How to Use Storytelling the RIGHT Way

Last week, I wrote about how emotions influence every decision we make and as much as we'd like to consider ourselves a fortress of reason and logic - we're not.  This is true when it comes to our decision to buy as well.

Last week, I told you it's your job to create an emotional connection between your brand and your customer.  One part of this is creating a brand personality (a book I wrote) another is the story you're telling about your company and your products.

The stories you tell to convince consumers they need your company and products are essential.  And storytelling is so hot in marketing right now it's like The Weekend's performance at the 2015 VMA's (if you don't know who that is - ask a teenager or hit up YouTube).  It's important because your story will determine what kind of clients you attract.  You want to attract the right ones for your business (and repel others).  It's also an essential part in establishing that emotional connection.

But here's the trick.  Are you ready?  Your story shouldn't be about you.  Or your product.  Or your service.  Well, not directly anyway.

Yes, you need to tell a story.  But your story has to ultimately be about your client.  The story has to demonstrate how your product or service aligns with the story she's already telling herself about her life.  Your story needs to expose who she believes she is.  Reveal what she values.  Unveil who she wants to be in the future.

THAT is the most powerful storytelling you could write.  That is how you create a powerful and compelling emotional connection with your customers and clients.

It isn't about you - it's about them.  But you already knew that ;)

How do you do this?

You have to understand you clients' worldview.  I have more to say about the importance of worldview you can read here.  You have to know where they are at in their lives and where they want to be in the future.  You have to go so much deeper than demographics.


We all like to see theory in action right?  I know I recently used J. Peterman as an example in another post but I'm madly in love with their copywriting and you might as well know it.  Here they are again.

J Peterman shirt

This is an obvious example of storytelling.  This shirt tells a story of a man who makes his own decisions and carves his own path, even in the face of opposition.  It'll appeal to someone who sees himself as a bit of a maverick but also with a practical side and refined taste.  It's a very specific target and they aren't worried about appeal to a broad audience.  Then the last sentence masterfully brings it back to the present (because who hasn't felt close to hypothermia in an over-airconditioned restaurant?) and actually made me laugh out loud.  Emotional connection achieved.

Nike ad

Here's storytelling that's a little more subtle.  Nike is an advertising giant so it's hard to pick just one ad.  But I chose this one because the audience is clear.  Nike is speaking directly to the busy professional who wants to find time to run or exercise.  But somehow work always manages to get in the way.  Nike effectively gets in their head - they know the excuses this professional is making like "I don't have the time", "if I leave now things won't get done", they can't finish this project without me".  Then Nike counters those excuses and gives them permission to take time for themselves.

"The world will not fall apart in my absence" is a powerful emotional hot button for workaholics.  But Nike helps motivate them towards the vision of the life they want for themselves.  The vision of someone who is hard working both at work and play.  By aligning their product with their customers' worldview and affirming their customers' self-identity when it comes time for that workaholic to go and buy a pair of running shoes who do you think she's more likely to choose?

Bottom line: the story you tell matters.  But it shouldn't be YOUR story as much as it needs to be your client's story.  Meet your customer where they are right now.  Show them you can help them achieve the goals that are important to them.  Strive for that emotional connection in everything you do.