Frank Rose, author of The Sea We Swim In, recently spoke on a podcast about the importance of storytelling in advertising. He said that with “the demise of interruptive advertising,” companies have begun waking up to the fact that “when [you just] tell people to buy something… it doesn’t work.”
In the modern battle for people’s attention, the only way to effectively market a product is to entertain them. Stories entertain.
Rose goes on to point out that the Millennial Generation in particular has wanted to hear a company’s founders tell the story behind their product. He references Simon Sinek’s book, Start with Why, to make the point “that people don’t care quite so much [about] what you do as why you do it.”
Businesses that have been popular with Millennials in the past decade have often been the ones who understood this.
The Democratization of Storytelling
People don’t just want to hear about the company founders. Generation Z, especially, is concerned about equity. Translated into storytelling, this means that they want to hear from people at all levels of the company. The regular folks, not just the C-suite.
This actually presents a great marketing opportunity. There’s a limit to the number of times people will let you tell the same story. But if you look throughout your company, you’ll find hundreds – or even thousands – of stories. The stories your employees can tell.
Younger audiences want to hear from the regular people who make your company work. But people of all generations will connect to the stories – real stories – that your employees can tell.
In an Online Sea of Fake Stories, Real Ones Stand Out
With the simultaneous rise of storytelling in marketing and the fall of audience captivity, the trick is no longer just grabbing people’s attention, but holding it. If you want to sell more, if you want your content to perform better, you need to keep telling them new stories. In other words, you need more stories.
Luckily, it turns out that you already have lots of real stories within your company – stories people will connect with on a deeper level.
If you’re worried that your employees might say something unscripted, relax. They will. That’s why your audience will love hearing from them. (Of course, you will always have final approval, which means you can veto anything problematic.)
Young people are hungry for real stories. Gen Z is tired of celebrity marketing. Millennials define themselves as “authentic.” #nofilter is always trending (so to speak), even though many people know that half the photos posted with that hashtag are, in fact, filtered.
The Internet is filled with fake stories: scripted Instagram stories, carefully cultivated TikTok personas, scams, misinformation, conspiracy theories, and exaggerations. This is why real, “authentic” stories resonate so strongly with people of all age demographics.
Your employees can give you those real stories your audience craves, which means you’ll have better performing content (people will actually pay attention to your marketing messages), and you’ll sell more.
The idea here is crowdsourcing. It’s very hard for a small group of people to churn out new stories every week. But a diverse workforce already has more than enough stories to meet the demand for fresh content.
A lineman has a different story than the lift operator, and the process engineer has a different story from both of them. The quality control lead has another story entirely.
Stop trying to generate ads that disrupt your audience’s digital consumption. Start telling them new stories, real stories, ones they will actively seek out and engage with. Start crowdsourcing your content. Just make sure you don’t overlook the stories your employees can tell.