I spent most of summer 2015 watching the ENTIRE Marvel cinematic universe with my 13-year-old son. What does that look like? As of right now, that consists of 12 feature-length movies and 4 television/Netflix series (with multiple seasons). If I was good at math, I could tell you exactly how many hours, minutes and seconds that equates to. But I’m not. So I won’t. And I think I might actually cry if I knew. (Yep. I’ve cleared a place on the mantle for that Mother of the Year Award. I freakin’ EARNED it!)
To be perfectly honest, I actually liked the movies and television shows. Some more than others. But none of them had me looking at the clock to see how much longer I had to sit there in front of the TV or in the theater.
What dawned on me as I watched movie after movie and television show after Netflix episode is that, when we writers use our storytelling abilities, we actually have WAY cool superpowers. And that makes us at LEAST as awesome as Iron Man and Thor and Captain America.
Pretty Super Superpowers
As writers, we totally get how to write a good narrative. We know how to tap into emotions. And, most important, we understand what makes people tick. I’d go so far as to say that we know how to do these things better than anyone else in the world. So, when we put these gifts to work for our own brands and/or for the brands we serve, we have the power to:
Change Hearts and Minds
People make buying decisions based on emotions—not on facts. That’s not saying that facts aren’t important. They are. And they should be included in what we communicate. But how we feel about a product or service or the person doing the selling is typically the tipping factor. So, when we create communications for a brand, we absolutely have to remember that–and we have to be sure to include a strong emotional appeal that surrounds the hard data.
Let’s think about our own buying habits. For instance, let’s say we’re looking at two courses about how to make a marriage healthier—both of which offer basically the same information. The features–when looked at side by side in a spreadsheet–are almost identical. But the product story that authentically acknowledges the difficulties that all couples experience, that clearly shows us what’s possible for our own marriage, and demonstrates how this specific course is the solution that will work for us is the one that will drive our choice—even if that choice is more expensive.
Make Trust Magically Appear
Know. Like. Trust. Those things have to be in place before someone will buy from you. Particularly if you’re thinking about offering anything online. The hardest of these three things to come by? Trust. That’s where storytelling comes in.
The right story told at the right time can increase the trust current and potential customers have in you and what you offer. Stories about real customers. Stories about a brand doing something really nice for a customer–without any expectation of recognition or reward. Stories that provide value and help customer better understand their own world. Brand storytelling–when done well–helps consumers build trust in your brand, your product and YOU. And that’s what leads to better (and quicker) sales–as well as longer and richer customer relationships.
Transport People to Other Places
Have you ever noticed how quickly time goes by when you’re watching a great movie or reading a great book? Hours feel like minutes. Because, in our minds, we are dancing with kings, slaying dragons, saving the world, or going on grand adventures with characters we really, really like. Words and images work like a time machine, transporting us to other places. Brand communications can do that, too. Just take a look at this beautiful love story from Extra Gum.
What happens when we see brand stories that resonate? We want to become part of those stories. We want to find true love. We want to be in on the joke. We want to be that kind of dad or that kind of mom. And, to achieve that, we buy what the brand is offering.
Move People to Action
In their book, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Take Hold and Others Come Unstuck, Chip and Dan Heath talk about the power of stories to make people act. As the Heath brothers put it, they “act as a kind of mental flight simulator, preparing us to respond more quickly and effectively.” That might mean purchasing a good or service, contributing to a cause, voting for a candidate, changing how something is done at work. You name it. But the important takeaway is that we are wired for stories. We remember stories when they resonate with us–and we act on them.
So what happens when we apply our storytelling superpowers to communications we create for companies, organizations, causes or even ourselves? We provide value to customers. We build brands with meaning. And we make a difference. Not bad for a day’s work. Now–get to work superhero!
COMING UP NEXT: Connection Communication. What is it? Why does it matter? (DON’T MISS this if you have a product or service to sell!)
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