Storytelling Your Way To Business Success

According to research cited in Ad Week,  “nine out of 10 people who can skip an ad do.”  We now live in the age of ad blockers.  So, how can you beat those terrible odds for your advertising?  By storytelling.  Great stories won’t penetrate ad blockers, but they will touch the hearts of those who do see your ad and they will engage a bigger audience.

Jerome Brunner, the author of Actual Minds, Possible Worlds, says “People are 22 times more likely to remember and internalize a story than facts or bullet points.”

Writer David Burn says, “Humans are wired for stories. It’s part of our evolution as a species. Therefore, you want to create a memorable story to support your brand in a real way that makes sense to the audience members. Advertising of any kind without the proper investment in brand story only makes sense to the myopic client who thinks people already care. People don’t care about your brand, until you use story as a way to invite them in.”

Good ads tell stories and great ads tell great stories.  The picture above is from an ad produced by the Leo Burnett Madrid ad agency for Spain’s Christmas lottery.  It tells the story of Justino, a lonely night watchman at a mannequin factory.  You can see the ad here.

Juan García Escudero, creative director of Leo Burnett Madrid comments, “They say that the key to a good story is to have a good protagonist who has a particular goal, which they fail to achieve, so that the reader or viewer roots for the main character to get their wish in the end.”  That’s what the Justino ad does so wonderfully.

It’s in our DNA – we all love stories.  That’s part of the power of Christmas – great stories.  Whether it’s the Biblical story of the birth of Jesus Christ or The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, we love stories.  Tell stories to entertain, educate, and inspire others, and you can build an audience.  Build an audience and you will find buyers.  Stories will touch and open their hearts.

12 Tips for Storytelling For Business Success

Tobias Brockhow of Filestage offers 12 tips on storytelling that get at the essence of how we can tell better stories for commercial purposes.  I put my own spin on them below.

  1.  Understand what makes a great story.  Tobias Brockhow recommends The Anatomy of Story by John Truby as a great resource on storytelling.   Brockhow says, “The key to every story is a character’s unfulfilled desire.”  Guess what advertising can do?  It can show potential clients and customers a way to meet unfulfilled needs and desires.
  2. “Come up with a colorful idea.”   Leo Burnett Madrid did that powerfully in the Justino ad for Spain’s Christmas lottery.  You can find your colorful idea through brainstorming, mind mapping, or a number of other techniques to get the creative juices flowing.  Brockhow recommends 1,000 Character Writing Prompts as a way into this process.
  3. Find your premise.  Once you’ve come up with a colorful idea, it’s time to crystallize your story in one sentence.  If your colorful idea is strong enough, you’ll have a great premise.  If not, go back to coming up with a better colorful idea.
  4. Craft your story around heroes and desires.  As Brockhow points out, “A hero doesn’t have to be a single person. It can be a cause, a company or a group of people – just to mention a few.”
  5. Don’t sell your product in your advertising.  This sounds crazy, right?  Well, think about the nine out of ten who avoid ads whenever possible.  In the Justino ad, the story revolves around Justino and the product, Spain’s Christmas lottery is woven into the story, but not in a way that is overtly advertising it.  Coca Cola does this well in a number of their ads.  Since at least 1971, when Coke ran their ad “I’d like to teach the world to sing,” they’ve been doing this very effectively.
  6. “Deliberately hide information.”  Brockhow deploys Truby to make this point:“Withholding, or hiding information is crucial to the storyteller’s make-believe. It forces the audience to figure out who the character is and what he is doing, and so draws the audience into the story. When the audience no longer has to figure out the story, it ceases being an audience, and the story stops.”  John Truby, The Anatomy of Story  Brockhow highlights this effective ad for Guinness Beer.
  7. “Be tremendously human.”  What Brockhow means by this is find stories in the dimensions of basic human needs.  Everyone strives to survive and thrive.  What human element can you bring to the story you tell?  How can you touch the emotions of others by rooting your story in ways that get your readers relating to what you are describing?
  8. Be real.  Most people can spot a phony from miles away.  Put your authentic voice into what you write or create.  When your writing comes out of your own personal experience, you can’t help but be real.
  9. Don’t miss the punchline.  People love humor and if you can get them to laugh, you’ve won them over.  VW has been doing this effectively for years.
  10. Think  visual.  The more visual you can make your content, the better.  We live in a highly visually-oriented world.  Browkhow says, “Close to 80% of Internet users remember the video ads they watched online.”  If you can tell your story in video, you have a far greater chance to create memories for your readers than any other way online.
  11. Be unique.  If you do everything like everyone else, why would anyone remember you?  Bring your own angle, personality, and creativity together to create what genuinely stands out from everything and everyone else.  Author and marketer Seth Godin says,   “You must aggressively go to the edges and tell a story that only you can tell.”
  12. Be relatable.  Part of your work when you write copy is to get your readers to know, like, and trust you.  One of the best ways to do this is to create a buyer persona for your product and service and write to that persona.  Speak to that persona in ways that he or she can relate to and you will be well on your way to making the vital connection that bonds your potential buyers to your product or service.

This excerpt comes from my new book, Words That Sell: Creating Advertising With Irresistible Influence, which is scheduled for release in  2018.

What would you add to Tobias Brockhow’s 12 tips?  I welcome your comments and questions, and your likes and shares.


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