Story telling has been making the buzz these last years. It seems to be the panacea to all communication problems. “With a good story, people will remember you” said an ad man to me recently. Yes, it’s true that people like stories and tend to remember better what they like. The problem is….everyone is telling stories nowadays ! And, as always, once a new marketing tool is used by everybody, it’s not distinctive anymore.
Story telling is not as easy as most marketing people think. When you hear stories anytime anywhere, it becomes a “me too” tool and using “me too” tools is the worst a marketing person can do. If you add the fact that stories are written as quickly as the net information flow is going, 99% of them are totally uninteresting dull stories ! Most of them have no real sense at all. I mean: strategic sense !
Stories, as content marketing in general, should not be run without thinking about it’s purpose. Otherwise, it’s just pure amusement for some geeks ! A sense of purpose is the starting point of any strategy. Vision if you wish ! Is your story an essential ingredient of your strategic differentiation ? By the way, did you think about your strategic differentiation at all ? Did you define your target segment, your positioning idea, your value proposition ? Take a moment and think of this…
- A great story is a story that means something for your audience
So, who is your audience ? Good marketing starts with knowing who you’re targeting at. Targeting is the first key decision and, strangely enough, few marketing pros are clear about it. I constantly see classical segmentations meaning nothing serious today (demographics or socio-economics). Or funny stereotypes that lead to nothing serious. Besides marketing analytics that are good for tactical move, you as storytellers should have a clear sense of their strategic audience. Talk with them, understand their words, preempt their sensibilities. Then you will be able to find the words and the scenarios that are touching the heart and mean something to them, not only to you !
- A strong idea makes strong stories
The reason why most stories are lost in the marcom jungle is that they rely on trivial ideas. Platitude is common. People hear or read stories that seem nice but don’t get embedded in their mind. They read, hear, see and forget ! They say: “Oh yes, i heard this or that yesterday but I don’t remember the brand…” This is not what you want. We know that a strong image should be based on a strong positioning idea. Use the S.P.I.C.E technique. S.P.I.C.E is a model I developed a few years ago to understand how you can better position a brand. S.P.I.C.E stands for Sexy, Personality, Intelligence, Customer orientation and Emotions. If you’re strong on all these points and if you can blend them into a distinctive concept, the chance is you can build a strong, great, distinctive story around it !
- People like stories that never end
The best example are the TV series. Once you have a strong concept, you build scenarios that induce the next ones. Each episode is a story but they call for another one you want to see. That’s how, at the end, you make characters stronger and the title means something. Something you’re waiting for. It may even becomes a myth.Look at long term successful mythical brands. Apple, Nike, Coca-Cola, Starbucks, McDonalds…You may love them or hate them but they all have a story, actually they “are” a story ! It seems that Americans are better at stories than Europeans and Asians. That’s why they have created Hollywood. Japanese brands are great brands but they don’t make us dream. Who’s dreaming of Sony or Toyota ? There is no story there. For us anyway…
- Emotions come over facts
A number of professionals think that emotions should not have a place in strategy. Strategy is based on facts, they say ! Customers should buy our products because they’re the best, they say ! Customers should love us because we have the best service, they say ! Forget about this ! We’re now in a post-modern world where emotions are more import ants than facts ! Like it or not, it’s like this ! So, we’re in a fight for emotions. That’s what media journalists are so good at. I don’t like that, I feel it terrible but that’s how it is in these days. That’s why to have a superior story, you should include emotional triggers in your positioning idea and your value proposition. The value proposition used to be “a product for a price”, then it became “product + service for a price”, then “product & service + image for a price”, now it’s “product & service & image + experience for a price or no price”. Have a unique or at least solid experience proposition and your story will come out distinctive.
In conclusion, as with any marcom tool, story telling is a good tool if and only your strategy is strong; solid and distinctive. There is no right tool without a clear purpose ! There is no impact without the right strategic orientation.
Don’t just be a “me too”, be different !
Be inspired !