When it comes to marketing, no one knows the whole truth about anything. Of course, Seth Godin was a bit more direct when he stated: “All marketers are liars.”
As consumers, we certainly don’t know the whole truth about the things we buy, recommend, and use. What we do know, and what we talk about, is our story: our story about why we choose a brand, complain about it, or advocate for it; our story about the origin of our buying decision, the personal utility gained, and the emotional impact of our purchase.
“Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make, but about the stories you tell.” —Seth Godin
Marketing, more specifically branding, is all about storytelling—the story of your brand, built into your brand. The advertising images may be part of it, the copy may be part of it, but the heart of the story is your brand, your service, and your people.
The best brand stories, the most remarkable ones, don’t focus on what a company does or the products or services it sells. The most effective brand story clearly answers the question, “Why?”—why you do what you do—and why it should matter to the customer.
“Good marketers tell brand stories, great marketers tell them with purpose.” —Dave Sutton
If you have trouble capturing very clearly and directly the essence of why you do what you do and how you do it, then you can bet your customers will, too.
It is not unusual for a large company or organization to offer numerous products or services, scattered across markets, and targeting different decision-makers with different responsibilities, challenges, and desired outcomes. How can you possibly bring simplicity to all of that?
Simplicity in story
Simplicity in story is not really about being simplistic. It is the opposite.
It’s about distilling the true purpose and value of what you offer to customers. Rather than thinking literally about your products, services, and so on, think about what these things represent in the mind of your customer.
To achieve simplicity in your story, begin by asking “why” and keep asking why until you identify the one thing—the essence—of why you matter.
Start with the mind of the customer
Simplicity is important—but only in so far as it relates to your customers.
Compelling stories resonate when the audience can put itself into the story. Compelling brand stories and narratives connect with customers when the customer understands that that story really is about them and their lives, and they are not simply being sold to. In other words, the customer is the hero and the story is their’s, it’s about their journey, and you are the guide to help them navigate that journey successfully because of what you do for them.
How then do you tell a brand story that captures the full intent of your brand, that gives your customers a reason to listen, a reason to care, a reason to consider, and a reason to buy?
“Make the customer the hero of your story.” —Ann Handley
In the early days of advertising, brand storytelling fueled many great campaigns that had the luxury of time to tell a story (on TV, radio, and in print) that spoke to, and resonated with, the audience. In those days, the story was often “long form,” complete, and left the readers or viewers with a richer understanding of the brand heritage and the promise of what that brand could mean to them.
With the arrival of the Internet in the mid-1990s, digital storytelling initially followed much of that same pattern (as that is what marketers knew how to do) but in new formats and with new levels of interactivity. Marketing started to become more of a conversation with the audience than a communication to the audience.
At least that is what we all thought was happening.
However, as our digital lives have become massively cluttered through the explosion of always-on mobile devices and always-on social media, the time for telling our marketing story has shrunk—dramatically. We all knew that long-form stories kept shrinking in the online marketing world and there was very little time for longer reflection or building up to a response.
But now, with the way digital media is viewed and consumed, and the overwhelming volume of content coming at us every day, what does that shrunken timeframe to tell your story look like?
Telling your story in six seconds
Yes, the timeframe is six seconds. You have about a six-second window for making a connection. Six seconds to give your customers, your audience, a reason to care, a reason to want to learn more. And if that connection is lost in those first few seconds, then it is really lost, and they are most likely not coming back.
This is not an exaggeration.
Think about how you consume information or messages today. If someone has not captured your interest in six seconds, you are most likely moving on.
In that window of time, the storytelling must be simple, clear, and aligned with your customer’s needs and wants.
It must make a bold statement. It must encourage exploration.
And it must lead the customer and audience to a question: “How do they do what they say they do?” Or to a pause: “I actually think I need to know more about this.”
In today’s fast-paced environment your brand story must:
1. Simplify a complicated issue or problem with which your customers are wrestling. Your brand assumes the role of a guide or Sherpa who helps them identify their challenges and solve their problems.
2. Stir emotion. People buy on emotion and then rationalize their decision with facts.
3. Be memorable in striking a chord that prompts an internal question or reflection. People can more readily relate to a story than fact-laden statements about the wonders of a product.
4. Make your customers the hero of the story (not your brand) for making the correct decision to use your product or service to fulfill their needs.
And your Brand Story must do all of this in about six seconds.
Because that is all the time you will get as they quickly move on to the next site, with the next message coming at them, and the next interruption.
Creating your six-second story isn’t easy
While the length of time you have to tell your brand story has changed, the timeline and work required to develop the brand story has not.
No matter how short the message, never short-change the depth, complexity, and richness of the story. Creating a six-second brand story is challenging because it requires a diverse set of scientific skills and an artistic eye to master. In many instances, due to no fault of its own, a company will focus too much attention on either the “science” of gathering actionable insight or the “art” of the story rather than striking the right balance.
Transformational marketing, by contrast, is a collaborative effort balancing rigorous analysis to drive out actionable audience insights along with the creative ideation and the artistic expression of a storyteller. It’s a collaboration in which you completely, fully and deeply delve into understanding your target buyer personas and the journey they are on to make a decision to buy—the Customer BuyWay.
By understanding the Customer BuyWay, you can activate your story through an integrated marketing strategy based on what really drives your customers to care, to engage, and to purchase. This strategy builds your story in a simple, clear, and compelling way, which results in a productive and profitable customer experience where your customers become your advocates because their experiences of your company, brand, story, products, and services have been transformed.
Source: Infusionsoft by Dave Sutton