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The Story-Telling Brand

One of the basic tenets of marketing is “Don’t sell features. Sell benefits.” To be sure, that’s excellent advice. But too many marketers take that as the one-and-only commandment. So over and over again, we’re bombarded with lists of the benefits of this product or that service. It’s an easy trap to fall into and most marketers get caught up in it every so often. Lazy marketers do it all the time, thinking a list alone will excite the customer. A slight improvement on the list of benefits is the practice of promoting one, big benefit. Our beer will make you attractive to women. Or our bank will give you financial freedom. At least those kinds of offers are easy to remember. But they’re often considered implausible. Just running the benefit or benefits up a flagpole and leaving it at that won’t do much. The customers will remain distant. Smart marketers tell stories that demonstrate the product or services’ benefits. It’s the stories that draw customers and clients closer. It’s the stories that bind them to your brand.

Think of a parent and child sharing a story before bedtime. One’s reading and the other’s listening so you could say they’re having different experiences. But they’re both in the story together. They’re sharing the same world, interacting with the same characters, seeing the same landscapes and hearing the same sounds.

Two people, out on a date, go to see a movie. Again, they’re plunged into a world together. Whether it’s an action-thriller set on another planet, a historical drama from the 18th Century or a romantic comedy set in the present day, the two movie goers share the experience together. That shared experience brings them closer to each other.

Sharing a story together is one of the closest, intimate, non-sexual experiences people can have with one another. People who share stories together become friends. People who share lots of stories become good friends. It’s not just the shared experience that bonds them but the subsequent discussions about the shared experience. People share their opinions about the story. They share observations and takeaways. They may even relate the experience to others who weren’t there, who didn’t read the book or see the movie. So even a short story shared by two people can have a very long effect.

Religions keep their flocks together by telling them stories. Primitive man kept their tribal communities strong by sharing stories around the campfire. Stories about the origin of man. Stories of great heroism. Stories of almost-super human accomplishment.

What’s more, we seem to be wired to both tell and hear stories. Even before preschool, kids can point out similarities between different objects. Children can understand complex metaphors by the time they’re 9 or 12. It just comes easy to us as human beings.

Sharing a storybook brings parent and child closer together. Sharing a movie can turn two friends into lovers. Sharing a story with your market will bring your customers closer to you. And that’s important for your brand. Because, as this blog has demonstrated before, the relationship you share with your market is your brand. You could list all the benefits of your brand and see your customer stand aloof. Or you can tell a story that demonstrates a benefit the way a fable reveals a moral. Then watch as your market draws closer and your brand stronger. Keep them close by telling different stories spotlighting different benefits.


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