Stories are specific.
The hero is never an 18-24 year old from a typical 4 people household in the medium-low income bracket.
Nope. The hero has a name – Jake, or Sam.
Jake is 15. He has a big sister, with some irritating quirks and habits, since she likes to act more like a mom to him, but she is incredibly smart and Jake respects and admires her. Even though he would never admit to it in public.
Or maybe this is Sam’s story. Sam is a girl, by the way. It’s short for Samantha, which she hates. Sam has two younger half-brothers — two annoying little twins that follow her around all the time.
Their dad is a store clerk. Or a Wall Street guy. Or a servant. Or a king.
Can you feel the different connotations, the vibes connected to each of those examples, the anticipation of a story to follow?
What about the “18-24 year old from a 4 people household in the medium-low income bracket” description?
No? Didn’t think so.
Jake has a very specific problem that he needs to solve.
Sam find herself in the center of some unexpected events.
This is where the stories start unfolding. (I won’t tell you what they are. This is a blog post, not a book or a movie.)
The point is, we follow their stories. With real concern and sympathy. We try to guess what will happen. We are involved.
And when we get to the end of the story, something very interesting happens: we draw our own conclusions about the morale of the story. More than that, we apply it to our own lives.
We take a very specific story and come to a very general conclusion — a morale, a piece of advice, something that could apply to anyone, in any situation.
This is natural. This is how we are wired: we like the specifics because they let us relate to and sympathize with the protagonist. Then we look for similarities. And apply the conclusions to our own stories and situations.
It’s common sense, isn’t it? Think about the last book you read or the last movie you saw. What did you take away from it? I bet it was something that could be very relevant to your specific situation – even if it may not seem like it at the first glance.
Then why in the world are we so afraid to use this knowledge in business?
Why do we insist to using those meaningless, generic terms in our marketing messages?
Why is it always “quality for less” and “tools and tips for everyone”? Why are we so scared to use examples and stories? Is it because we think that people would only see that specific example and ignore all other possibilities?
Shouldn’t we know better?
People are smarter than we give them credit for.
They are perfectly capable of drawing their own conclusions and parallels to their own situation.
A story of a war that is won by a wooden horse with a hidden compartment is much, much more powerful than:
“We make quality wooden containers of any shape or size.”
Maybe you don’t need a horse, but that story would certainly prompt you to think of all kinds of possibilities. Whereas the generic slogan does nothing of the sort.
So what’s your story?
What is the one specific memorable situation where your product or service was a protagonist? (It doesn’t have to be winning a war. Easing the tension, making someone smile, solving an everyday annoyance are all perfectly good stories and easy to relate to.)
Tell me in the comments if you want to share or would like my input. Or just write it down on a piece of paper if you are not ready for that.Just remember to refer to that story next time you are thinking of a slogan or copy for your marketing materials. You will be amazed at the difference this simple shift can make.