I’m currently reading Godel, Escher & Bach: An Eternal, Golden Braid (again) and the book makes excellent use of stories to help get across what are pretty weighty topics. The book begins with the Zeno Paradox of the Tortoise and Achilles (you can read about the paradox here if you havn’t come across it before). Douglas Hofstadter then re-uses Mr Tortoise and Achilles, with the odd cameo from Mr Crab and various other characters, to illucidate each chapter with a dialogue.
I’ve been a big fan of storytelling since university when John Seely Brown took on cult proportions during knowledge management lectures. Seely Brown is the chief scientist at Xerox and has long advocated the use of stories in communicating ideas and sharing knowledge.
Ten tips for using stories in your brand communications
- Stories come directly from the brand. If your brand has a great reason for being then making a story from it will be much easier. Apple for instance have a great brand and regularly tell great stories with it.
- Open your ears. Great stories are all around you. Listen to your customers, your suppliers, your employees. They’ll all have great stories about your company.
- Amplify your customers. Once you’ve found a great story, make sure it’s nice and simple, then give it all your marketing support to get it out there.
- Integrate your marketing. It’s one of those things that sounds so simple but is often neglected. Each and every piece of marketing you do should reinforce the brand and tell a mini story of its own.
- Get in touch with your inner child. As mentioned earlier, the art of story telling often gets lost once we enter adulthood. Reconnect with your inner child and delve into stories to understand what makes them so special.
- Don’t forget the purchase. The aim of the story is to get people buying so don’t forget the end goal. For this you need to ensure that your story “ticks” the age-old behavioural triggers like emotion, contrast, egocentricity, the power of beginnings, etc. Use them, and people will respond. Avoid them at your peril.
- Engage your body as well as your brain. Actions speak louder than words, as the saying goes, and it’s important that your actions toe the story telling line just as much as your words do. Marketers often fall into the trap of focusing purely on acquisition but ensuring that customers are well serviced at every touch point is just as important (if not more so).
- Leave some intrigue. People love a bit of mystery in their stories so don’t feel compelled to tell all of your company secrets. Leave a little to the imagination and you’ll encourage people to try and solve the riddle.
- Empower the customer. It might seem scary but once the story is out there it can often take on a life of its own as your customers get their hands on it. Encourage this process as the more customers talk about you the more it shows they care.
- Don’t forget to be real. It might be tempting to create a story that fits the message you’re trying to communicate, but people tend to have a pretty good bs sensor, so resist the urge to fabricate and stick with the stories that truely represent your company.