How can you become more relevant to your audience? You can start by moving away from feature/function/data conversations and toward effective storytelling. We hear statistics. We FEEL stories. It's how we're hardwired as humans.
It’s no secret that “Storytelling” has become one of the big
buzzwords everyone loves to throw around.
But I also want us to be realistic in our understanding of stories
as the very first social medium. This methodology is not new. It
has continuously been reinvented as more and more formats and
platforms become available.
4. Significant Objects
A study in measuring the
value of content
In 2009, two men by the names of Rob
Walker and Joshua Glenn purchased
cheap trinkets, and asked some of
today’s most talented creative writers to
invent stories about them, and then post
the stories and the objects together on
eBay to see whether the invented story
enhanced the value of the object.
5. The Hypothesis
Stories are such a powerful driver of
emotional value that their effect on a
given object’s subjective value can
actually be measured objectively.
In plain language,
Narrative transforms insignificant
objects into significant ones.
7. The Gist of the Experiment
$129 The total price of thrift store items purchased
$3,613K The approximate net proceeds from sales on eBay
100 The number of contributing writers
2,700% The final markup
10. We hear statistics.
We FEEL stories.
When we are advocating for something, we most often think of a
compelling argument, made up of data.
When in reality, neuroscience research clearly shows that we are
not hardwired to understand logic or retain facts for very long at all.
What we are able to understand and retain are stories.
15. Storytelling Crimes: The Data Dump
• Long ramblings of in-depth
without communicating value
or ensuring relevance and
16. Storytelling Crimes: Industry Jargon
• Lack of
• Inability to relate
• Mechanical, meaningless (to
your audience) language
characterized by convoluted
17. Storytelling Crimes: Telling vs. Showing
• Lack of context
• Lack of trust
• So what?
• Taking a non-value-based
approach to how your product
works vs. why they should use
19. People don’t buy products…
They buy better versions of themselves.
We are what we buy.
adapted from samuelhulick.com
20. Social Anthropology
Buyers adopt products
not just as consumer
choices, but as conscious
expressions of their
Because of this we’ve
moved away from a one-
way conversation into a
dialogue that depends on
our understanding and
application of the social
The how and why of our purchases
Understanding behaviors that are
largely culturally determined
Using what we know about the
audience to entice, create desire & sell
21. Thinking Like the Customer
Couple of really important points here:
• The average customer does not think in terms
of “online” or “in-store”.
• You need to think like they do, which is one
brand, regardless of touch point
• You cannot force your customers to think like
• To win, you need to be able to articulate this
mental model to your prospects & existing
not about you.
So then, when & why is storytelling effective in persuasion?
Factual arguments, statistics, etc. leave us critical and skeptical – just like Mr. Ron Swanson.
So let’s take a little detour into “What Not to Do”.
I want to dig into this a bit, because I want us to own our previous crimes if we’ve committed them, and learn from them.
Stop trying to provide a solution before you understand the problem.
Let’s just pause here for a moment.
For me personally, this idea immediately connects to similar idea introduced by Simon Sinek in his 2009 Ted Talk “How Great Leaders Inspire Action”. – “People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.”
So now let’s think back to the Significant Objects Project. If you believe that Rob and Joshua’s hypothesis was proven as true, and you believe this latest statement, allow me to take you a bit further down the rabbit hole.
So Rob Walker also wrote a book called “Buying In” in which he demonstrates the ways in which buyers adopt products not just as consumer choices, but as conscious expressions of their identities.
(Click) We are what we buy.
Ok, so where do we go from here?
So it might seem like I’m talking to that high school friend on Facebook, but I’m actually speaking to brands in general.
Couple of really important points here:
The average customer does not think in terms of “online” or “in-store”.
You need to think like they do, which is one brand, regardless of touch point
You cannot force your customers to think like the business
To win, you need to be able to articulate this mental model to your prospects & existing customers
When we start presenting solutions before we truly understand the problem, we waste everyone’s time. And no one appreciates their time being wasted. It diminishes your value and does nothing to instill trust.
It’s critical that we move from – Here’s what our product can do
To (Click) – Here’s what you can do with our product
Minor difference in language? Yes. Major difference in content approaches – Definitely.
We must re-train ourselves to always talk about the benefits OVER the features.