Tell the right story

Dave Yeates

If I told you that telling a story made customers 90% more likely to buy.
Would you believe me?

Nielson’s recent study into the Role of Content (commissioned by inPowered) highlights that earned media, or stories worth telling; are almost 90% more effective than any kind of branded advertising on the customer decision-making process.

Corona's story telling...

Still from Corona’s film, ‘On Mexico Time’, source:

Positioning your brand with stories cuts through the noise and creates trust within a customer’s buying cycle.
So, what’s your story?

“From where you’d rather be” is a globally successful marketing delivery by Corona that is more focused on selling a story than a sexy strapline or instagrammable photo. How does it relate to Nielson’s Role of Content? It creates a story people can tell, seek, own and share on their own terms, it enables earned media, and it sells an ideal, not a product.

What if what we sold wasn’t a product? What if instead, we sold an idea, or an ideal, a solution? Plenty of really successful products, Corona included, are marketed through ideas rather than the product itself. This can affect both business and customer behavior. Doing this moves away from marketing promotion and into branding position, and in a market more receptive to earned media and inbound over push campaigns and branded advertising, this is incredibly important.

The challenge? Tell the right story.

Paint a vista worth sharing

It’s about connecting a customer to what could be, painting a vista of opportunity and lacing it with a product experience that person can carry with them. This was gloriously reimagined by Big M in Australia with an approach I would probably label as “Preemptive Nostalgia”. A video ad tugging on the personal heart moments that drive people to make memories, then lacing that with a product experience that they can actively seek out in the process.

For as long as man has walked the earth, information has been carried in the form of a story. It’s stories that grab people and empower them, it’s stories that make it easy for people to share it. It’s stories that are integral to the success of any brand and it’s stories that create that separation between idea, and product. Outdoor apparel brand Icebreaker knew all about this. Selling New Zealand Merino wool wasn’t new, but realising it’s ability to stay warm when wet and repel odour gave the brand a story to tell, and boy did they tell it. New Zealand yachtsman, Sir Peter Blake spent 40 days (and nights) in a prototype icebreaker outfit whilst setting a world circumnavigation record. Jeremy Moon, co-founder, and CEO recognizes that the ‘story comes first’ no matter how strategic you want to get and that developing a compelling story is integral to the success of any brand.

Build a heart-promise

The story untethers the decision-making process from a ‘buy this product’ frame of mind, to a ‘solve my problem’ one instead. In doing so, the framework of the proposition changes entirely; instead of selling, a company can solve. It’s a position adjustment; instead of pushing, a business can pull, and in a day and age where inbound is the focus of any good marketer, the craft of storytelling has never been more important.

The best example I can come up with to illustrate this entire concept is Nike.

Nike exists to “enable the athlete in everyone”. A focused purpose that allows people to align with it. It’s a heart promise, it doesn’t speak about shoes, or apparel, or sponsorships.

In becoming that heart promise, Nike separates itself from the product, or even the sport it’s being associated with, instead, it reaches for a higher goal. Something personal, something human, something driven by a story. So when I want to start a fitness routine, up my game or want to buy better basketball kicks, the brand enables a promise that strikes at the heart of what I’m trying to do, enable the athlete’, and creates a customer journey for me before I’d even call myself a one.

Nike’s freestanding ‘brand’ tells stories through thoughts, advertising, musings and ultimately engenders an ideal: “Nike will enable that”. It’s seen through stories of countless sponsorships, rising stars, PR and ad campaign, all pointing to the same focused purpose. It’s not the shoes that will enable, it’s the relationship. Built on story, after story of ‘enabling athletes’.

So when I’ve decided I’d like to commit to fitness, health or sport – Nike doesn’t sell shoes to me, instead it answers; in utter genius, ‘Just do it’.

Untether the customer descision

Untethering your customer’s decision-making with stories about ideas, ideals and solutions gives them something portable, something shareable and something that speaks less about the product you’re selling, and more about why you’re here in the first place.

The customers response, untethered decision-making.

They buy a product or service for its ability to create a solution based on what they’ve heard, giving genuine and valuable feedback on its ability to do so.

The right story enables the separation and the separation empowers the decision. A brand has the mandate to tell that story and it’s my job is to distill the product, opportunity, intent, and to ensure it’s not only the right story but a story worth telling as well.

Are you telling the right story?

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