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The Secret Power of Stories

The Secret Power of Stories

Volume 1 Issue 5 - December 28, 2011

The holy grail for marketing copywriters is to create words that slip past the skeptical defenses their readers and viewers have constructed and propel them to reach for their wallets and order now.

It seems to be an impossible challenge, like standing at the foot mount Everest and contemplating a climb to the top. But, what if you could get a helicopter airlift that drops you in position to make a final assault on the summit - fully rested and provisioned?

There is a technique, passed down from the ancients, that has the magical power to rapidly accelerate your persuasion efforts and drop you in position to make a sale.

This ancient magic is called a story.

In today's issue of the Six Secrets Newsletter, we start a series of articles on storytelling in marketing by looking at the magic of stories and why (and how) they work.

Andrew Seltz, Publisher and EditorShare your thoughts on this issue. Leave a comment at the bottom of the page.

To your success,

Andrew Seltz

Publisher & Editor
Six Secrets Newsletter


Stories Are Magic

by Andrew Seltz

Stories are magic.

The first challenge you face every time you attempt to persuade someone is getting past their critical filters - better known as the little voice in their heads saying things like, "okay, what's the catch" or "what are they hiding?" Fail to get around the filters and they won't even hear the rest of what you have to say. They will tune you right out.

That may be tough, but getting past the filters is only the first challenge. Once you succeed, you have to figure out a way to motivate them to take action.

Stories are magic. Their magical power comes from their unique ability to bypass the critical filters of a listener and tap into their emotions - and emotions are the trigger to action.

A Really Short History of Storytelling

Stories are found in all cultures around the world. Telling stories is the oldest form of human communication and something unique to humans. Stories are tools we use to define ourselves and our world. They connect people through time and across cultures. And, they provide meaning to our experiences in life.

Imagine a dusty archaeological dig site. Dozens of people are delicately brushing away years of dust and debris in search of the remains of some lost civilization. A shout goes up when a small chamber is opened and the remains of two humans, one full grown and one a child, are discovered...

This might not be right for you...

Have you heard of Frank Kern's 4-Day Cash Machine? Well, this new marketing campaign puts the whole system on steroids!

What kind of results are possible? The creator of this new super-charged system generated $8,260.51 in 5 Days selling a $47 product in his initial test. He's put together a short (only 11 minutes) video that explains the entire process - and it is free!

Is this right for you?

Watch the training video and see step-by-step how the system works. Go behind the scenes of an actual promotion using these techniques and see how everything fits together.

It only costs 11 minutes of your time to see just how the "_ ___ ____ ______" can boost your business.

Click Here to See If The "_ ___ _____ _______" is Right for You...

What happens almost immediately at this archeological dig site?

As quickly as word of the discovery circulates around the site, people begin to speculate about who these people were, how they might have gotten here, what kind of life they lead, and how they died? In short, they start telling stories - it is what we do!

The earliest cave paintings were hunting stories told, most likely, to praise the skills of the hunters and also preserve and teach hunting knowledge. Oral traditions followed to pass down stories which much later became written histories.

Through fables and parables we use stories to teach. Think of Aesop and Jesus. We tell community stories to pass along collective values and connect us to each other. And stories have been used (for constructive and destructive ends) to rally people into action - Mr. Hitler and Mr. Churchill spring to mind.

On a more intimate level, we tell ourselves internal stories continuously to define who we are in our own minds and help ourselves make decisions.

What Happens When You Hear a Story?

The first thing you do when a story is told is to drop your defenses. Stories are entertainment, so they don't feel like persuasion. We relax a bit and listen. If the story is well told, we get swept up in it and go along for the ride.

Next, we align ourselves with at least one of the characters in the story. We usually choose the main character or 'hero' to align with. The hero's thoughts, actions, and words become (at least briefly) our own and we consider them in a way that would not happen during a reason-based argument.

Finally, we experience the emotions of the hero as he struggles and then triumphs against the odds and becomes the person we dream of being and attains a goal we can aspire too.

