edition 41 september 30 2005
 

storytelling and story listening for marketers

Narrative and storytelling techniques are the hot topic. Yet for many marketers the advantages and techniques of this powerful technique is largely mysterious.   

In this P3 e-news, Shawn Callahan of Anecdote Pty Ltd discusses the benefits of storytelling as a tool for marketers and is holding a series of workshops in the technique on 10th October in Melbourne and 12th October in Canberra. 
For more information on the workshops click the relevant city above.

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how marketers can exploit the full power of stories

storytelling in marketing is a hot topic

There is a growing and well founded belief that legendary brands like Apple, Nike and Harley have been successful building great stories around their products that people naturally want to be part of. Books for marketers are appearing by people like Seth Godin and Laurence Vincent which instruct the marketer on how to build a company's brand using stories. But this is only half the story! Everyone is focussed on storytelling while there is huge potential for storylistening.

the power of collecting stories

Marketing professionals have known for some time the power of collecting stories. Dupont collected stories about women's thoughts on wearing panty hose, and eventually discovered (after first hearing disdain expressed about these garments) that wearing panty hose made women feel more sensual, sexy and attractive to men. Dupont modified its brand image to match these feelings. Kimberly-Clark collected stories from parents who were toilet training their children, and discovered tremendous stress associated with having children 'still in nappies'. Pull-ups were introduced, and a new $400 million per year market segment was born.

In both cases the marketeers understood that they were unlikely to discover the telling factors through formal interviews and focus groups. Stories, on the other hand, provided a natural way of expressing what was actually happening. It provided the context required to get at the heart of the issue.

the best form of research is storytelling

Listening to stories is one of the best ways to understand what is happening in a complex and dynamic situation. Analytical methods are great when the issue can be divided into its components but much of life is not that simple. The issues facing marketers involve unpredictable outcomes, ill-defined problems, going with your gut. Stories help us see the established and emerging patterns from which interventions can be designed.

So for marketers there are three skills required to become an effective storylistener:
1.
 be able to elicit stories from whoever has relevant stories to tell (customers, staff, stakeholders, shareholders)
2.  be able to make sense of the information contained within and across all the stories collected; and 
3.  be able to design interventions that account for the complex nature of the issue being tackled.

aligning brands with customers

Let's take the specific example of aligning brand promises with customer service. Companies spend millions on developing a brand image yet this can be significantly eroded if staff misunderstand the brand and deliver contradictory service. Take this instance of how customer experience contradicts the brand message:

"Dave ... saw an ad by Tweeter that emphasized its staff's "boatload of knowledge". He needed a minidisk player and walked into a Tweeter HiFi Buys store wanting to take advantage of that knowledge. "Hi, I want to buy a minidisk player and accessories if someone can show me how to use it." He was told, "I don't know how it's used, but they're supposed to be really easy." Dave says, "The boatload of knowledge just capsized." (Barlow and Stewart 2004: 49)

the role of storytelling in marketing

Imagine this situation being played out in your organisation hundreds, if not thousands of times. The result is a total undermining of your brand position, a position in which you have invested heavily and which you are pinning the future of the company on.

In this case you would go out and collect anecdotes from the staff which they think illustrate on- and off-brand service. These stories are then used in a workshop environment to extract the key themes, values and archetypes. The workshop participant (the organisation's decision-makers) is forced to gain new perspectives and uses the insights to develop interventions designed to improve the brand to customer service alignment.

Narrative is a powerful technique. So far marketers are only making use of half its power. Become a storylistener as well as a storyteller and reap the rewards. See the links above to the Anecdote Storytelling workshops.

limited places still available -P3TV production workshops

 


The first P3TV Production Workshop workshop is full and the final two have limited places available.

Melbourne - 1 pm - 5 pm Tuesday Oct 4
Sydney - 9 am - 1 pm Thursday Oct 6

Cost is $450 per person and $395 for AMI and AANA members. 10% discount for 10 or more participants from one company.

For a booking form email georgia@p3.com.au

 

special offer for subscribers

 

 

2005 AMI NATIONAL CONFERENCE & AWARDS PRESENTATION
What value marketing?
Thursday 13 & Friday 14 October 2005
Sofitel Wentworth Sydney

P3 e-news subscribers can register at the AMI member rate if they
mention this P3 newsletter offer.


"What Value Marketing?"  will bring together leading business thinkers to examine the value of  marketing and how it is marketers can be more accountable.  To see the full conference program and download a registration form click here

     

benchmark your tv costs online

 
 

P3TV provides an online service that allows advertisers to see how their agency tv production estimates compare to the industry benchmarks instantly.

To find out how you can get ultimate transparency and accountability into your television production costs go to www.p3tv.com.au or contact Clive Duncan at clive@p3tv.com.au