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Thoughts & Musings

Strategies for the Story-less

Marketers have been in a mad scramble the last decade or so, trying to keep up with the pace of change in the industry. One thing we can all take comfort in though, is that for all the churn, one key fundamental hasn't changed: marketing is still all about the story.  

That story can be either real or concocted. The former is immeasurably better than the latter. Made up stories have no resonance, and because they don't, they haven't got any power to move any sense of the word. 

But what if you haven't got a good story to tell? Not every product or company has one. For every pickle company whose owner has a grandma with a secret state fair-winning recipe, there's another that was founded by two guys who simply thought there was money to be made in the craft pickle market. 

So what do you do when you know you need a story but the client can't or won't supply one? Here are a couple of strategies that might help:

Focus on the process. Odds are your pickle guys entered the business because they felt like they had a special angle on the product. Artisan processes? Higher quality? Flavor combinations no one else ever thought of before? Get in there and drill baby, drill. 

Co-opt someone else’s story. No I don't mean steal a story. I mean literally use someone else's. The pickle makers may just be in it for the money, but odds are that at some point they've been inspired by someone else who came from nowhere, was a true innovator, or exemplified a cardinal virtue. Hero worship is itself a compelling story line. It shows humility and humanity. 

Tell a fairy tale. This may appear to be a concocted a story, but there's a difference between a made up narrative and a fairy tale. A fairy tale is transparently fictional for one, it's also a.) entertaining and b.) there to make a point. "Once upon a time" isn't a half-bad opener for a block of copy. "There's an old folk tale that says..." is another. You could do worse!

Those are just a few. With a little thought you can probably come up with a few more. The story lines these strategies generate may not be Dickens, but they have the virtue of being real, and that counts for a lot in the days of the inauthenticity-sniffing consumer.

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