From beginning to end, we engage with a story and experience an emotional journey. When the story ends, we are primed with the dominant emotion of the story.

The Power of Human Emotions

One of the key features of a story is its ability to create an emotional response.

Anyone watching the movie Apollo 13 would feel a rush of joy, elation, and relief as the radio silence during re-entry was broken and the astronauts announced that they had successfully returned to Earth. If you have seen the movie 100 times, it will still trigger those emotions every time.

Stories, whether based on fact or pure fiction, have the power to make us feel emotions as if what we are seeing, hearing, or reading was actually happening to us. The human brain does not distinguish between stories and real life when it comes to processing emotion and...

...Emotion motivates action!!!

Neurologist Donald B. Calne (author of Within Reason: Rationality and Human Behavior) said it best: "The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusions."

Print that out and tape it to your computer monitor.

How powerful is emotion in marketing? The American Association of Advertising Agencies released a paper entitled: "Why You Need to Incorporate Emotional Messaging Into Your Marketing Communications." One of the findings they reported is that emotional marketing messages are almost twice as likely to generate large profits as rational ones. (An interesting part of the reason for this is because emotionally focused marketing messages are effective for reducing price sensitivity, which leads to larger profit margins.)

While emotions are critical for motivating action, they still need some level of reason mixed in to justify the decisions required to move forward. Numerous research studies have shown that reason and emotion are both essential to the decision making process - just lead with emotion.

Story Tools To Use Today

We have just scratched the surface about the power of stories in marketing and persuasion. It is a huge topic. But I want to leave you with some practical tools you can use today to harness the power of stories in your work today.

Metaphors are one of the most incredibly effective tools for invoking story and emotion in your marketing messages. They allow you to make a point with powerful intensity while avoiding the perception that you are trying to force an opinion on your listener.

When writing about persuasion, Aristotle wrote that "The greatest thing by far is to have a command of metaphor." He went so far as to say that the ability to produce excellent metaphors was "the mark of genius." So let's start with metaphors.

Broadly speaking, a metaphor is a figure of speech that compares or associates two things to suggest a deeper understanding. The best way I can think of to clarify that is with two great examples from master marketers.

"What a computer is to me is the most remarkable tool that we have ever come up with. It's the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds." - Steve Jobs

"It's liquid engineering." - Castrol GTX campaign from the 1980s

The first metaphor invites us to imagine all of the benefits a bicycle provides (like freedom, the ability to travel farther and faster, the ability to carry more cargo, and the exhilaration of racing along with the wind in our face). Then, the metaphor challenges us to translate those benefits into equivalents for your mind (freedom to communicate, faster expression of ideas, access to accumulated knowledge, and the exhilaration of seeing thoughts come to life.)

The second equates motor oil with the work of attentive and skillful engineers. Instead of dumping a quart of lubricant into your car engine, you are unleashing a team of experts into every nook and cranny to watch over it and keep it running smoothly. You can almost picture a bunch of little people in white coats with clip boards making tiny adjustments here and there to keep everything going smoothly.

To be memorable and effective, avoid the most common metaphors used in your market. Also, keep them short and sweet.

Ready to create some metaphors, try one of these structures:

__________________ is/are like __________________.
__________________ is/are as ___________________ as __________________.

Here are a couple more examples using these structures:

"Free samples are like crack cocaine."

"Social media marketing is as easy as making a wedding reception seating chart."

If you came to the conclusion that free samples are powerfully addictive and social media marketing is a nightmare - my metaphors did their job. If you remember that 24 hours from now, they did a really good job. And, if you hit reply and send an email asking me my rates for a marketing consultation...

...well, you get the idea!

Coming Attractions

In future issues we will look at how to tell an engaging story, the stories you need to tell in your business, and explore powerful story archetypes you can tap into as you create marketing messages for your business.

In future issues we will look at how to tell an engaging story, the stories you need to tell in your business, and explore powerful story archetypes you can tap into as you create marketing messages for your business.

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