Not Just for Bedtime, Marketers Corner the Market on Storytelling

[…latest technologies, it’s ironic that the hottest trend in marketing today just might be the ancient art of storytelling.

I’d make the case that there’s a direct link between the Internet, social networks, content marketing, and storytelling. With more media channels for engagement, and greater consumer control over what they pay attention to, marketers have scrambled to make their content more captivating, and stories represent a natural evolution.

In an environment where you don’t stand a chance to win anybody’s attention without some magic, a good story might save you and your brand from oblivion.

Like every other trend, this obsession with storytelling produces its share of misguided efforts. At two recent conferences, almost every speaker opened with the words, “I’d like to tell you a story.” My hope for entertainment soared – and then was dashed just as quickly – as I listened to one attempt after another to wrap a business point in an anecdote masquerading as a story.

[…a good story is an end in itself. Whether or not it helps define a brand, sell a product, or make a point, a story must stand on its own. If it only exists to thinly disguise a marketing message, you’re not fooling anybody.


  • If your story does not reveal something personal and unknown about the person or brand, it’s going to be boring.
  • If your story does not tap into a specific emotion – whether it be fear, desire, anger, or happiness – it will not move people to action.
  • If your story does not take people on a journey where there is a transformation between the beginning, middle, and the end, it’s not a story.

The best stories represent a simplicity of purpose and tap into the audience’s imagination so that they willingly go along for the journey. And the shortest ones can sometimes be the best. Ernest Hemingway famously wrote the six-word story: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

Like any worthwhile endeavor in business and life, set the bar high. In the hands of a master, a financial spreadsheet can hold as much adventure as a treasure map. When you make the choice to tell a story, you’re competing with the best minds and writers in the history of the world. Make your effort count.



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