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Once Upon A Time, In A Brand Far, Far Away: The Art and Power of Storytelling

By: P.J. Cushing :   Fast Company recently published an article on the topic of Brand Storytelling, titled “Why Storytelling Is The Ultimate Weapon”.  While the article is very interesting and a worthwhile read, it got me thinking about how many companies fall flat in marketing their brands. Whether the constraints are money, knowledge, resources, or they are just being lazy:  many brands are doing a poor job of connecting with their clients by selling only the product or service without context. The article speaks to the undeniable effectiveness of a great story. A story can trump funny, it can trump smart, it can even trump low-cost. Why? Because, stories will not only stick with your customers, stories go to work for you. Don’t believe me? Ask Melanie Green and Tim Brock (they have far more degrees from far better institutions than myself, anyhow). Consider this fantastically interesting excerpt from their findings. “Entering fiction worlds “radically alters the way information is processed.” The more absorbed readers are in a story, the more the story changes them. Highly absorbed readers also detected significantly fewer “false notes” in stories--- inaccuracies, missteps--- than less transported readers. Importantly, it is not just that high-absorbed readers detected the false notes and didn’t care about them. They were unable to detect the false notes in the first place” That sounds like a marketers dream world. Engagement, engagement, engagement and your inevitable shortcomings will be masked. But wait, it gets better… “Stories can also function as Trojan Horses. The audience accepts the story because, for a human, a good story always seems like a gift. But the story is actually just a delivery system for the teller’s agenda. A story is a trick for sneaking a message into the fortified citadel of the human mind.”  Cha-Ching. The article continues on to cautiously warn how the power of stories can be used as a force of evil as well… but let’s focus on the positives.  Storytelling in marketing is no new trick. In fact, at its core, marketing and storytelling should go hand in hand. The best campaigns can take people on an emotional journey- not different than a book, movie, painting, or powerful speech. Here are a few clips from an advertiser who understood this perhaps better than anyone else in the past half century. A few clips from a guy who got it right In 1970, crotchety Crocker Bank was concerned that their aging customer base was….  how do I put this… close to making their final deposit… and that their client list was not being replenished with young people (run the calculations… that can’t work for too long). Trying to shake their “mature” image, they approached advertising heavyweight and storyteller, Hal Riney, to write a commercial for them that would have the younger generation flocking to their bank in droves. He nailed it. What Riney created didn’t just breathe new life into the aging bank, but Crocker Bank had to eventually pull the commercial because they were taking on too many risky loans. Crocker Bank Commercial Notice how Hal Riney sells the bank without any dialogue or graphics promising low-interest rates or cheap sport coats. Just a song, video and the beautifully crafted slogan “You’ve got a long way to go. We’d like to help you get there.” The second that commercial ended with the Crocker Bank logo fading from the TV screen, young people across the country felt an instant connection with the bank that used to be “just for old people.” Now, it was the bank that cared about their new family and understood their struggles entering adulthood. It was the bank that could provide the opportunity for a better life. Stories are powerful. Riney hit another homerun in 1985 for the Ronald Reagan re-election campaign, with his most famous commercial, “It’s Morning In America, Again.” Reagan went on to win every state except one. Yeah, stories are powerful. Reagan Campaign Commercial, 1984                                                                                                                       How about an example that from this century? Even the Home of the Big Mac and King of the Radio Jingle wanted a piece of the action as apparent with their new campaign that gives meaning to your lettuce. McDonalds Field To Fork Before watching this, the lettuce on your hamburger was trivial. Now, it’s a livelihood…a tradition… familial history. Lovin’ it? You bet. Lastly, if you have 20 minutes, I highly recommend watching this video from one of the world’s most beloved brands. Coca Cola, arguably the most consistently good advertiser/marketer, has a pretty good idea of what role storytelling will play in business in the years to come. It’s fascinating. Here’s a hint: It is a lot less about them and a lot more about YOU. Part I         Coca Cola Plan 2020 Part I     Part II     Coca Cola Plan Part II Telling a story makes you memorable. Telling a story makes you relatable. Most importantly, telling a story makes a connection. Making a connection is the difference between a vendor and a partner…an acquaintance and a friend. Think about what story you want your brand to tell. Think about how you want to connect with your clients. Once you figure it out, go all in. Make your business about its story and your customers will become integrated in the pages. If you can pull it off, you will be rewarded with deeper, more meaningful relationships with your clients and you’ll be riding your Trojan horse all the way to the bank. And if it doesn’t work, you can always try a lower interest rate… or a cheap sport coat. If you have questions about how AlphaGraphics can help your company tell their story or just want to chat about Brand Storytelling, contact P.J. at We love this stuff! To read the full article “Why Story Telling Is The Ultimate Weapon” by Jonathon Gottschall go to:

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