“Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.”
In Part I of this blog we discussed the importance of storytelling in content marketing and how including storytelling techniques in your catalog program makes the content easier to absorb. It all stems from the human brain and how we retain information. Essentially you are creating (or finding) a problem and then offering your consumer a solution. It is a natural transgression that leads them to a destination of your choosing—usually in this case that would be to a place of purchase.
The question is not why you should use storytelling techniques in your catalog program (we already addressed that), but how to use storytelling in your catalog. Let’s break it down to make it easier to understand.
Storytelling and marketing have the same purpose: How can this be? In any story whether it be a novel, a movie, short story–or whatever medium you choose to tell your story–you must learn that in order to be a successful storyteller, you need also to become a marketer. This is because you need to convince your audience that the story is in some way valuable to them. The goal in brand (and product) marketing is exactly the same. You must sell your brand to your consumer and convince them that your product is valuable to their lives. The best way to do both of these things is to set up a story-like structure with conflict and resolution.
Stories can be told in many different ways: For some catalogers their products tell their own story. Take for example a catalog for coin collectors. Because of its history, each product has a story (or multiple stories) attached to it. You do not always need to tell a story in words; sometimes you can show a story or simply imply a story as a collectable coin would do.
An article put out by stock photo company Getty Image called The Power of Visual Storytelling explains: “Visuals help us tell our stories quickly with impact and emotion. But they have to be the right visuals. And when the visual is a powerful one, be it an image or video, the effect is magnified.” The most important thing about telling a story is that it has an emotional impact on your audience.
It was Marcel Proust who said, “Every reader, as he reads, is actually the reader of himself. The writer’s work is only a kind of optical instrument he provides the reader so he can discern what he might never have seen in himself without this book. The reader’s recognition in himself of what the book says is the proof of the book’s truth.”
Once you decide what you want to teach your consumers about themselves using your catalog as a vessel to do so then you will have found your story. For example, if you have a hunting apparel catalog you may decide that you want your consumer to come to the conclusion that they need warmer boots. You bring them to this conclusion by using storytelling to make them realize they have a problem they didn’t know they had before (their boots are not warm enough) and then giving them a solution to it (such as a product that will fix their problem, in this particular case it would be warmer boots). It’s only after you show them how warm your boots are that they realize their boots are not warm enough. Because as humans we so desperately crave resolution, your consumer will seek out that resolution. The problem becomes resolved when the product is purchased, end of story. What makes this experience a story? It is the structure of conflict and resolution that makes the story.
All stories must have structure: Take the following module for storytelling. Using the same example as above let’s look at how the warm boot campaign follows the structure.
- Premise—When hunting in cold weather, warm boots are a must.
- Antagonist—Cold weather
- Story Arch-Moment of change when the consumer realizes that they need warmer boots
- Conflict—The consumer’s boots are not warm enough
- Resolution—The consumer purchases new boots
How to use storytelling structure to sell your products: By using the above structure you can market any product or brand to your consumer. Much of what you want to do is to find or create visuals that provoke these feelings of conflict and resolution within your consumer. Here’s another example. You have a catalog that sells handmade candies. What is going to make a buyer purchase your candy opposed to let’s say a bag of Hershey kisses from Wal-Mart? Let’s look at the structure.
- Premise—everyone deserves the experience of a unique and high quality treat.
- Antagonist—the craving for chocolate
- Story Arch— when the consumer realizes that they crave the experience of high quality chocolate
- Conflict—The consumer’s itching desire for this experience
- Resolution—The consumer purchases the chocolate to satisfy the desire
Ultimately, what it comes down to is that stories have the power to create experiences. If you can create a unique experience in your consumer that makes them feel an emotional attachment to a brand or a product, then chances are you will also provoke strong feelings of desire that closely resembles need. At that point, you give them a solution to fill the need and make it easy for them to do it. Once you achieve this, then you have successfully incorporated storytelling in your selling.
The next time you are putting together your catalog remember what Annette Simons, author of The Story Factor, says, “If you wish to influence an individual or a group to embrace a particular value in their daily lives, tell them a compelling story.”