Logic rarely spurs action. So why do most marketers perform their jobs as if Mr. Spock is the audience? Why do they always try to make a logical case for their service or product? Is it because of fear, because it’s safe to hide behind numbers?
Or maybe it’s because, as guru Gary Vaynerchuk says, “marketers ruin everything.”
But first a quick story about what it takes to do something awesome. When I was a kid, one of my heroes was basketball Hall of Famer Julius “Dr. J” Erving. He was Michael Jordan before Michael Jordan, able to jump from the foul line and dunk. He was cool. He had style. You’d think it was always easy for him because of his awesome athletic talent. But Erving once told an interview that the key to his success was that he once “dared to be great.” Think about it – how do you know if you can dunk from the foul line if you’re afraid to do it? How do you become great without the courage to risk failure?
There’s plenty of evidence that stories work – they help brands connect to customers. The reason is because our brains are wired for stories. We’ve been telling them to each other for thousands of years. They spark the brain. Really – researchers have found that stories have the power to fire neurons, get us excited, and get us to feel emotion. When our emotions are engaged, we’re far more likely to be spurred into action (like buying), and we’re far more likely to remember the story and to retell it.
Of course, to make that happen, you need to be compelling. This is easy if you’re talking about energy drinks, less so if you’re selling ERP software. But not impossible. The key is to find the emotion. As Screenwriting Coach Robert McKee told Harvard Business Review,
“… [I]t demands vivid insight and storytelling skill to present an idea that packs enough emotional power to be memorable. If you can harness imagination and the principles of a well-told story, then you get people rising to their feet amid thunderous applause instead of yawning and ignoring you.”
Hint: It’s not on your spreadsheets, and it’s not on those text-filled, bullet-point-riddled PowerPoints. Even with something as dry as ERP software, there is a human element to be found – was the warehouse still able to deliver the product because the cloud-based ERP kept business flowing smoothly despite Hurricane Sandy? Did the fact that it was up and running enable heroic action on the part of the warehouse workers? Now you’re telling a story people will remember.
Utilizing a story structure enables you to embed facts within the narrative, which makes those facts much stickier. The story gets the neurons firing, and the facts become memorable because they’re attached to a great story.
Creating a great story isn’t easy. Stories, even corporate stories, require drama. And most executives don’t like drama. They prefer a nice, smooth ride… a rosy picture that doesn’t provide any ammunition for naysayers and competitors. That makes a certain amount of sense. It’s safe. But it’s boring.
You need to dare to be great.
That’s how you win.