Recently, I had the rare opportunity to chat to founding father of modern marketing and expert in leadership, the one and only Seth Godin. As a successful public speaker and bestselling author of Linchpin, Tribes and Purple Cow, it’s no surprise that storytelling is one of his marketing fortes.
“Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make but about the stories you tell”– Seth Godin
This quote really stuck with me when I first heard it, so I was excited to fire away some burning questions and see whether Seth still stands by this…and it’s safe to say that he does!
Humans need stories
Seth emphasised that a story is merely the shorthand we use when talking about how human beings think about and process the world around us. We simply don’t process the world the way computers do. For us, it’s all about having a narrative.
“An animated cartoon is not a bunch of pixels on the screen, it's our past and our future and our narrative, all swirled together”
I think this is a really interesting way to look at storytelling in everyday life. As Seth pointed out, when we’re watching cartoons or Disney films, often in a room filled with other people who are pumping out endorphins…of course the story is going to resonate with us.
Creating meaning creates results
We all need to start creating meaning in order to fully resonate with our customers.
“The only way to truly grow in the marketing world is by creating meaning for people”
An example of this that I really enjoyed was Seth’s idea that an iPhone costs twice as much as an Android because the experience of buying one, talking about it and using it makes people feel better. So, I think that’s some pretty good evidence that attaching a story or an experience to a brand or product can really help you to connect with customers in the long-term.
Tell the right story, to the right person
Telling the right story to the right audience is definitely one of the biggest challenges. We talked about the big mistake that a lot of entrepreneurs make with their stories, which is basically… talking far too much about themselves!
“We want to hear a story about ourselves. And you can only do that if you have empathy for the people you're talking to.”
The example we talked about is entrepreneurs spending a lot of time telling their audience all about their personal experience, the challenges they’ve faced, how they overcame those problems and how they reached the point they’re at with their career and so on. As Seth pointed out, that story resonates with them…and maybe their parents, but that's about it! As a wider audience, we don’t want to hear that story. We want to hear stories that resonate with us.
How important is authenticity?
One of the best answers I’ve had throughout the podcast series was about authenticity. A huge marketing issue is whether it’s possible to be 100% authentic with content and storytelling, and the answer is that it’s probably not!...but why is this the case?
Well, one of the concepts Seth and I chatted about is watching actors perform on stage. He explained that when we go and see a show, the people on stage may not be having the best day, they may have problems with their marriage or be struggling with a sore knee…but they get up anyway, perform and we enjoy the show without dwelling on the authenticity behind it.
“We don't demand this weird notion of authenticity, wanting to make sure that the intent of each person is clear. If we get caught in that trap, it will cripple us”
What’s really important is delivering what you promise to an audience. If we constantly questioned our authenticity in our jobs and everyday tasks, we wouldn’t get anything done!
So, there’s a lot of value to reflect on there. Seth’s words of wisdom on emotion and storytelling definitely provide us with some fresh insight into the best ways to approach the dynamic and at times, challenging world of marketing, so let’s start putting new ideas into practise…