Storytelling is the New Advertising…. Bull Sh*t!
Content marketing has enjoyed prominence in marketing agencies for a few years now. Presenter after presenter, expert after expert, blog post after blog post is telling you that the new trend in marketing is the telling of stories. They repeat this mantra so often that the words become gibberish and white noise in the background of all your marketing department meetings.
The truth is that storytelling is about as new a concept in the world of marketing as the term marketing is. What’s new about storytelling is the amount means by which we tell the stories.
Take a look at the master weave a story long before Analytics and PPC muddied the marketing waters.
A great deal of the accolades that Matthew Weiner receives are in regards to how accurate his portrayal of the 1960’s marketing firms are. The three scenes shown above are prime examples of how “Storytelling” has always been used as a means to sell. The only actual thing that has changed since the Shangri-La of middle 20th century marketing is that we now base a great deal of our marketing decisions on numbers and metrics that have very little in common with the emotional experience of the audience.
Why Analytics is Killing Good Marketing
Web development and analytics based marketing practices have changed the way that companies approach marketing… Forever. Whether or not this is a good thing is debatable. I often find myself flip-flopping between both sides of the argument. On the one side, analytics have given us unprecedented insights into online behaviour, length of time on a page, site engagement, location of user, time of day, etc. etc. etc. On the other side, somewhere along the line we allowed analytics to transform from the measuring tool for marketing strategy, into the marketing strategy itself.
This is why storytelling is being positioned as a revolutionary and groundbreaking marketing concept. It has nothing to do with storytelling actually being either of those two things. It has everything to do with forcing us to venture away from the safety offered by analytics and paid click advertising strategies.
It’s risky, not all stories are good, i.e. Twilight. I contest that there is great value in viewing your audience as more than Facebook Fans, Twitter Followers and Google Analytics’ Sessions. That at some point you will need to foster a connection beyond the realm of practicality, a connection that is often steeped in some kind of emotional resonance. This connection will lead your audience choose you in the absence of, or equalization of other influencers. It’ll make them promote you to their friends, they will even inadvertently brand their children with this connection.
This is one of the reasons why petrochemical companies never make promotions about the price of their product. They make their promotions about the hockey teams they’ve sponsored, or the charities they’ve helped. Even though all the analytics in the world will tell you that people go to gas stations for gas and gum, these are not factors that will make someone choose one brand over the other (prices of course 99% of the time being equal). Your audience may not even realize it when making the decision, but in-lieu of a significant value offer from a competitor, customers will gravitate back to the same set of vendors more often than not. I will generally fill up at Shell, for no other reason that I can think of than that when I was young my dad used to work for Shell, and I relate the logo to the hockey jersey that he used to wear when we played shinny.
Teddy told me that in Greek, Nostalgia literally means, the pain from an old wound. A twinge in your heart… -Don Draper (see video above)
Why Storytelling Matters
The average user experience on the internet is becoming less and less human. Social media platforms through news feeds are now displaying content in a never ending trough. We digest this content and are done with it quicker than it takes to repopulate the feed. Have you ever watched a commercial or seen an advertisement and had to take a moment to draw the connection to the product? Chances are you have. Chances are it has been one of the larger more successful brands, and the reason that content stuck with you is almost certainly not based on bounce rate, heat maps, or keyword research.
Google does an amazing job of getting you in front of your audience, but from that point, it’s all on you. Being found is an essential stage of the sales process; however, it is far from the most important one. The old adage “never judge a book by it’s cover” is especially pertinent here. SEO, SEM, PPC all of these tools make up the cover, and without a good story that book is only good for starting a fire, a fire in which all you’re burning is your own advertising dollars.