Not Just for Bedtime, Marketers Corner the Market on Storytelling

Not Just for Bedtime, Marketers Corner the Market on Storytelling

Forbes (New York, NY), June 27, 2012


While emerging forms of communications in marketing are often based on the latest technologies, it’s ironic that the hottest trend in marketing today just might be the ancient art of storytelling.

Marketing guru Seth Godin equates storytelling with successful marketing. Guy Kawasaki, author and entrepreneur, stresses the importance of storytelling in his talks and writing. When Rob Walker, the New York Times columnist and author of Buying In, spoke recently about the importance of storytelling, he had a huge slide behind him that said, “DUHH.” Of course storytelling is important! Ask any five-year old.

So, what’s new?

A good story beats a good lecture. Great business leaders from Jack Welch to Steve Jobs have always understood how to use stories to create transformative organizations and sell products. Now events like the TED Conference have elevated storytelling as a sought after talent within the business community.

At the Cannes Festival, the new Branded Content and Entertainment category is producing some of the most talked about work. Just last week, the fast-food company Chipotle won a Grand Prix for a short animated film that tells a moving story about sustainable farming.

In an environment where you don’t stand a chance to win anybody’s attention without some magic, a good story might save you and your brand from oblivion.

The best stories represent a simplicity of purpose and tap into the audience’s imagination so that they willingly go along for the journey. Here are some suggestions for creating a story:

  • If your story does not reveal something personal and unknown about the person or brand, it’s going to be boring.
  • If your story does not tap into a specific emotion – whether it be fear, desire, anger, or happiness – it will not move people to action.
  • If your story does not take people on a journey where there is a transformation between the beginning, middle, and the end, it’s not a story.

The shortest stories can sometimes be the best. Ernest Hemingway famously wrote the six-word story: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

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