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Dead Dog: A Story From the Grave

Once upon a time there was a brand …

Another way to make your marketing “ring true” with your audience is to wrap it up with insightful storytelling. It is a fact that people will remember whole chapters of information in the form of a well told story, rather than a dull set of self-promoting words. The best stories place the listener in the position of protagonist and therefore allow them to “feel” everything you wish them to experience.

Stories are shared and passed on, product lines and selling points tend to be forgotten.

We are programmed to take in stories. From the Bible to Fairy Tales we all remember stories that command our attention and stick. Hands up those of you who can remember those childhood stories, almost to the word?

If I said “Cinderella,” most folks could play back the entire story with character description and story arc. That is an incredible amount of information and most clients would pay billions for that kind of retention.

When was the last time you remember a line of ad copy that you were (even) remotely able to play back?

With thousands of competing messages out there, stories can break through the clutter. So are you telling interesting stories or boring your customers with business facts onlyyou care about?

I recently had a remarkable meeting with a Landscaping client of mine.

In delving into their brand essence I asked them for a story that highlighted their business style. Something that differentiated them from other landscape companies.

“We have great customer service!”

You and every other business. What does customer service really mean these days? It is said so often that it has become devalued.

“We built a fabulous fountain in one of the finest homes on the north shore!”

Great for them. Glad they could afford it.

After some prodding the receptionist piped up.

“I had a weird call yesterday. One of our oldest customers called and said she needed our help quickly.” The receptionist continued. “She wanted to know if we could bury her dog!”

I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up as she started to relate the story.

Apparently their client’s dog had died on a bitterly cold, January morning in Chicago, and she wanted her pooch to be buried in the back yard. "Because she could think of no other company she could entrust with this job." The receptionist described sending a team of gardeners out to the location where they dug a grave in the permafrost, so they could place the beloved animal in its final resting place.

The receptionist continued:

“Well those men dug and dug and finally called on the customer to bring out the dog. The lady slowly walked out ceremonially clutching the dog in a pink blanket and gently placed the creature into the grave. The group stood around and said a prayer over the pet, and shed a tear at the beautiful solemnity of it all. The men arrived back at the office and continued to cry …”

As I listened to this story I too was choking at the power of it all. I learned many things at that moment. You can say “customer service,” or you can demonstrate it through a powerful story. You can talk about fabulous fountains but it is all for nothing if you do not wrap it in a message to make the listener care--and even more importantly--remember.

I would hire that landscape company tomorrow because they demonstrated care through that story. Not to mention that it would make a kick-ass TV commercial. (If not a little macabre!)

Story telling is story selling.

Combine a well told story relevantly with a product or service and you make connections beyond your wildest dreams.

The fact of the matter is you will remember the dog story for a long time, because of its emotional tug. Connect that to your brand and you have a golden ticket to their hearts.

Brands tend to spend too much time talking products and services and not enough time weaving a message through powerful insight driven stories.

Stories do not have to be Moby Dick length tomes. Stories can be a quick 30 second TV commercial or a line of insightful copy. Stories make people stop and think for a moment, and in a cluttered marketing world, stopping to listen is what a brand desires first and possibly most of all.

What stories do your brands have to tell?

I know you will remember that dog being buried for a long time.

The End.

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