Chapter 5: Stories to Convince

It's National Storytelling Week, to celebrate we're waxing lyrical about the way excellent, creative and thoughtful storytelling can take your marketing from an 8 to a 10. In Chapter 5, we look in more detail at stories to Convince, the ultimate sales tool. Read the other chapters, on stories to Entertain here, Inspire here and Educate here.

Before delving into the how, why and when, let’s talk about Steve Jobs. Why? Because Jobs was arguably one of the most convincing people in the world. “Jobs never designed a computer in his life, but it was because of him that Apple products, even when they do largely what other products do, are perceived to be different and infinitely more cool,” writes The Telegraph.

Part of Jobs’ craft was the power of storytelling. Storytelling, after all, is one of the oldest forms of persuasion – in Biblical times, the entire point of fables was to persuade people to do the right thing. The key to telling a great brand story is to make it relatable; you want your audience to be able to see themselves in the scenario.

“Apple can tell a great story,” writes Jarom McDonald, a content specialist at LucidPress. “Often, Steve Jobs was the one who told those stories.” Back in 2007, when Jobs first introduced the iPhone, he hooked his audience using a plethora of storytelling techniques: he created suspense; he played on the audience’s emotions; he built up to a ‘big reveal.’

Nowadays, at a time when Apple products are firmly segmented in the lives of consumers the world-over, the tech giant is focusing on engaging their audience in consistently new and exciting ways. What ties everything together, though, is Apple’s use of narrative.

Take their fairly recent ad for the iPhone 7 – Romeo and Juliet. It’s almost like a period drama, apart from the fact that they use children in the advert. Which, of course, makes sense once the ‘big reveal’ happens at the end: the entire thing was being filmed by a proud father on his iPhone 7 (of course). By showcasing a relatable person, in a real-life situation – one that Apple’s audience will connect with – the tech giant is cleverly allowing the audience to imagine themselves within the story.

The lessons we, as marketers, can learn from Apple are varied. For me, the one that stands out is the notion of thinking outside of the box. Apple utilises the power of context to surprise and delight. Context is an excellent storytelling technique: it sets the scene; it plays a huge part in the narrative of a story, and, often, it allows the audience to make their own inferences about the story being told.

In Paul Smith’s book, ‘Lead with a Story,’ he examines how businesses can use context, amongst other things, to tell better stories. According to Smith, context is the element most neglected by leaders. Without context, your story might bore or confuse your customers. For our clients, most of which are creative businesses, boring our audience is a no-no, additionally, confused people do not part with their cash or their time, and frankly, nor should they!

We all become stories

We all become stories


So, what can you do to create the most compelling, and convincing story for your organisation? "Firstly, go deep," says Crystlsd founder and storytelling-fan-girl, Laura Rothwell. "Superficial stories won't connect with anyone, they will feel inauthentic and disingenuous, because... well because they are inauthentic and disingenuous.

As with everything, know your audience and speak to them human-to-human, let the personality of your organisation shine through. When it comes to convincing and converting audiences, you also need to be able tell them how, whatever it is you're asking them to do - be that come to an exhibition or buy your products - benefits them.

Seth Godin said, 'Selfish marketing doesn't last. If it helps you, not the customer, why should she care? Sometimes there's an overlap between your selfish needs and hers, but you can save everyone a lot of time and hassle if you begin and end with a focus on being of service. In the long run, your selfishness will catch up with you. Day by day, the long run keeps getting shorter.'

This idea should be burned into the mind of every marketer, treat your customers how you would treat your best friend and you're on the right track."