Just Tell a Good Story

Grandpa Jim could tell a good story.  When he sat in his cracked, leather easy chair by the fireplace, that was the cue for the kids (and adults) to come and flock around him. Was it going to be the one about the rogue grizzly bear that stalked him in the Canada woods? Or how about the time, while he was working at his Dad’s gas station, he witnessed a car crash, and leapt onto the hood of the car to rescue the trapped girl before the ambulance got there. Of course, we kids had the stories memorized anyway, but that didn’t matter.  Being caught up in the story was magic. And luckily, this is the kind of magic we don’t outgrow.  Everybody, young and old, loves a good story.
The simple art of storytelling is just that…it’s an art.  An art that historians can track back to cave man days – it’s truly a part of us and makes us human, and connects us to other humans. As a species, we love storytelling. Some of the best communicators have always used the art of storytelling to inspire the audience. It’s not the facts and figures that are riveting; the story is what engages us, and helps us feel emotionally connected to the story.
And while every family may not have a Grandpa Jim, everyone does know the friend, family member or co-worker that is gifted in the craft of weaving and delivering a heck of a story.  They’re the ones that can turn a simple story about their kid’s youth football game into a “Rudy” worthy moment– with everyone hanging on their every word.
Now Grandpa Jim doesn’t have a website, and he doesn’t have a Facebook page or Tweet random wisdoms every other day.  We bring this up because it’s the perfect example of the purest art of marketing…and an art that can sometimes be lost in the shuffle of social media, and the business of marketing plans.
As master story-teller Stephen King reminds us, “There are books full of great writing that don’t have very good stories…read for the story.”  There’s social media out there full of information, lots of text – but that doesn’t mean it’s great. It can be overwhelming, really. (For both the consumer, and the business trying to make relevant messages) We as consumers crave that story, and there’s really no better time to demand it.  The consumer is mainly in control of what they view, what they’ll share on their social media, and even what screen they watch it on. The landscape between marketers and consumers has shifted.  Consumers are feeling empowered, and marketers job just gets harder trying to figure everything out.
It’s easy to forget basics when one is bombarded with the ever-changing struggles of social media. What information is on the website, Facebook pages, twitter and tweets, YouTube videos, LinkedIn groups, Google Buzz, is a constant. Companies have meetings upon meetings to discuss ideas on marketing messages, design power point documents, and fill up spreadsheets.  How about stripping all of that away for a moment (it does have it’s place eventually); and just think about one of your favorite stories.  Now, tell a good story. What’s your story? How about coming at your brand from a narrative approach, rather than cool colors and catchy taglines. Just like a Grandpa Jim story, it connects with the heart of the listener, the heart of your consumer. Is your story organized? Remember, to connect and inspire, you have to tell a good story.  There’s a beginning to hook the listener; there’s a middle, and there’s an end.  Who’s the hero of this particular story, because all good stories have one.  And if there’s a hero, that means there’s a villain of some sort. (And that doesn’t mean a shadow lurking villain per say, but some sort of conflict) Think back on all the past Super Bowl ads, the Budweiser Clydesdales & puppy one in particular – core storytelling at is best – a great beginning, middle, and end (with the conflict being the puppy trying to get home). Simple. But so effective. Message received, right into the hearts and minds of the consumers. And this is a beer commercial by one of the biggest brands in our country- they kept the message simple and true to form– tell a story (And to make it even better, compose an awesome music soundtrack to accompany it).  That doesn’t hurt. And while some consider those stories on the sappy side, the majority does not. The days of pushing your message at consumers are over.  It’s not going to be that easy, and it shouldn’t. Who really liked that anyway? It’s time to pull them in; and pull them in with a story. What better way to connect your audience to your company and/or your mission. If they believe in your story, they will believe in your message.
And what of our original example, Grandpa Jim? What were the messages of his stories? Did he connect with his audience? It’s a sure bet that he didn’t break down his stories according to message delivery, or check his marketing plan before he delivered them. It was later confirmed that Grandpa Jim did indeed save that girl who was trapped in her car, but we knew – deep down – that that one was already true. He was the hero in our eyes of every story regardless.  Was he really stalked by a grizzly in the woods? Well, that one may have been embellished just a bit, but the template of the story was true. Regardless, every story that was weaved by him in that leather chair years ago, found their way into our hearts. And there they stayed.  Just like any good story does.