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Making Your Customers Create the Story
21 Jun 2016

Making Your Customers Create the Story

7772794404_06f957bf65_mContent marketers talk a lot about storytelling. Your company should have a story. Your customers should become increasingly aware of your story as they progress closer to actually purchasing from you. Indeed, if content marketers had their way, businesses might do little else apart from telling stories. One thing that doesn’t get focused on much in all of that talk is that the best company stories are the ones where customers and prospects actually fill in the blanks, maybe not even realizing they’re doing it.

This occurred to me the other day. I was watching the Cavs, trying not to have a nervous breakdown (they’re in the NBA finals), and a commercial came on for Sprint. Maybe you’ve seen the commercial, but just in case you haven’t, here it is.

I may have even said aloud, “Ooooo he switched!!” It was like that feeling I used to get when a good guy would “turn heel” in the World Wrestling shows. Yes, I used to watch wrestling religiously. That’s a different blog post.

Anyway, I was sitting there thinking, “Man, that’s such a great win for Sprint. They got the Verizon guy!” But then something hit me. Just because that guy was walking through our television sets promoting Verizon by saying, “Can you hear me now?” did not mean he actually used Verizon. Similarly, doing a Sprint commercial sort of bashing Verizon does not mean he uses Sprint now. I didn’t just buy into the stories that both sets of ads were telling, but I added some of my own narrative to it. By contemplating what Verizon thought of this, what made this man change teams, and wondering what drama this new ad would cause, I was starting to take the story and run with it. All of that, and let’s face it, this isn’t the most compelling story in the universe.

Winning the Story Wars

Back in 2012, I read a book by Jonah Sachs called Winning the Story Wars. Sachs wrote about how companies can take the classic facets of a story, adapt facts about their business to that story template, if you will, and find success. In the case of this Sprint commercial, their spokesperson is sort of being presented as the villain. That’s an interesting spin. Verizon is the wronged party in this scenario, making them almost a sympathetic character in this story. Sprint is the hero. They can’t help it that this guy switched allegiances. They’re just that awesome.

Now the question is, how can you apply this to your own company? Maybe you aren’t doing national television ad spots. That’s ok. Think about an article where the world economy is the villain and you’re the hero. Think about a blog post where safety issues are the villain and your product is the hero that can save the day.

Are you hearing me now?

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rossyyume/7772794404/ via Creative Commons

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