We’re human. It’s hard to convince clients that “WE ARE THE INDUSTRY LEADER” is not a story, and therefore not interesting.

    • You’re right – “we’re the best” is not a great story. But spinning it to be, “How we got here” can be more compelling. Maybe approaching the same concept from a slightly different angle would do the trick 🙂

  3. @David thanks for sharing – that gets us into the conversation I call “personal” versus “personable.” I think a lot of people get muddled – there’s being human and then there’s talking about your colonoscopy results. One is preferable 🙂

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