The Key Principle to Storytelling for Marketers

Jan 13, 2022 | by Scott

Growing up in Indiana I played a lot of basketball. Anytime we had a bad game, the next practice always involved getting back to the fundamentals, and running a lot of laps!

Over the last few months, I’ve watched a lot of marketers forget one of the key principles of storytelling. So let’s get back to the fundamentals and make sure we’re telling the stories our audience will relate to.

The gaffe I’ve noticed is the overuse of narrative.

What is “narrative?” In this context, I’m talking about explicit storytelling. The opening two sentences above are an example. Narrative storytelling has its place but it’s often unnecessary and may not tap into the real story your marketing must focus on if your messaging is going to resonate with your reader.

Remember, you’re competing with all of the things on your reader’s to-do list. If reading a long story isn’t on that list, your newsletter or blog post is likely to go unread.

It’s easy to understand how a novice marketer might overuse narrative, but I’ve seen many seasoned marketers doing it as well.

So What Story Should I Tap Into?

When we talk about storytelling in marketing, the story we’re referring to is the one already playing out in your reader’s mind.

It’s their story after all. It’s our job to fill the gaps that bring that story to life.

This is where tools like personas and having a backstory become invaluable. Those tools help you to understand who it is you’re talking to so you can imagine the story already in their head.

Storytelling is one of the most powerful tools in your marketing arsenal. And narrative is often a part of that but the key is to learn to use good judgment in how and when it’s used.

So the next time you start a blog post, newsletter, or even a tweet thread, ask yourself a few questions:

  1. Is narrative necessary, helpful, or entertaining?
  2. Does narrative help the reader grasp the concept or better relate to the content?
  3. Will narrative add important context?
  4. What is the story playing out in the mind of the person reading this?
  5. What stage of the story are they in?

If you decide narrative is appropriate, don’t get carried away. Make sure it’s clear early on why it’s relevant to your audience.

The Narrative Side of Storytelling

The flip side is that you can use pure narrative. I would regard this as mastery-level marketing, but it can be very effective, especially when it tugs at our emotions.

This form of marketing is often used in pure advertising. Again, it’s very effective, but it’s also pretty hard to pull off without a lot of planning and experience.

One of my favorite examples is the Extra Gum commercial featuring the voice Haley Rinehart singing Elvis’ “I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You.” Grab a Kleenex and watch below.

For now, focus on the story in your reader’s mind so you can make stronger connections with them.

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About the Author

Founder of Rogue Mogul, obsessing over 1-Person businesses.