Storytelling & Marketing | Why Stories Are Vital to Your Success
Storytelling may sound like a bad thing, which can often be attributed to the negative connotation that storytelling has in regards to marketing. Consumers don’t want to be told a story; that sounds like they’re being lied to or being played for a fool. Storytelling is very much the opposite, however, and the existence of stories is really the only reason products succeed or fail. Your story may have a small fib, one that simply helps to elaborate the story being told, but there is a difference between telling a story (one that customers already believe) and lying.
Think about a product you feel loyalty for and even share with your social circle. What makes it so great? Is it the quality? The price? The materials used? Or is it the story that all of those attributes tell?
Allow me to elaborate here: product attributes don’t sell. Consumers don’t care if it was made in the US or China, if it was made with renewable energy, if it meets industry standards, or if it’s the cheapest product available. These things alone mean nothing. What makes those attributes matter is how they tie into the customer’s worldview. A worldview is the lens or filter that a customer sees the world through. If they are prone to believe companies are “out to get them”, they will look at every situation with that view, and often times expect it to be the case.
If you’ve taken any psychology classes, you may have heard this sort of expectancy to be part of the Confirmation Bias. When we believe something to be true, even if it isn’t, it becomes true because we expect it to be. We look for things that help to “prove” it is true, and in turn we make it true. For example, you may tell yourself, “I always get stuck at red lights when I’m late for work.” The reality of the situation is that you probably do not hit every red light every time, but being late and expecting to hit every red light, you look out for the times that you get a red light and ignore the times that you get through an intersection without hitting one.
The same sort of expectations can be seen in customers buying products. If we expect service to be great and the prices to be fair from a company, however that worldview was created, the service will be great and the prices will be fair, because we expect them to be. If, on the other hand, we expect service to be horrendous, we will automatically look for any error or confrontation to help to confirm our expected experience.
So, what does this matter to marketers looking to resonate, connect, and create a relationship with customers? Quite a bit, in fact, because worldviews can be used to our advantage as marketers.
How are consumers’ worldviews built? Often times, they are built through past experiences, the WOM (word of mouth) they hear from their peers/friends/family/acquaintances, and the advertising/marketing/PR they are exposed to. While you have little control over the first two components, you can control (to some extent) what sort of advertising/marketing/PR they see. You can help to either shape their worldview, which is somewhat impossible to change if already in place, or you can talk to and appease their worldviews.
A prevalent worldview may be the desire to be better to the planet and to buy things that are, for example, created with renewable energy. While that factor may not matter to most customers who are not on the lookout for things like that, your audience is people that care about products created with renewable energy. What that means for you and your marketing team is that you must create a story that speaks to that worldview. Tell them a story that shows how great they are being to Earth by buying products that help to sustain its habitats. Tell them the story of the person they are trying to be, that by buying things are sustainable, they can become that person.
More importantly, look for changing worldviews. You cannot change a worldview, mostly due to the fact that people don’t like to be told that they are wrong, but you can take advantage of the times where worldviews are already changing on their own. Situations like entering college (or even high school, for that matter), having children, or getting married can all alter things like a worldview. Tell a story that will speak to these changes and that will help buyers to see that yes, I can buy this product and feel good about the person I am being.
Why do stories matter? They matter because regardless of the story being true or not, if buyers believe them, they are true. Going back to the company or brand that you feel loyal to, think about the story you tell yourself, the story the company has helped you to tell yourself. Do you drive that car because it is practical, affordable, or that it simply gets you from point A to point B? Well, some people may buy a car for those reasons, but most people buy a car because of the story they tell themselves when they drive it, and the story they feel others tell themselves when they see the driver in it.
I was driving one day and finally realized the reason I had purchased a car well out of my desired price range: I liked this one, not only because I was sold on it by the car salesman, but also because I finally felt it matched my personality, in contrast to the 1989 Corolla I had been driving throughout my college years. I bought my new car because it fit in with my worldview, and regardless of the bad press and the safety issues that Toyota had been experiencing, I had liked my old car, knew Toyota to be a reliable company, and thought that the new car I have now says so much more about me (in a positive way) than my old car ever did. Despite the bad press and negative things floating around about Toyota, I still bought a Toyota. That’s powerful storytelling at its best.
Toyota helped me to tell myself a story, one that involved their cars being reliable, long lasting (as my old car was still running at 270,000 miles), and that, after graduation and entering the “real world” that is college loan payments and finding a “real” job, it was indeed a way for me to move forward (as their slogan tell us they’re doing everyday). What stories do you tell yourself on a daily basis?
For more on the Power of Storytelling, click here.