Danny Haddad, our friend and colleague at Digital Meaning, shares his powerful perspective on storytelling.
Storytelling has been around as long as people have. It’s how we pass along our culture. It’s one of the most important ways we learn how to do things, how to behave, to understand what’s expected of us. And today, a great company story is the key to attracting loyal customers and fans.
People love stories. And because of that, they are naturally attracted to ideas that are presented to them in story form.
But as we all know, some stories are better than others.
A Good Joke Can Be Your Guide
Jokes are a common kind of story that we’re all familiar with. Some people are amazingly good at telling jokes. They stretch it out, building the anticipation, making us laugh at little asides and tangents on the way to the punchline. And when we finally get to the punchline it’s incredibly satisfying, paying off everything that went before. There’s a rhythm to it, an awareness of how the different elements contribute to the whole. It seems effortless but it requires great thought and practice to get it right.
Contrast that with the people who just flat-out suck at telling jokes. They’re in such a hurry to get to the punchline that they don’t properly set it up. And even if they remember the punchline—which is not guaranteed—it’s not usually all that funny when they finally get there because there’s no real context for it. So, it just falls flat.
It turns out that all storytelling works this way. It’s not just a matter of reciting the facts and dates. That’s just boring. Who wants to listen to a story like that?
A good storyteller brings their story to life. The audience is able to put themselves into the story, to imagine themselves as actually being there. That’s how the best stories work. And anything that distracts from that, anything that takes the audience out of the story, will cause the story to fail.
Show, Don’t Tell
You may be thinking to yourself, “But my company’s not in the entertainment business!”
Maybe you sell devices. Or services of some kind. Perhaps your business is based on the web. Whatever it is, you have competitors. Other companies that sell something that is comparable to your offerings.
How do you differentiate your company from your competitors?
It might be on price, or superior service. It might be knowledge or experience. Or some combination of those things. And that’s all good, but how do prospective customers find out about what you actually have to offer that separates you from the pack?
It may be that you cold call and tell your story that way. Or you tell your story on your website using words and pictures. Perhaps you use advertising in some form.
And while those approaches certainly have their place, there’s one medium that rises above all others in terms of impact, memorability and effectiveness: Video.
Make It Reflect Your Business
I could enumerate all the ways in which video is a superior medium, but someone else has already done that for me. Suffice to say that video is a hard working tool that will fast-track your connection with strangers and prospects.
So I should just bust out my smart-phone and shoot some video?
Easy there, my friend. Having a camera doesn’t make you Martin Scorsese, any more than having word processing software makes you Shakespeare. Remember our little discussion about joke telling? It’s like that. Only with a lot more at stake. Because when your company does things that don’t look that good, or don’t communicate well, it tarnishes your brand.
The reason why people tend to be hesitant about video is because the price of entry is high relative to other media. But you can be smart about it. When I worked in advertising we used to talk about clients who wanted champagne on a beer budget. But here’s the thing—beer isn’t champagne, but beer is still good. I like beer. You probably like beer. Everyone likes beer!
Captivating video on a beer budget
The trick is, if you don’t have a lot of money to spend, plan a video that can be the very best video possible at your price point.
Mofo Brings Attorneys to Life
Morrison & Foerster, a multinational law firm based in San Francisco, wanted to introduce some of their many attorneys to prospective clients in order to demonstrate the depth and breadth of the experience they have at their disposal. They wanted something that could be engaging, told a story about each attorney, easily duplicable and not terribly expensive on a per-video basis, because they needed to do a lot of them.
These short videos bring these attorneys to life in a way that a biographical statement and a stiff business photo never could. Little stories that demonstrate how unique each one of these people is, that show not only how they are capable and experienced, but also show their humanity.
It’s Not All About You
While it’s true that marketing to businesses is different than marketing to consumers, human beings are still part of the equation. So yes, B2B purchase decisions are much more logic driven than consumer decisions. But people still like stories! People still like humor! People don’t suddenly become emotionless automatons when they step into the office. What people want is to understand how your product or service or whatever it is you’re offering is going to make their life better. It has to be about the end user, not about you.
ZenDesk Relates to Their Customers
It’s charming. It’s funny. It’s memorable. More importantly, when you watch it, if it affects you emotionally. You will start to have more positive feelings about ZenDesk, even if you don’t know much about that company or its services yet. We didn’t do this one, but I like it!
Feelings, Not Features
No one wants to start out a relationship with a list of features, especially when many of the features are only exciting to the people who designed them. But if you can establish an emotional connection first, people will be enthusiastic about the list of features and benefits that will reinforce the positive feelings they have towards your company.
Mozilla Reconnects With Humor
Mozilla was losing their user base to competing browsers. To turn the tide they introduced a whole slew of new features. And while we could have just listed them, we humanized them by adding humor and drama which made the videos memorable and impactful in a way they wouldn’t have been otherwise. Here are two of them.
Video Drives Emotion Drives Decisions
While we like to think that our purchase decisions are rational, we tend to use rational thinking to justify the decisions we make emotionally.
According to Harvard Professor Gerald Zaltman up to 95% of our purchase making decisions are subconscious, and much of what drives those decisions is emotion. And if you think that emotions as a component of purchase decision making is limited exclusively to B2C marketing consider this:
A study conducted by Google and the CEB Marketing Leadership Council discovered that “B2B customers are significantly more emotionally connected to their vendors and service providers” than are B2C consumers.
How is all this relevant to using video in your marketing?
What’s great about video is that it excels at communicating emotion. And that emotion is what starts to build a bridge of trust between you and your customer.
The question is not whether video should be a part of your marketing program, it’s how soon can you incorporate it and get it working for you.
Arthur Vibert is a writer, creative director and filmmaker.
In Part 2 we’ll be looking at budgeting and working with a videographer to get the best possible results. In Part 3 we’ll be talking about putting all the pieces together and giving it the final polish!