Stories are powerful. And, if they are simple and compelling, they are easy to talk about, which encourages viral marketing. That's why even the most grizzled direct response ad veteran can learn something from Seth Godin. In his book All Marketers Are Liars, he writes:
"It's impossible to transmit every single fact, instantly, to every person you want to reach. So marketers tell stories. Sometimes we tell stories with packaging or with advertising or with words. Sometimes we tell a story with a smile, or with a sign in front of a building. Often those stories are well intentioned and even an attempt at communicating all the facts. But when a human being eventually confronts the idea, he will interpret it in his own way—he will lie to himself, creating a judgment without access to all the facts. The best marketing techniques, then, are the simple stories that are the most likely to break through, the most likely to be understood and the most likely to spread." (p. 61, emphasis added)
In light of this insight, I thought it would be good to share with you three good examples of the kind of stories Godin is talking about.
1. Fat Tire Amber Ale - Fat Tire is my favorite beer. It is brewed by New Belgium Brewing Company in Fort Collins, Colorado, just north a couple hours from my south Denver home. They caught my attention and captured my loyalty because of the stories they tell. Here's the story on the side of the Fat Tire bottle:
"FAT TIRE Amber Ale's appeal is in its feat of balance: toasty, biscuit-like malt flavors coasting in equilibrium with hoppy freshness. Named in honor of Jeff's mountain bike trip from brewery to brewery through Belgium, FAT TIRE is still crafted following the original home brew recipe that Jeff brainstormed on this cycling trip."
Two more bits of copy continue to tell the story. One says, "New Belgium Brewery Company is wind powered and employee owned." And then a little farther down, "We'd love to have you stop by the brewery! - Jeff & Kim"
2. Clif Bar - Whenever I go hiking, cycling, or snowboarding, I make sure to pack a couple of Clif Bars. They taste great, are reasonably healthy, and don't freeze in cold weather. But it's the story that's made me loyal. Here it is, straight off the side of an empty wrapper.
"Clif Bar is named after my father, Clifford, my childhood hero and companion throughout the Sierra Nevada mountains.
"In 1990, I lived in a garage with my dog, skis, climbing gear, bicycle and two trumpets. The inspiration to create an energy bar occurred during a day-long, 175-mile ride with my buddy, Jay. We'd been gnawing on some "other" energy bars. Suddenly, despite my hunger, I couldn't take another bite. That's the moment I now call "the epiphany." Two years later, after countless hours in Mom's kitchen, Clif Bar became a reality. And the mission to create a better-tasting energy bar was accomplished. Thanks, Mom!
"Clif Bar has grown since 1990, and still the spirit of adventure that began on that ride continues to thrive each day. As the company evolves, we face many choices, yet we always do our best to take care of our people, our community and our environment."
- Gary, Owner of Clif Bar Inc.
It was this story that originally convinced me to give Clif Bars a try. And except for a few occasions, I've been loyal ever since.
3. Tom's of Maine - I have recently converted to Tom's of Maine fluoride-free toothpaste. And although I began using their products for other reasons, their story, printed right on the side of the toothpaste box, keeps me around.
"When we founded Tom's of Maine in 1970, we based it on the idea that nature has answers to our everyday needs. Over the years, our team of herbal experts, dental health professionals, and scientists has proven our original belief: ingredients from nature really work. What makes our products so effective? We use natural ingredients in innovative ways without adding anything artificial. From toothpaste and mouthwash to soaps, shampoos, deodorants, and self care, we think you'll enjoy the effectiveness and natural flavors and scents of our products. Let us know what you think!"
Kate & Tom Chappell - Cofounders, Tom's of Maine
In all three cases, the story told is simple, believable, and compelling to one degree or another. More importantly, they all come from the voice of a couple or individual, not a nameless corporation. I find it far easier to be loyal when I'm purchasing a product from a person than when I'm purchasing it from a company. Said another way, I feel like I have a personal relationship with each of these people, which makes it difficult for me to ever stop being a customer.
In your copywriting, consider how you, too, might weave in a story. A simple story, expressed by one person or couple, that is easy for people to share by word of mouth. (I have told my friends and family about all three of the products I chose to mention here.)