The Story – A Marketer’s Ace in The Hole

coffee beans roasted deliciously
coffee beans roasted deliciously When I was in college, I hated coffee. Hated it. I drank Mountain Dew to stay awake for an all-night paper, but never coffee (energy drinks were still gaining popularity). Then I went to work at a chain coffee shop. I began to appreciate the flavor that coffee added to sugary drinks like mochas and frozen blended drinks, though I still didn’t love drinking black coffee. Unfortunately, it was so dark and oily that I began to have stomach issues with GERD and acid reflux. I figured coffee would be something I enjoyed occasionally, but never daily.

Then it happened. I took a job creating listings for a specialty coffee equipment supplier in Louisville, KY where the main salesman and account manager roasted his own coffee. I remember smelling the grounds after he had finished brewing and thinking “I can literally smell blueberries.” I was a skeptic, remember, but I couldn’t believe how good the coffee was. After 2 years of drinking the lighter roasted, specialty coffee provided at my workplace, it had finally stuck. I loved coffee. In fact, I began to roast my own coffee I loved it so much. I have even been lovingly called a “coffee snob” (though I won’t judge you for drinking bad coffee, I may just try to talk you into trying a little of mine 😉 ). But one thing is for sure, whereas I used to hate coffee, I now love it. It is a journey that traversed over a decade, but now, I barely make it through my afternoon without that cup of specialty (light-roasted, non-flavored, FRESH) coffee.

Stories in Marketing

What does that have to do with marketing? Well, that was to demonstrate the power of a story. Imagine reading a blogpost similar to that on a local coffee shop website. Depending upon your background or your interest in coffee, it may be just the thing that would tempt you to “give coffee another try”. Or perhaps you are in the “middle realm” of that story and you are curious to see what all the specialty coffee “hubbub” is about. Reading that story may be just enough to get you to take that next step into the specialty coffee cult world.

Regardless of its context, a story can be a powerful motivator and people since the beginning of time have known this:

Tour Guide: “…and this is the cave drawing of the man getting eaten by a saber tooth tiger because he forgot his spear while taking a potty break.”

That is why stories are often passed from generation to generation… especially to teach or inform.

Tour Guide: “…therefore, this next painting demonstrates the lesson was learned as you never see another drawing after this one in which a caveman does not also have his spear at his side while on a potty break.”

Have you ever sat in a class and been bored to tears during the lecture, only to perk up immediately as the professor began telling an interesting story to illustrate his point? The Bible is a good example of this as well. Many people who have not read it believe it to be the largest checklist in the world of rules. They may be shocked to discover that over half of it is written in narrative, or story form. In fact, the entire Bible is one big historical story of failure, love, redemption, and judgement (read here for more information on The Gospel).

The Power Behind The Story

So, why are stories so powerful? What causes us to listen to a story, and zone out during a lecture? I believe the biggest reason is that a story engages the emotions of the hearer/reader. This is why stories are essential to a marketer! You can beg people to buy your products all day. You can command them, you can scare them, you can shout at them (thank you infomercials). But the reality is, a person is most inclined to listen when you engage their emotions. When you can get them to feel why a certain service or product works instead of just causing them to see or hear it, you are not far from a sale.

As an illustration, let me share with you my favorite Superbowl 2013 advertisement:

Keep in mind that’s a 2:00 video during the Superbowl in which ads were rumored to go for around $4 million a :30 second time-slot. Yet, how many of us were more emotionally inclined towards Dodge and the Dodge Ram after seeing it? They nailed their target audience, but instead of attempting to distract their audience from their business purpose (sex-marketed web hosting anyone?), they grabbed the long-term invested emotions of their target audience and guided them into a deeper interest in their product.

Is this Being Manipulative?

One last word is the idea of manipulation. Is this manipulating your customer? In the next few blogposts I will be writing about the importance of offering a quality and needed product. Manipulation is tricking a customer into buying into something he/she does not need. If you offer something that your target audience truly needs, then telling a story about that product is not manipulation, it is more accurately describing to them the true reason why they need your product or service. You are not lying to them, you are more clearly explaining through the medium of emotion, why your product/service will help them in their personal life or business.

Well, that’s my take on using stories in your marketing… use them! Use them on your website listings, in your business magazine images, in your about us pages, in your calls with clients. Use stories to help your clients actually feel the need for your product or service. Frankly, it takes hard work. It can be difficult to figure out how to work them into your specific industry, but I promise you they will work somehow and you will be a better business for it.

Oh, and for the record, the coffee story really is true and I would love to introduce you to some good coffee beans and equipment. I don’t get any affiliated money from these links, just the satisfaction of knowing that the knowledge of good coffee is continuing to spread through the nation and the globe! 🙂