A story: I remember it like it was yesterday. I was 20 years old, cutting lawns on Cape Cod for a summer job with a college buddy. It was 92 degrees in the shade, with the mid-day sun beating down we still had about a half-acre of Mr. Berman’s backyard grass still to mow. My lawnmower sputtered to an unceremonious stop—and after unscrewing the knob at the machine’s base, I realized the gas tank had run dry. I hurriedly refilled the mower with gasoline, over pouring the small tank a bit. Then it happened. Mr. Berman’s cat, a small grey tabby named Max, somehow had escaped from the house and was licking the side of my lawn mower where I spilled the gas. Max slurped at the mower for a while before I could stop him. He pulled away from the mower and shifted into a faster gear than I had ever seen a cat run. Max sprinted up and down and across Mr. Berman’s property in a frenzied path that resembled a pattern a child using an Etch A Sketch toy would draw. He circled the house a few times, taunting us to chase, then came to an abrupt stop yards away. Max took off before we could grab him, scooted up the trellis on the side of the house, scampered over the porch, then proceeded to make his way to the highest point of the roof. He surveyed the chimney, glanced down at my friend, and me and decided to shimmy up the outside of the brick chimney to the very top. Max looked, pondered and waited. Then he jumped…
Storytelling has been around forever in verbal and visual form. We’ve all heard that it started with the cavemen who told of the dangers of mountain lions and bragged about their hunting conquests to their fellow dwellers. And we learned in grade school of the ancient Egyptians using hieroglyphics to graphically chronicle the highlights of the era. Today storytelling has evolved and the tools we use to share our tales are more sophisticated. But the reasons why we tell the stories we tell are still very much the same. We share our adventures, triumphs and tribulations to entertain others, to teach and to pass along our legacy.
From small start-ups to fortune 500 corporations, the importance of brand and business story telling is equally essential. Well-crafted business stories take shape in written, graphic and video forms. They are integrated across company presentations to customers, internal meetings for employees, landing pages on websites, copy on sides of packages and videos on social media platforms. Stories help internal (employees) and external (customers) audiences formulate a response or reaction. Corporate tales should be woven into the fabric of the company and answer among many questions, Why did the business get started? What challenges had to be overcome? How did the passion of the founder guide the direction of the organization? How and where is the product made? What is the problem or challenge that the entrepreneur was trying to solve? Why does it matter that the product is produced?
As Paul Zak, professor of Economics, Psychology and Management at Claremont Graduate University wrote for the Harvard Business Review , business stories “make information persuasive and memorable.” Zak studies brain activity and neural reactions and adds, “scientific work is putting a much finer point on just how stories change our attitudes, beliefs and behaviors.” There are many benefits to effective business storytelling:
- Creates an emotional connection with customers and internal staff
- Provides the essence of the product, brand and founder
- More effective than boring bullet points on a power point presentation
- Differentiates you from the competition
- Makes for good content marketing (and isn’t a sales pitch)
- Humans remember stories
Personal, informative and memorable stories are critical in this environment where our attention span is measured in seconds. The well-told tale is invaluable in setting a strategic path, acquiring talent, building customer awareness, creating avid followers and ultimately making a sale!
And every good story has a beginning, middle and end….What happened to Max you might ask? Did he fall to his demise? No….He just ran out of gas!