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Why Do Stories Resonate with Audiences

By Bill Eager


Self actualization. Every person on this planet has a drive to realize and fulfill their personal talents and potential. This desire might rank just above our primal needs of shelter and food. Myths and archetypes are the storytelling tools that allow us to relate to each other at this essential level. The digital path to success recognizes that there is a customer journey. In some ways this is no different than the journey of any archetypal hero. In fact, it is often filled with perils.


Yankelovich, a market research firm, estimates that a person living in a city 30 years ago was exposed to 2,000 ad messages per day... compared to almost 5,000 today. Where are all of these messages? Everywhere. Of course, the Internet; but also seatback dining trays on airlines, shopping carts in grocery stores, video screens in restaurant bathrooms, designer clothing, and the walls of doctor's offices.


The first thing is to create an emotional connection with prospects and customers.


Of course being exposed to a message certainly does not mean you notice it, or are ready to take any action. Media Dynamics Inc. has done a study that narrows down exposures to the point of consumer engagement. We drop dramatically from simple exposure to "messages noted" and even further down to any message that actually makes an impression.


Messages noted per day: 153

Messages we have some awareness of per day: 86

Messages that make an impression and some engagement occurs: 12


One reason that most marketing messages don't make it past being noted is that they do not reach a level of meaningful connection with customers on their personal journey. What journey? The voyage (that we all make) to connect with products and services that help facilitate our ability to realize personal talents and potential.

This is simultaneously grandiose and quite simple. Part of our journey involves connecting with and recalling those childhood experiences that tap into our deepest emotions. Think Citizen Kane and his beloved sled - Rosebud. Would Kane respond to a marketing story about sledding? Absolutely! If your customer feels that their talents and potential are partially realized when they jog outside; then they will connect with stories about people jogging in the rain... and all of their apparel, sports drinks and earbuds. It doesn't matter what your product or service is. There is a story that can carry emotional awareness and connection directly to your audience.


This story creates an environment where we share a relevant story, assist with a conversation, and show consumers that there are actually other humans living in the message. When we create and share a story that lets the audience drop into the story and experience their journey towards self actualization... well, we have created a valuable relationship. These are the messages that make impressions!


Stories Make Fantastic Viral Content


It only takes a second to click on a Like or Share button. It doesn't happen often. That is because often the people who create marketing messages (ad firms) are focused more on making something that they hope will go "viral" rather than sharing a good story.


You need to ask a different question. Why do people share posts, pictures and videos with their social network? They do it because they want social currency. Part of the process of self actualization is connecting with peers and community. People like to know that their passions, talents and interests are appreciated by others. People may share to make themselves look hip, caring or intelligent; but they are simultaneously testing the waters for reinforcement of their own self identity. If a shared post gets a lot of positive feedback... guess what? It is guaranteed that more of those will be noticed and shared.

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