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What’s Your Story?

Posted on June 19, 2013 and read 3,629 times

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michaelw What’s Your Story? Michael Weiss
Managing Director

As the father of two sons (5 and 8 years old) I read a lot of books at bedtime. I started with my oldest from the day he was born. Goodnight Moon. I can still recite it word for word. Board books, picture books, you name it – I read it. When he was about three years old I began to get bored with books about diggers, bunnies, aardvarks and bears, so I started to make up stories. I created a place called Sillyville where he (and a few years later, his brother) would go on silly adventures. What started as a fun idea became a tradition. Daddy reads one book, the lights go off and we head to Sillyville. And even though he is 8 years old and spends most of his nights reading Star Wars and Avengers books, my oldest still asks for Sillyville stories. I think he likes them because he is always a main character and I have him do silly things. But I think the real reason is because Sillyville is ours – mine, his and brother’s. It’s a special place where only we have been and we are the only ones who know about it. Sillyville is our story. It defines us. It engages us. And frankly, it’s a really fun place to go – if I do say so myself.

I know I am not the only parent who makes up stories for their kids. It’s been happening for thousands of years all over the world. Stories are what connect us. It’s part of our DNA. We learn and grow from stories. Frankly, it’s what makes us human – we are natural storytellers.

Case and point; Homer’s Illiad is not Homer’s story. He’s just the first guy to write it down. That poem was passed down from generation to generation for years. I like to think of it as the greatest bedtime story of all time. Disclaimer: Greek Myth was my minor in college, so I am biased.

Story is important. We know this. For the past few years all of us in marketing and advertising have been talking about story. How we need to help brands tell a better story so that they can better engage their customers. Story, story, story. Every day there is a new article, blog post, video or white paper that talks about how to use story to differentiate your brand and resonate with your audiences.

And everyone is acting like this is something new. Well it’s not! From the first printing press to now, we’ve been using story to sell. How many of our grandmothers used to call soap operas “her stories”. Quick history lesson for those under 30 years old: Soap operas were dramatic radio shows created by soap companies (P&G, Dial, Lever and Colgate) to sell soap. See, we’ve been doing this for ages.

But something has changed. With the digital age people are saturated; overwhelmed with information. It has been stated that each of us is bombarded by over 3,000 messages per day. Brands know this, so they are trying their hardest to make you take notice. How? You guess it – story.

By trade I am a content marketer. It is my job to work with brands to figure out WHAT their story is and WHO to tell it to. It’s quite challenging. Many content marketers view a brand as a living and breathing thing. They personify the brand. Create a voice for the brand. Try to make it human. But that’s not always affective.

I am here to tell you that the story isn’t about THE brand itself or the spokesperson. The story is about the CUSTOMER, the consumer. Hey, let’s call them for what they are – the story is about PEOPLE. It’s about you, me and everyone else. The story I urge my clients to tell is not about the history of the brand or the mission statement. The story is about how their product or service helped someone – made a customer’s life better – solved a problem – filled a gap. And this where so many brands are failing. A mission statement is NOT a story. Sure it tells a story – but it doesn’t engage – it doesn’t resonate. What works is creating a story that a person can relate to. A story that pulls on an emotional string. A story that offers a solution to a problem they have. This is the challenge that lies before us. We have to smarter. We have to be more creative.

Who does it well? Red Bull. Volkswagen. Apple. Sure they each have interesting back-stories, but what they do is tell stories about their customers – their people. Writing your brand’s story is not easy. Trying to differentiate is hard. The audience is more savvy and has higher expectations than ever before. It’s our job, as marketers, to create stories that educate and engage. Don’t rely on your history or mission statement. Go deeper? Have fun with it. Be creative!

My kids are the main characters in every story about Sillyville. That’s why they want to hear it over and over. Your brand is NOT your main character; it’s a supporting role. Your customers are your main character. Write about them. That’s what they want to hear.

  • Anonymous

    Nice insight. Keep posting.




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