Think back on the last time you were persuaded to change your mind. A recent time when a product you had never really considered before suddenly seemed essential. A moment when a confusing topic suddenly clicked and came into focus. What made you see the world differently at that moment?
Chances are good that it was a story, not a statistic. And yet so many marketing messages seem stuck in the realm of data.
“Over 71% of surveyed customers preferred our product!” a brochure proudly declares.
An impressive statistic to be sure, but where’s the story? Just what exactly did these individuals prefer about your product? Did it bring them joy? Relief? Success, satisfaction, excitement? Who are these people? Are they like me? And how did the competing products let them down?
The Three Pillars of Persuasion
Don’t get us wrong — we’re big fans of data around here. It’s the foundation of any growth-focused marketing strategy and it’s vital to offering personalized service. Modern marketers shouldn’t function without data-driven insights.
The problem is that data alone does not persuasive marketing make. Just ask Aristotle, that master marketer who conceived three elements of persuasion 2,000 years before the first TED Talk:
- Ethos: Your character and credibility
- Logos: The logic of your argument
- Pathos: Your argument’s emotional weight
Part two, the logic of your argument, may be grounded in hard data, but that’s just one leg of the foundation of any compelling story. The task for a marketer is not to broadcast data, it’s to find insights in the data, and turn those insights into stories that move, surprise, inform — stories that tells your audience that you are the company they want to do business with. Story-driven marketing is data-driven, it’s not data itself.
Storytelling Gives Your Statistics Heart
You’ve got character and credibility. You’ve got logic built on data. That brings us to emotion. It’s not just the third pillar of an ancient philosophy; it’s a direct line to the human soul. And the greatest tool for tapping into it is story.
“Recently, I’ve talked to prominent neuroscientists whose experiments confirm what we’ve known for centuries: The human brain is wired for story,” wrote Carmine Gallo in an article for Inc.com. “We process our world in narrative, we talk in narrative and — most important for leadership — people recall and retain information more effectively when it’s presented in the form of a story, not bullet points.”
Data Doesn’t Have to Be Dry
Not only does storytelling give data heart, data can actually inspire innovation and lead to more creative stories: it’s a two-way street. In an article on the AMA website, Jakki Mohr cites data from McKinsey suggesting that data and creativity are a powerful team. “Combining human ingenuity and insights from data analytics creates a power combination that drives value across the marketing value chain,” she writes. “Creative functions are becoming more data-driven, while data-driven functions are growing more creative.”
In order to find creative inspiration in data, Mohr recommends assembling a diverse crew of creative marketers and analytic professionals who can collaborate across backgrounds. “The important takeaway is to build a team of people nimble enough to work with colleagues with different skills and mindsets.”
Story-Driven Marketing Builds Connection
Ironically, the owner of perhaps the largest personal data repository in human history, Jeff Bezos, feels so strongly about stories that he famously banned PowerPoint presentations from Amazon meetings. Instead, he suggested executives present their content in “narrative structures.”
“I’m actually a big fan of anecdotes in business,” Bezos said at a 2018 Forum on Leadership. “I’ve noticed when the anecdotes and the metrics disagree, the anecdotes are usually right.”
NYT-bestselling author Donald Miller agrees that story is the most effective way to get the message across.
“Telling a story often creates a ‘clicking experience’ in a person’s brain, allowing them to suddenly understand what someone else is trying to say,” Miller wrote. “As such, those who can tell good stories will create faster, stronger connections with others.”
The connective power of story-driven marketing translates fluidly into the world of experiential marketing, and the most effective experiential marketing uses story to draw you into an unforgettable live experience. Once upon a time, there was one lonely number lost in a forest of data with something important to say, but it lived happily ever after when a marketer came along and made it a story, and turned that story into an unforgettable live experience.