Do we remember dry data and product/service benefit statements? No, not very often — certainly not with just one hearing. Do we remember short stories? Yes, 99% of the time.
Stories Are Effective Vehicles For Your Message
Stories are super-useful for explaining and promoting anything and everything. A micro-story is a ‘snapshot’. It usually has the simplest precepts of a good story — C.A.R. (Context, Action & Result) — but it’s presented in the shortest possible way. It’s more easily remembered and shared than a long-form story. A lot of the greatest, most effective ads and promotions I’ve seen use micro-stories.
Think About How We Naturally Share
Think about non-marketing topics in social media. Think about brief moments of conversation with friends. MOST of what we naturally share is story-based — not facts and figures, not “how-to” bullet lists, not “10 Steps To This” and “12 Ways To That”. It’s often surprising gossip, or shocking events, or heart-warming stories. It’s emotional, it has context and depth. Data, by itself, has no depth — it doesn’t get shared naturally.
Some of us in the early-adopter tribe will initially disagree and say: “but I share data and ‘how-to’ articles all the time”… Sure, me too (if I think it’s useful). But to your non-business friends? I would doubt it very much. I find that if I stray from the story format (Context, Action, Result), that my non-business friends become disinterested very quickly. Do you want your message to be instantly engaging, relatable and shareable…. or just impress your early-adopter, business and marketing acquaintances?
Use Emotion To Ensure People C.A.R.E.
We’ve got the precepts of a good story with C.A.R. (Context, Action & Result). But make sure it evokes an emotion too, or it will lack the impact it needs to be heard through all the ‘noise’ out there. People are ultimately looking for experiences; emotional experiences. Most stories share an experience naturally.
Yesterday I drove and drove. I travelled most of the day … It had been a long, challenging week and I was looking for something — some sort of answer, or change of scenery, or change of headspace, or new idea… But I just couldn’t put my finger on what it was. I kept driving. I stopped at a beach, had a swim, walked, left, went to another beach further south…
Then I heard a song. I felt something shift. THAT was it I realised. I wasn’t looking for a place or an idea. I was looking for a feeling.
We’re all looking for that certain something, and it’s almost always tied to an emotion.
Memes Are The Ultimate Micro-Story
Sometimes we’re extremely limited in space (Twitter) or time (elevator) or both (first impressions on your website landing page), so we need to be able to convey a message in seconds, not minutes or hours. Carefully crafted memes can do this. Memes are useful ideas reduced down to their simplest, most digestible form — either visual or verbal. Memes can be very powerful — life-changing even…
In 20,000BC Ugga the caveman fished and hunted for food with his bare hands each day and often came home with nothing but berries for his hungry clan. One day he wandered far and saw a simple cave-drawing which depicted a man holding a long sharp stick with a fish on the end of it. Instantly he understood and Ugga never went home empty handed again.
“Lighting Rainbow” Stories
A great reference I’ve been using lately is ProductHunt because the contributors have a fantastic way of telling you what each app/startup is with just a few words. They do often this by using 2 or 3 ‘known’ items/ideas and putting them together to instantly give you a picture of what it is (and why it’s different and/or valuable).
@RedSkyMedia_au Well said, Matt! It’s subtle but the “tagline” is crucial to PH’s success. Thanks for the shout out!
— Ryan Hoover (@rrhoover) March 17, 2014
I call this the “lightning rainbow” or “rainbow moon” effect. It takes 2 (or more) good — but known — things and puts them together in a surprising or unique way. It can be incredibly impactful or, at the very least, very informative.
The latest one I saw was “Breakr: Location-based anonymous chatrooms” — where the 2 ideas “location-based” and “anonymous chatrooms” come together to clearly explain what it does. That’s just FOUR words to clearly convey an entire concept. It works because we have references for the 2 base concepts, but it’s unique enough to get our attention. Either one of those by themselves would NOT get much attention, but together, it’s meme-tastic!
Yesterday, as I drove home from my day at the beach down south, a sharp arc of dark storm cloud rolled in off the ocean — crossing over young green sugar plantations, turning the setting sun to a hazy disc of smothered fire over the hills beyond.
That was something spectacular in itself perhaps, but I’d seen it before so gave it little attention in that moment. I was trying to focus on my driving after all, and the rain had start to set in — making it more difficult.
But soon I had lightning on one side of the car and a stunningly unusual sunset on the other. So that really go my attention on a visual level. It was fascinating… Although not NEARLY as fascinating and memorable as what came next…
As I rounded a corner on the highway, the clouds suddenly broke and I simultaneously saw a rainbow and the full moon rising. Sunset, lightning, rainbow, full-moon. Can you picture that?! I thought I’d be disappointed I didn’t get a photo, except that it was a truly unforgettable sight!
Reduction Is Crucial For Startups
I recently worked with a wonderful new startup client to reduce her pages and pages of excellent concept explanations and promotional ideas down to a usable, tweetable statement: “OwnersUp — where solopreneurs team-up to solve issues and grow faster” (about 70 characters — leaving room for hashtags, links, @profiles, etc)… It doesn’t quite tell the full story, but it certainly gives you enough information to gain your curiosity if you’re a solo business owner or entrepreneur. You’ll click through to find out more, right? It’s fairly easy to remember, it’s meaningful even though it uses very few words, and it’s very natural in it’s delivery.
A micro-story version of the same thing would be something like this:
“As a struggling solopreneur, I decided to join OwnersUp. My team helped me solve some big issues & after 2 weeks I’m already growing faster!”
That’s still a tweetable 139 characters. Sometimes you’ll need more than 140 characters of course, but it’s still good to shoot for as short as possible so it communicates easily and quickly in conversation and via social media.
Stories Build Successful Startups & Save Failing Brands
I’ve read countless accounts of how brands have used stories to bring their sinking ship to safety, to repair it and to make it float so well it almost flies from that point on. Some brands have been smart enough to use storytelling from the start, or at least before things start going downhill.
Successful stories, such as Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches, can garner 150MM YouTube views in a couple of months and supercharge brand awareness and loyalty — without talking about the product at all.
So… Find specific stories that support your brand. Make them micro. Evoke emotion. Tell them often.