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Jared Hamilton
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Cassie Allinger

Cassie Allinger Senior Advertising Performance Strategist

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Are You An Effective Storyteller?

We all love a good story. Unfortunately, this wonderful, integral, piece of human nature has been diluted by the marketing world’s latest obsession with “telling stories.”

This happens a lot. Someone frames a great idea at the perfect time and place, it catches on, and develops into a buzzword frenzy. The same thing happens when a great new song is released to radio; next thing you know everyone hates the song because it is so overplayed. Such a cycle is almost unavoidable for any new song that hits the top 10. Buzzwords often experience a very similar cycle, which results in over-population, quality dilution, and a shift in focus away from the true goal.

If I had to point at one particular event that triggered this buzz, it would be the emergence of social media, which brought with it the need to engage and connect with consumers. Stories build connections, explore ideas, ask questions, and establish relationships. It seems perfect … right? I’m not so sure.

3 Problems

  1. Suddenly, everyone is a "storyteller," simply because they decided to be.
  2. Everyone is "telling a story" and it's not always a good one.
  3. If everyone is a "storyteller," who's going to fill the roles of business-person, marketer, salesperson, manager, customer-service representative, etc.?

So how do we avoid this?

I have a little story to share. A few weeks ago, a friend of mine came to visit me here in Burlington, VT. In case you’ve never been, Burlington is a darling little city nestled in between the mountains of NY and VT with a vibrant downtown, filled with shops, restaurants, and bars. Meal times always led to a discussion of where we should eat, and a run-down of all the options. On the last night of her visit, I found myself running through the list of options again, when she asked “What was that place that you told me about? With the adorable story of how it was the first place you went to when you moved here and you always go back because it’s comforting. Let’s go there; I feel like my visit would be incomplete without going there.” It hadn’t even occurred to me that she would want to eat there. It was just a story I told in passing while we were catching up on life, and yet it resonated with her more than anything else.

Stories are extremely powerful. In business, marketing, sales - and life. The key is, how do we tell great stories that engage, capture, and motivate, without getting lost in the storytelling craze?

Stop trying so hard.

Be genuine.

Remember who you are.

Remember what your goals are.

Consider your audience.

Eric Miltsch
Such a great concept that so many still can't grasp. The best stories can teach lessons, hit emotion hot buttons and be memorable. I'm a huge fan of "not trying so hard" to tell a story. Just tell it naturally - that's when the true emphasis rings loud and clear...just like story of the first place you went in VT.
Brian Chee
I would add one thing - in addition to social media, the increasing cultural importance of Super Bowl advertising has played a part. I know, I know -- dealers don't advertise in-game for the Super Bowl. But many trends are started there, including this one. Take "The Force" commercial of two years ago. It touted a car that wasn't even on sale yet. There were no features. All it did was tell a natural story about a little boy.
Cassie Allinger
Thank you Eric! And Brian -- Very interesting point. I'm going to have to go back and check out the commercial :)

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