There’s a lot of talk in the marketing world about storytelling. You need to be telling a story to your customers to get their attention, and take them on your journey.
But what does that mean? And how do you do it?
We’re not talking about the drab stuff people like to write on their `about us` page about why they started the business, how long it’s been running, their job history, how they ended up being blah blah blah.
We’re talking about grabbing your target audience’s attention, and keeping hold of them until they’ve got the message they needed to hear.
Creating a story
Another way of looking at a story is by creating a narrative. That is, a thread that runs through the plot and keeps it on target.
Think of the `One upon a time…` and `They lived happily ever after` stories. They’re typical examples of the type of narrative that runs through most stories.
The narrative, or structure that runs through them follows Todorov’s Narrative Theory:
- Disruption of the equilibrium
- Recognition of the disruption
- Attempt to repair the damage
- New equilibrium
The story of Colin the Caveman and the invention of the website also follows a similar structure, albeit in a 5 minute story.
In simple terms, there’s the calm before the storm, the storm comes, they deal with it, then a new calm.
It’s a tried and tested structure for storytelling that has existed since the Earth was formed many billions of years ago. (ed.)
But not everything has to follow this pattern. Trying to get your message across to your audience needs to be done quickly, so it’s difficult to get into any depth with your story.
Unfortunately, we don’t all have the budget of Chanel to hire Nicole Kidman and pay for a feature length advert! So we have to work within the constraints of our budgets, and our audience’s attention span.
So think creatively about how you can use those stages to tell your story.
Can you start with the `recognition of disruption`, or `problem` and how you `attempt to repair the damage` through the advantages and benefits of your products to reach a `new equilibrium`?
This is the problem. This is how our services overcomes that problem and is better than what you have already. This is how it benefits you.
Maybe you are just showing the `new equilibrium` using your product. Like many furniture adverts, you just see the new sofa in the living room with people enjoying using it. We assume there was a disruption (the sofa died) so they went to DFS to buy a new one and `repair the damage`, but we often only see the end result.
Here’s an example:
Everyone loves cheesecake. But the problem is, it’s just too fattening! And after eating half of the tray, you can really feel the podge pile on.
So our new De-Cheesifier Blade simply scrapes away the fattening part of your dessert so you can spend the rest of your day guilt-free!
- Equilibrium – Everyone loves cheesecake (not based on any kind of research)
- Disruption – It’s fattening
- Recognition – Podge piling on
- Repairing – De-Cheesifier Blade
- New equilibrium – Guilt-free
I’m not sure my new invention will catch on, but you can see how a whole `story` can be told just in a few lines.
Now think about how your storytelling could guide your target audience through a similar narrative across a whole website, throughout a 20 minute speech, or on a 30 second You Tube advert.
Let’s take a look at a couple of TV ads that use storytelling really well.
Examples of storytelling in business
DFS currently use stories in many of their TV adverts. They show you how people are using the sofas, and their enjoyment in their new piece of furniture.
In this Easter Roll advert, the story is choosing your ideal sofa. A small group of people, looking for their best sofa. Nothing more than that. Except for a little bit of creativity and careful design.
It’s a simple story with a clear purpose and a simple message: we’ve got different sofas to choose from for your style; you’ll have a bit of fun finding one; you’ll be happy with the one you’ve chosen.
If you haven’t seen the interactive Honda advert, it’s one of the best adverts I’ve seen! It has a dual narrative, that is, two stories running at the same time.
And the best thing about it is you can choose which one you want to watch at the click of a button. There’s no once upon a time. It just cuts to the chase and tells the story of a man driving his car.
The best thing about these adverts is that it’s clear what the products are, but the stories tell us how they bring about solving a problem. They show people using the product and enjoying it.
Make sure you take a look!
The quality is implied, not forced upon us. And we’re interested by the story, not the product.
Narratives are everywhere
Narratives are always happening. Some exciting. Some dull. You just have to start thinking in terms of a story.
Any good product or service in the market place solves a problem, a need, or desire. And for it to be successful, you’re helping bring `equilibrium` to your customers. So in every business, storytelling is powerful and not as difficult as you might think because there are always narratives and stories to tell. It’s just how you go about doing it.
So spend a minute or two thinking about your story, then make sure you tell it.