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Tell Me a Story

By: Samantha VanSchoick

Storytelling is the core of all communication, including marketing. This idea isn’t innovative, people have been talking about it for a looooong time. Consider signage – up until the late 19th Century, business owners could not assume that their potential patrons could read the names of their shops as they walked the streets. The solution at the time was to have intricate ironwork signs telling a pictorial story of what you could find inside.

The image above shows a sign from an upscale wine shop in early 19th Century Paris. Instead of simply illustrating grapes and bottles (probably the cheaper, easier, faster sign to make), this work tells the passerby a story. The hero, relaxing on his cannon, holds up a glass, no doubt filled with wine from one of the bottles at his feet, about to enjoy a tasty glass of victory. The subtext being, victory is available for purchase here.  The signage implies a promise – the promise that you can come inside, purchase this wine, and play the part of the triumphant knight.

I don’t know about you, but I’m buying that wine.

Many professional services firms make the mistake of positioning the product as the hero, when the buyer should be. Let’s pretend there is a firm whose mission is “to create better spaces for humans.” What are the odds that when you click through the projects on that website you see any humans? Probably some teeny, tiny, blurry humans, here or there. But no humans I could imagine being (though, I will cop to having played the part of the blurry human a time or two or three). 

Imagine if instead when you get to the website, you were actually able to meet some of the humans that use the space they designed. You click through images that show the humans up close, personal, and real. Since we aren’t in the early 19th Century, the images are paired with quotes (maybe even a video!), and allow the viewer to imagine, “that could be me.”

It probably wouldn’t be the cheapest, fastest, or easiest way to execute your marketing, but it might be the most compelling. I don’t know about you, but I’d buy that professional service.  

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