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What Stories Are We Telling?

The best products and services are the ones that let us tell our stories

by Lorena  |  1914 views  |  2 comments  |        Rate this now! 

This is a very hot topic today: All marketers talk about brands (products and services) who tell stories to their consumers. The better the stories brands tell, the more successful these brands become -- or so goes the word in marketing circles.

If you take a minute to think about it, the true reason why we (customers) like well-crafted stories is because these stories enable us to pick and choose ideas and feelings and weave them into our own stories. Let’s dig deeper into this insight: We enjoy reading a well-written book for our own intellectual pursuits, but nothing comes close to the pleasure of hearing us talk about this book -- how we related to it, what we’ve got out of it, what we thought were the most valuable ideas in it. We are defined by our stories; storytelling is a status-building activity.

Looking knowledgeable is the best massage for our egos, whether we admit it or not. When we tell a story, we want to be heard, we expect good feedback, we sometimes get applauded. Nothing like a good warm pat on the back!

Marketers ultimately classify the story-telling activity as word of mouth. This is the dream of every marketer: word of mouth that carries their stories.

Word of mouth is what we do when something pleases to us. This is what Coca-Cola, Nike, Cadillac, Bugaboo, Budweiser, and others pay big money to get from their customers and non-customers. Think about Santa Claus and you’ll immediately remember Coca-Cola and get that child-like feeling that accompanies something good.

This is a marketer’s pursuit of happiness -- chasing good stories, charismatic characters who tell these stories, authentic moments, and good feelings that empower us to tap into their stories and weave them into our stories.

At the end of the day, our simple stories are the most authentic and therefore most sought for by marketers. No TV commercial, magazine ad, or web banner compares to our stories. When marketers manage to weave their stories into our stories, they win.

That is why, being a good observer and listener makes the difference between a good and a bad marketer.

Our word of mouth defines who loses and who wins. Let’s enjoy this power and use it wisely.

About the Author

Lorena is a VP Director of Marketing who calls herself a marketing communications addict with an entrepreneurial mindset and a desire to relentlessly learn and do great things.

Read more by Lorena

2 comments so far...

  • Hi Michele,
    Very interesting observations. Here are few things I thought of while reading your comment:
    1. Companies are represented by people. When marketers go for B2B, they actually target Buyers (= consumers = people who have the money to buy and the "needs = wants"). Although this is a common sense observation, what it really tells us is that B2B is no different than B2C from a marketing planning perspective (it does differ though as attitudes and beliefs).
    2. Specific businesses are easier to target (as a universe) than large groups of consumers, and modern marketing shows us that the narrower the group (or better defined), the easier to communicate with them.
    3. Marketing and sales should always tell the same story and be on the very same page -- otherwise one needs to be very lucky to pull it off.
    4. Global is a sum of local -- therefore, the stories Coca-Cola (for example) tells in each country could vary from one country to another, even from one city to another within the same country. There is no such thing as 1 story that will resonate with all your consumers (individual consumers & business consumers). Many stories are needed to touch different segments. These stories are best when generated by the consumers themselves.
    5. Listening skills are mandatory and paramount in any business. One cannot tell a story if his/her audience is not interested in what he/she has to say.
    6. Storytelling can be connected to an action and this way it can become measurable. For example, Google Analytics helps marketers draw the lines between storytelling and specific actions. Of course, the more sophisticated the marketer, the better the measurement plan.
    There is a lot more to add to this idea, but the fact remains that nothing sells better than a story well told.


    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Lorena on 24th August 2008

  • Story telling is such a mainstay of consumer marketing. It has been refined, stylized, and in many ways changed society - for good or bad. I think the power of the story is what you say here, people connect.

    Story telling takes on a more complicated path when applied to business customers. Wary, savvy, and less prone to immediate emotional response, business customers are harder to convert.

    I've seen good business story telling - IBM. But, this is expensive. I also have to wonder if this is more effective as a tool for investor relations rather than customer relations. Additionally, story telling is great when marketing efforts and sales efforts are highly centralized and controlled.

    My company is working on an effort around a buyer's journey. The challenge here is the disconnect between program strategy, field marketing, and channel marketing. Throw in global and a story quickly turns into pea soup.

    Another challenge is the measurement of success for story telling with business customers. B2B marketing is still challenged with the lack of sophisticated tools and services to recognize what works and what doesn't that B2C has had for decades. It's extremely hard to justify marketing budget for story telling/brand building efforts with a lack of measurement on marketing mix.

    I do agree with your summation - good observation and listening is key. This is a practice that many B2B marketers don't adhere to. They are disconnected from the customer and in many cases from sales. Step 1 is to teach B2B marketers that "sales" is not a dirty word. You cannot even begin to tell a story if you don't know your customer.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Michele on 18th August 2008