Today I was reminded of a great piece I once read by Seth Godan when I was asked by a client to “amp up our presence on Facebook“. Were they really asking for a great story? A great story is very different than a promo. We are drowning in promos. I wish more people understood the importance of great stories. The difference is hugh. Like growing a garden vs. having all your food come from Doordash.
Great stories succeed because they are able to capture your own imagination.
A great story is understood as real. Not necessarily because it’s factual or true, but because it’s consistent and authentic with your brand. People can sniff out an insincere or fabricated narrative.
Great stories make a promise to the audience. They promise fun, safety, performance, or innovation. The promise needs to be bold and sensational. It’s either exceptional or it’s not worth listening to.
Great stories are trusted. Trust is the scarcest resource we’ve got left. No one trusts anyone anymore.
I remember when Facebook ads actually worked. People don’t trust influencers anymore, they have already been brought and sold too many times. They would sell their own mother for another buck. We certainly don’t trust big business, they even lie to their own investors. As a result, no marketer succeeds in telling a story unless they have earned the credibility.
We once trusted the government, but polls now show the number has gone down every year since the millennium. Not many companies come to mind but, think Patagonia, Apple, Whole Foods as good examples. I don’t trust ANY car dealerships, but Carvana has my attention and I had a very good buying experience. They are a rather new company in a very nefarious business. I hope they survive. There are other good examples that you are probably aware of and no doubt many more on a local level. You may be one of them.
Great stories are subtle. Surprisingly, the fewer details, the more powerful the story becomes. Really talented marketers, like artists or photographers understand that allowing people to draw their own conclusions is far more effective than announcing the punch line with a drum roll.
Great stories happen fast. First impressions are far more far powerful than we will ever give them credit for.
Great stories don’t necessarily need collateral, testimonials, white papers, or a real face-to-face meeting. Either you are ready to listen or you aren’t.
Great stories don’t appeal to logic, they appeal to our senses and instinct. Seth Godan said, “pheromones aren’t a myth. People decide if they like someone after just a sniff.” That may be your only chance.
Great stories rarely target everyone. That brings too many average people into your audience. Average people are good at ignoring. They don’t want better, more innovative, sustainable or fair. Average people have too many opinions about life and by and large are already too satisfied to need anything new or better.
If you need to water down your story to appeal to everyone, it will appeal to no one. The most effective stories match the overall view of a tiny audience—and then that tiny audience spreads the story for you and your brand.
Great stories don’t contradict themselves. If your restaurant is in the right location but has the wrong menu, you lose. If your art gallery carries the right artists but your staff is made up of insincere snobs, you lose. Consumers are clever and they’ll see through your deceit at once.
The best stories don’t teach people anything new. Instead, the best stories agree with what the audience already believes and makes the members of the audience feel smart and secure when reminded how right they were in the first place.
So what’s the moral of this short rant?
When you think of companies that can pull off telling a great story. Think hard and honestly about how they really did it. You don’t have to be a mega brand or the leader in your own market either. Great story tellers understand:
1. It takes time to build an audience for your great story, not a larger budget.
2. Be consistent and true to your brand.
3. Keep it simple and leave room for your audience to engage.
4. Target only a selected few.
4. Let those who listen to your story, help you.
People love to share great stories. They will be 10x more effective in promoting you or your brand than you ever can.