Updated: Feb 13
It shouldn't come as a surprise that when it comes to communicating your business, your products, your services, or your financial needs, that storytelling is the only way into the hearts and minds of those you are trying to attract.
We should all know by now that people are attracted to and motivated by stories. From before the time we could read, we all knew this to be true, being as toddlers attracted to storytelling picture books, oral storytelling at the bedside or around the campfire, begging our parents and grandparents for just one more. The impulse to learn to read isn't driven by the mechanics of language, but by the stories that language, words and letters strung together provide. Stories give us pleasure, understanding, insights. We all have had our favourite books from the time we could read, and we call those books 'good' if they tell a good story, ones that excite our imaginations and our intellects, ones that let us into, see and participate in new worlds. We say that book 'spoke to me', and we pursue, read and relish those authors whose writing speaks to us beyond even the ways that friends in conversations speak to us. Some of my own best friends and voices have been found in books and in authors whose voice I can hear in the words I read. I always want more. So why do so many businesses not employ the basic and fundamental strengths that stories provide for attracting customers, employees, and investors? It's almost like we believe business communications to be somehow different than the storytelling and communications we enjoy off-hours, before bed, on the weekends, on vacations. Let's take a look, then, at what the power of storytelling can do to position your business, build a voice, and engage your readership (customers) in ways that go beyond providing lists of innovative products, services, sales promotions, and data. Storytelling in business is powerful, since the power of story is wired into us as humans through evolution. It's said that a story, well told, is remembered 25 times more than a business brief or list of what you sell and why you're different than the rest. A powerful brand or company story that involves your customer in your world, engages and excites them, takes them into your vision, is simply going to be better remembered, people being pre-attuned to the magic of story. If you want to be remembered, tell your story. Your story isn't about you really, in the way a story in a book isn't really about the author. Notwithstanding certain genres, like autobiography, travelogues, diaries, and the quality of the writers in those categories, stories are almost always about other people and things. So too should your business story be about other people and things, while shaping a unique voice and perspective people want to read. In this example, I could use a recent client in the medical export and manufacturing business, or any number of well known brands from Nike to Apple. The story is not about them directly, it involves them in a landscape of associations that have meaning to the reader. This might be a unique vision of the future, it might be an ideal through which the customer sees her or himself, it might be an attitude, universal in nature, that has a natural appeal to your customers. Make your business story about your customer and you'll find you're actually telling the story of you, your values, beliefs and ideals. People want to see themselves in stories; they don't want to read bulleted lists of why you're so great - that might be the most boring story ever told. The greatest stories are ones that people can't put down, that linger with them for days and even years, and ones people want to share with others because those stories touched them emotionally or intellectually. So, our recent client tells a story of vision that involves the customer and their attitudes, perceptions and ideas about themselves. Nike does this both through visuals and language to be about their customers only, which imbues the brand with character. Apple does this well by both describing the uniqueness of its individual product brands, but also through storytelling about the master brand that attracts the kind of customers it wants. There are levels to storytelling, like chapters in a book. What you write on the dust jacket, so to speak, brings them in, and chapter after chapter, campaign by campaign, or communication by communication, you build layers to your business story that deepens engagement, memory, recall, and positions you powerfully for a mass sales effect and a better defense of your company in the market.
Stories aren't always or only, or sometimes ever, about language. Stories are also about using powerful, understood visuals, symbols and signs, to get your meaning across. Interactive stories also have the benefit of being able to use music and sound effects to stimulate your audience. There are some powerful examples of simply using moving visuals and music to tell stories that go beyond the use of written language itself. Music is perhaps the ultimate language; it can't be expressed in words, it touches, excites and moves people in ways that writing can't. In recent days I have seen the strategy of storytelling using only music and moving visuals from major brands such as a major online betting company, a major cleaning detergent, and a major drinks maker. You'll see the power of music only often used in sports advertising and reels - one thinks of most major sports leagues who use this to great effect, pumping up and exciting people with sound and quick cuts of players who begin to embody the feelings that the chosen music inspires. We can't help ourselves but to listen and react consciously and unconsciously, we are people afterall. Whether you're pitching your company for investment, or for the next project, whether you're trying to break into new markets or gain greater market share, whether you sell steel or diapers or beverages or industrial chemicals, it doesn't matter: you need to discover the story you need to tell in order to make what you sell imprint itself on the minds of your customers to have a greater chance for your own story to fly off of the shelves. Here's hoping you write the next blockbuster....