November 10th, 2011

Consider the last speech, college lecture, Sunday School lesson, or family reunion you attended.  What do you remember of what was said – when you weren’t dozing?

If you remember anything at all, I’m betting it was a story.  No big surprise.  Stories are more entertaining, informative and memorable than facts, figures and philosophical diatribes.  Anybody that’s had any training in public speaking knows that.  Just ask any Toastmasters Club honcho.  Or, take a Dale Carnegie course.

In his book, What’s Your Point, Bob Boylan, author and consultant in the field of effective presentations, urges presenters to, “Tell stories.  They grab the audience.  You will be real when you tell your own stories.  They build on the feeling of ‘trust me.’  People love to hear stories, especially personal ones, and your familiarity with the story makes the words come more easily and believably.”

In advertising, I believe stories are critical to snagging and holding attention – whether we’re dealing with a YouTube video or a primetime television spot.  They are imperative when developing and strengthening brand awareness and preference.

The TV spot hailed as the best of the past century, Apple’s “1984,” told a riveting story, as do many of the most memorable Super Bowl spots over the years.  Remember the classic “Mean Joe Green” Coke spot from 1980? I still do, and I have a spotty memory.  Remember the pint-sized Darth Vader VW spot last year?

I believe the value of today’s highfalutin’ technology will be greatly minimized unless we learn how to apply the time-proven art of storytelling to it.  But it’s not an easy task in this time-crunched, media-overloaded society.

That fact is reflected in this comment by James Clunie, a judge for the prestigious 2011 Communication Arts Advertising Annual.  He is quoted in the Editor’s Column of that issue as saying, “I’m always surprised at how much time people expect you to engage with their brand.  I don’t have time up upload a picture of my face to a Web site so I can see what I look like sitting behind the wheel of a Jetta or on an American Standard toilet or whatever.”

Randal Rothenburg, president/CEO of the IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau), noted in a recent Advertising Age article, “New technology does not change the human desire for sense-making narrative or the need for us to understand the world through tales well told.  But the technology does change how we learn stories, how we tell stories, and who hears them.”

“We are concerned our industry is more concentrated on counting likes and clickthroughs than forming deep relationships with people, and that subsequently consumer interaction with brands is largely limited to likes, short comments, and critiques.  From this angle, interactive media is in its infancy.”

That relates directly to Richter7’s foundational belief that human beings are big bundles of feelings, and that emotional impulses drive behavior, brand relationships and product loyalty.

It’s up to us to figure out how to be better at storytelling within these technological confines.  What is clear is this — if you tell a story well, it will get passed on, and commented on positively, via multiple technological tools (think Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) at a speed and depth like never before.  And that’s the best kind of advertising — because it’s free.


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