The Power of Narrative

There’s an excellent post by Jonathan Gottschall over on Fast Company about the power of narrative in the business world. Gottschall points out that a good story can actually alter they way that our minds process information. ”Results repeatedly show that our attitudes, fears, hopes, and values are strongly influenced by story,” according to Gottschall.

To some extent, this is not new insight, but one that has guided the world of marketing and advertising since their beginnings. National governments have long recognized the power of narrative, which is why every government in the world spends resources on propaganda.

Despite this, a surprising number of organizations remain either oblivious to the power of narrative to drive sales, or simply ignore its potential. I thought of this the other day while talking to a potential client. This company is a European clothing manufacturer that’s been around for over a hundred years, owned by the same family for four generations. This family makes a hand-crafted product of exceptionally high quality. They’ve sold their product to Hollywood actors, globally recognized CEOs, a former First Lady of the United States, and royalty. You can see one the world’s most famous artists wearing their product in an iconic photo. The New York Times has written multiple stories about them. As we were speaking, I frankly wasn’t sure that there would be anything Tenuki could do that would get him more or better exposure than he already had.

Yet despite a slew of globally recognized celebrity clients, a brand synonymous with Old World elegance, and international press coverage, their online store represents less then 10% of total sales. The great grandson of the founder is now worried this iconic brand will soon have to close up shop due to lack of sales. Why? Because his company is failing to capitalize on an incredible story. They aren’t telling their story in words on the site. They don’t have a communication strategy. They aren’t connecting with potential clients. They aren’t focusing on the right keywords for their industry, building links, and engaging with their public. The result is that they don’t appear in even the first 20 pages of results on Google when you search on the most common keywords for their product.

It breaks my heart that a brand with a rich tradition and wonderful history is in danger of closing its doors. But a great story is only valuable if you know how to leverage it. We’ll get into some different ways to do that in a later blog post but obviously the first thing you can do is hire a content writer for your site if you don’t have someone onboard to do so yourself. This includes someone to write copy or your main site as well as maintain your blogs and social media accounts (you’ve already set up both, right?) Remember: a great story is your most powerful weapon. But even your most powerful weapon is useless to you if you leave it in your holster.

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