Today’s Greatest Marketing Secret: Telling Stories in 8 Words or Less…
By Carl Nichols
Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of David ID
At David ID, we tell a new story about stories. One you need to know because of all the other new things, social and digital, going on in the world. First, let’s make sure we’re in sync on what has made “story” the stuff of life since the beginning of time. If you’re a marketer, a blogger, a politician, an entrepreneur, a teacher a parent, a corporate executive, a lawyer or a human being in today’s hyper-messaged world, you don’t want to skip this part.
Ronald Reagan, the former-actor President who was known by Republicans and Democrats alike as “the Great Communicator” didn’t start speeches on “the multi-lateral imperative of deficit reduction” with facts and figures. Instead, he’d tell you a story about a little girl in a yellow dress. Within a minute or two, when even the most cynical listeners were unconsciously disarmed and pulled in by the parable, Reagan moved over to the hard business of the day’s talk.
He knew what any great sales trainer will tell you: spend two hours telling a prospect every fact about your product—and he’ll forget 95% in 10 minutes. But tell him a story, and twenty years later he’ll repeat it to you word for word.
Linguists and anthropologists generally agree that story telling has been the most effective way to penetrate and stick a message in the human mind since minds were invented. Something in our hard wiring actually hypnotizes us when we hear the words: “Let me to tell you a story…” Our unconscious can’t resist letting stories in. And their stamp on human nature is everywhere. We’re all born to be instant, natural story tellers, whenever we have a great movie to recommend, are excited about an idea or have an excuse to give our kindergarten teacher. We’re also massive economic consumers of story each day. Worldwide, we pay a staggering amount of disposable income for books, movies, TV, video games and other media 24/7–enough to prove Robert McKee’s point that story isn’t just entertainment, its an indispensible psychic need for people that must be replenished like food and air. Good tip for any communicator…
Which now leads us to the new story about stories.
Stories matter to marketers today, more than ever. But not just any kind. We need to master a super-concentrated kind. An instant, metaphorical kind that the greatest communicators have known for thousands of years; what we now call Micro-Scripts.
What’s a Micro-Script and why do we need it?
A Micro-Script is a very short set of words, usually a sentence or less, that people not only like to remember, they like to repeat. They are not just sound bites, they are story bites. They always contain a metaphor or rhythmic words; and they work instantly because they trigger full stories, or they connect with pre-lodged stories all ready running in the brain. The following are taglines, bumper stickers, names for legislation or simply conventional wisdom—but they are all Micro-Scripts that people love to pass along to others:
What happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas. What would Jesus Do? Pork is the other white meat. Location, Location, Location. No Child Left Behind. He’s a Flip Flopper. The Domino Theory. The Bridge to Nowhere. Guns don’t kill people, people do. Made from sugar so it tastes like sugar. The Oreck 8 lb. Hotel Vac. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
We need to tell our stories this way today because though our brains haven’t changed, the unrelenting volume of messages and information has. The digital revolution and the social media is a wonderful, democratizing solution for human communication. But if you’re a marketer, it also comes with a problem:
It’s generating 500 billion distinct messages a second! And it has shrunken our attention spans. Today the average attention span is about 9 seconds. NINE SECONDS. Down from whopping 29 seconds a few years ago.
This unprecedented super-clutter calls for the fastest, sharpest, most powerful form of communication we can find. That means story. But stories miniaturized, like computer chips.
They work on minds like magic words. There’s an amazing amount of information in every one. Humans can remember an unlimited number of these story bites. We’ve had the examples above repeated by audiences in India!
And the greatest news is that ANYONE CAN create Micro-Scripts for their brand, their business plan, their platform, their blog, their tweets, by understanding a few simple rules, then simply formatting stories the way the brain loves to process them.
There’s no time give you the practical, step by step rules in a 750 word article. They’re in a new book, The Micro-Script Rules: It’s not what people hear. It’s what they repeat…
But let us tell you why we know you can do it. A great rabbi was once asked: “Can you tell me what the Bible’s about? The rabbi replied: “I can tell you the entire Bible in one sentence: ‘Do unto others as you’d have others do to you.’ All the rest is commentary.”
Maybe the greatest Micro-Script of all time. But the lesson is, if we can do this for the Bible, we can do it for our products, our personas, our blogs, our brands.
Humans need their stories fast, frugal and fascinating. That’s why we need to do it in Micro-Scripts.
Carl Nichols is Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of David ID (www.davidid.com) a strategic brand consultancy that helps companies create focused, crisp and compelling marketing and sales messaging. He can be reached at cnichols@davidID.com.