Storytelling for Profit
A brand without a story doesn't exist.
A few years back, the Washington Post conducted a social experiment with world-renowned violinist Joshua Bell. The premise was simple. Could a once in a lifetime talent get strangers to stop in a subway station and give him money? All Bell had was the clothes on his back and a $3.5 million dollar violin.
This man sells out venue after venue for hundreds of dollars per ticket. Here he was. Stripped down to nothing but the music. If you had to guess, how much do you think he would make after playing for an hour?
How about $32.17.
The whole time he played, a crowd never gathered. No one cheered. No autographs were given. In fact, he was only recognized by one lady the entire time that he was there. If the quality of the product remained the same, why was there such a discrepancy in revenue?
His story was missing.
The story his fans and critics told about his talent, his art, and his business. It was nowhere to be found in that subway. In this venue, no one knew who Joshua Bell was. To the commuters on the way to work, he was just another decently talented street musician chasing his dream instead of getting a real job.
There is tangible value in stories.
How valuable are stories? In 2009, Rob Walker and Joshua Glenn set out to discover just that. The guys ventured out into the New York flea market scene looking for junk. They found plenty of it. After acquiring 100 different pieces for an average of $1.29 per piece they moved on to the next phase of their plan.
Walker and Glenn wanted to understand the power of stories on our perception of value. So, the guys enlisted the help of 100 creative writers. Each writer was assigned a piece of junk and was asked to craft a fictional story about it. The items were listed on eBay and every single one of them sold. For how much? $3,612.51. That is a meager return of 2,799%.
Please forgive me while I pause to reinvest my 401k.
A lack of story caused an incredible musician to go hungry and the presence of a good story caused simple junk to be elevated.
It's not complicated. We need to become better storytellers.
A brand is built on the stories we tell each other. The size and quality of the brand is determined by the number of people telling the same story. We don’t have to make this complicated. We all need to become better storytellers.
There are two ways that our businesses can share stories. We can share them externally with our advertising campaigns or our customers can share their experience via word-of-mouth.
What type of stories should we include in our ad campaigns?
Here are four ideas to get you started:
Origin Story: How & why does your business exist?
Customer Success Stories: Social proof to put new customers at ease.
Behind-the-Scenes: Show people the story of running the day-to-day.
Frequently Asked Questions: Don't just answer the question. Use a story.
The best products don’t win. The best stories do.