Move from “storytelling” to “story-making” in your branding and marketing

Storytelling vs. Story-Making

Goes something like this, I think:

Old idea: Everything comes back to storytelling; that’s what the brain resonates around. If you’re in marketing, that’s what you should do. That’s essentially the keynote of most every marketing conference since 2009, and why Hubspot is such a valued company. Also, it explains this.

New idea: Instead of “storytelling,” focus on “story-making,” which is essentially becoming a part of the experience of the actual lives of your users and that’s your branding. This is basically a lot of people ape-ing Apple, because Apple is worth a gazillion dollars and their entire brand is about how integral they are to the lives of the people that use Apple stuff, and you can read a summary of the whole “story-making” concept here. It’s actually not necessarily a “new idea” in that there’s a post from 2006 on the topic as well.

What You Should Do:

I’m not some mega-marketing expert (see link for “it explains this” above). But if you have something to sell, the basic concepts inherent in doing so are:

  • Explaining to people what it is
  • Explaining how it came to be
  • Explaining the value they’d get from using it
  • Giving some examples of that value using people that seem similar to them
  • Getting a good referral process going (because at the end of the day, everything is word of mouth)

So yes, there’s a mix of “storytelling” (the brain loves stories!) and “story-making” (live in the now with your friends and experiences). It’s not a “versus” situation or a sharp dichotomy. You can do both.

Two other things:

  • I don’t think “storytelling” will ever die out because of something I once heard at a conference: when a six year-old comes to her parents at night, she never says, “Mommy, read me some content.” She says, “Mommy, read me a story.” You know? That’s simple but powerful. We’re drawn to stories. If you listed 10 of the coolest people you know, I bet 7 of them (over 50 percent!) would be good story-tellers at social gatherings. 70 is a C-Minus on a test, but compared to other marketing metrics like “e-mail open rate” or whatever, it’s a goddamn grand slam.
  • “Story-making” deeply involves social media because that’s typically a brand’s easiest way to get out there into the lives of people using their stuff, no doubt. But social media has perils, too. People chase viral, which is incorrect. The business ROI is shoddy. It’s not a real relationship. It’s more about “me-forming” than “informing.” Point being: social is a great tool, but on face it’s not necessarily a “strategy” for “branding.” You need more than that. And while we’re here, stop measuring social engagement. It’s useless.

Bigger picture: “marketing experts” love to phrase things in the vein of “You’re doing this thing wrong. Rather than X, do Y!” That’s all bullshit. Often, “X” and “Y” are entirely compatible if you think about it logically. It may require some tweaking of both aspects to fit your brand and mission, but isn’t that your job as a marketer?

Ted Bauer