Gingerbread House

Tell Me How Marketing Can Get By Without This “Storytelling” Stuff

It’s puzzling that so many brand marketing operations try to ignore or get around a basic human trait that’s been with us since this whole “human” thing began.  You’d think every one of us, being humans ourselves, would instinctively be aware of such a thing.

But there’s something about a corporate organization that makes us act like we aren’t humans, and aren’t dealing with other humans.  We want to be a machine!  A SELLING machine!  We want Skynet targeting people with little red lasers in real-time based on behavior then downloading our selling points directly into their cortex until logic forces them to buy.

I’d better stop, I’m probably getting some CEOs and marketing automation wonks overly excited.

Ever try to win an argument with logic? Frustrating, isn’t it?

Ever try to win an argument with logic?  Frustrating, isn’t it?  You know the facts are on your side, but the other person is behaving in this truly bizarre way, resistant to your truths, getting red-faced and stressed out, visibly going through some kind of internal struggle until they lash out with irrelevant objections.

Ever try to pitch an idea based purely on its merit and common sense to a room full of middle managers?  How did that go?  Chances are that while you were beaming with pride over your exquisite PowerPoint, the one you’ve been obsessing over for months, internal dialogues were firing off all over the room as to why this idea should be stopped or slowed down.

Can marketing departments keep ignoring this storytelling stuff?  The answer is absolutely, YES. However, your efforts will be met with blank faces, heads will cock dog-like to the side in confusion, and you’ll exhaust yourselves of time, money and energy as if trying to extract water from a rock.  Is that what you want your professional life to look like?

Storytelling is not the flavor of the month. It’s the flavor of our entire existence.

Storytelling is not the flavor of the month.  It’s the flavor of our entire existence.  It’s the way we’ve always communicated and passed information on to one another and future generations.  Our brains are literally hard-wired to organize and process information in story form. And we do that for two reasons:

1. To determine if we care about the information
2. So that it will be easier to remember

But somewhere down the line, we started to believe this storytelling hoo-ha only applied to entertainment or information-entertainment (documentaries).  Everything else got relegated to the rote dissemination of facts, details, and sales copy.  If storytelling is so basic and instinctual, why then did we break from it where business is concerned?

While humans in an org are aware communications are ineffective, the org as an entity is aware of no such thing.

You may have noticed, organizations seem to be very comfortable proceeding in very non-human ways.  While individual humans within an org are likely fully aware that the communications, both internal and external, are largely ignored and ineffective, the organization as a non-human collective entity is aware of no such thing.  From its perspective, this highly watered-down, compromised conglomeration of what the corporate body wanted to say is “spot on.”  People, and triggering the emotions that make people care about, remember and act on content, are not really part of the equation.  The organization has been self-gratified.  Do that enough and you go blind like your mom used to tell you.

When we get a request to “make a video” at Valverde & Stiles, it makes our stomach hurt a little bit.  We gently press the brakes just long enough to challenge our customers on the strategy behind it.  Who’s it for?  How will it be distributed and promoted?  What do you want the viewer to do?  What do you want the shelf life of the video to be?  How do you want to scale this video asset?

Many have never fully “seen” their brand story in their minds.

But more importantly, we introduce the concept of story into our conversations.  At first, we’re looked at as if we were villains on “Gotham.”  But once the customer is put through our brand story assessment process, they come away as if clouds have parted and sunbeams are illuminating a promised land.  Many have never fully “seen” their brand story in their minds, complete with the essential elements that any story must have to be emotionally effective.

And that’s fun.  Because from there, not just the desired video but all content marketing assets going forward can be attached to that central story for memorable, cohesive clarity of messaging. Storytelling is not fanciful fluff.  It is the core of business communications and content, and the key to receptivity.

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