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Stop Telling The Same Old Story

September 22, 2020

happy man woman talking word balloons two different versions of how cow jumped over moon

blank vertical space, 16 pixels highStories? Yes. A relationship? No.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

If you follow marketing at all, you hear a lot about brand stories.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

How it’s important to share your stories.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

How people are going to hear those stories, and want a relationship with your brand.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

I don’t believe it– not that last part anyway.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

And neither do Les Binet and Sarah Carter of the London creative communication agency adam&eveDDB.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

In their book, how not to plan: 66 ways to screw it up, they write:blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

By and large people don’t want to “actively engage” or have “strong relationships” with brands… and they don’t need to
(in order) for marketing to be successful.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

(You don’t need to) actually “communicate” much at all… brand loyalty is largely an irrelevance.

blank vertical space, 24 pixels highDoes that mean stories are a waste of time?blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

No. Stories are important for the same reason that marketing and advertising and communication are important: they’re how you get attention, create a good impression, and get people to remember you.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Let other people tell your storyblank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Testimonialsblank vertical space, 16 pixels high

If someone told you their service was top-notch, that you could trust them to do a great job, you’d take it with a grain of salt, right?blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

But what if a third party, a satisfied customer, told you the same thing about a service provider? It would inspire a lot more trust.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

That’s why testimonials are a great way to tell your story. I feature mine as a separate menu item, and I include one at the end of every post. My clients tell these “stories” a lot more convincingly than I ever could.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Testimonials can take different forms.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Check out this Land Rover video. It’s like a mini-documentary (3.5 minutes). It’s also a work of art that highlights the power of letting others tell your story.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Obviously most of us can’t take a film crew to the Himalayas, but that’s not the point. What’s important: be open to different ways of telling your story.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

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Word of mouthblank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Marketing expert Jay Baer says that word of mouth marketing is
the most effective and cost-effective way to generate customers and grow any business.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

There’s nothing better than having people tell other people how great you are.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

But here’s the thing: nobody will talk about you if you’re no different than your competitors. You need a way to stand out.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Jay says the best way to do that is to provide something your customers wouldn’t normally expect.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Same is lame. People are wired to discuss different and ignore average. If you want your customers to tell their friends about your business, you need to give them something interesting to discuss.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Jay calls these unexpected customer experiences “talk triggers.” They’re what generate free word of mouth advertising for your brand.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

The tricky part is coming up with an experience that you can give every customer on an ongoing basis that will get them talking about you, and telling their friends.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

What can you do to delight and surprise every customer so they’ll go out and tell that story for you?blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Jay talks about what one oral surgeon does in this video, and gives four other examples in this post.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

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Here a story, there a storyblank vertical space, 16 pixels high

I don’t have a “story strategy.” I don’t say to myself: It’s time to tell a story, or I need to stick a story in such-and-such a spot.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Some brands tell their story (company history) on their About Page. Those stories are usually pretty boring.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

The story of how Mark Armstrong, famous illustrator, got where he is today is a messy one. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to plow through it.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

But every assignment’s a story for me. When I learn something new, that’s a story. If I disagree with some bit of “accepted wisdom,” that’s a story.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

I tell these bite-sized stories in blog posts. Some examples:blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Hero saves the day: I learned a new image-editing program overnight in order to complete an assignment.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Do the right thing: my keeping a client informed resulted in
some pivotal feedback.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Little big man: an old photo of me as a puny Little Leaguer sparked some thoughts on marketing.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Staying power: I learned a client was still using a “recruiting poster” I’d done for them back in 2014.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Loser bounces back: I lost a contest but wound up with a great promotional video.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

I’m selective about the stories I tell. I tell stories that show my expertise, and I try to make them entertaining. A dull, plodding delivery can ruin even the best story.

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It’s how you tell itblank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Communications consultant Sarah Elkins, likes to say your stories don’t define you, how you tell them will. She’s even written a book about it.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

I tried to say something similar in a comprehensive post about humor.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Humor plays a big part in telling stories and creating content. It’s a frame of mind.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

It’s not telling jokes or being a comedian. Humor is putting people at ease, helping them relax and feel welcome. It’s being willing to poke a little fun at yourself.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

We all know someone who’s a good storyteller. They hold your attention and make you glad to be there. They make you want to hear more.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

They’re providing what Lee Odden of TopRank Marketing calls infotainment.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

The story’s important, absolutely– but it’s mostly how we tell it. blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Some tips from Mary Wearblank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Mary Wear is one of the UK’s most accomplished copywriters. She’s been involved in many successful campaigns.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

In my post about humor, I wrote that, for me, the best definition of humor comes from the late Clive James:blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

“Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing.”blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Mary is also a Clive James fan, and she cheerfully nicked his definition to say this about copywriting:blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

“Copywriting is persuasion dancing. So if it doesn’t dance, go back and do it again until it does.”blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Here are some other tips from Mary:blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

1. There’s always a fresh way to tell an old story. To retell it in ways that make us laugh, wonder and think.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

2. Know your target audience. Empathize with them, identify with them. Because at some level, the reader needs to like the writer.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

3. Everyone enjoys creativity. You don’t have to logic people into a corner, you can charm them into wanting to come out and play.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Summaryblank vertical space, 16 pixels high

1. People love stories, but they don’t want a relationship with your brand.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

2. Get other people to tell your stories. Think: testimonials, word of mouth.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

3. Stories “happen” to us every day: successes, challenges, insights. Tell those stories to build your brand.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

4. Use humor. Remember: it’s not telling jokes or making people LOL. It’s telling stories in a way that holds people’s attention and makes them glad to be in your company.

blank vertical space, 16 pixels high5. “The reader needs to like the writer (content creator).” Be likable. Humor– keeping things light, relaxed, cheerful– makes you likable.

blank vertical space, 16 pixels high6. “You don’t have to logic people into a corner.” Be charming. We tell stories because you can’t win people over with cold, hard facts.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

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About Mark: I’m an illustrator specializing in humor, editorial, branding, social media, and content marketing. My images are different, like your brand needs to be.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

You can view my portfolio, and connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Questions? Send me an email.blank vertical space, 40 pixels highRecommendation testimonial for Mark Armstrong Illustration from Michelle Manafy, Editorial Director, Digital Context Next

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