Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Stories We Love to Tell

In today's blogging, social networking, web 2.0 world, word of mouth marketing is now turbo-charged and ready for prime time. From his How to Change the World blog, Guy Kawasaki writes about the Nine Best Story Lines for Marketing. The substance of the post is taken from Lois Kelly's book, Beyond Buzz: The Next Generation of Word of Mouth Marketing.

I haven't read the book but I was intrigued by Guy Kawasaki's post. Apparently, Lois Kelly outlines nine types of stories that people love to talk about and promote by word of mouth. Here are the story lines that tend to gain momentum through word of mouth, along with Kawasaki's comments [and mine] -

Aspiration and beliefs - "More than any other topic, people like to hear about aspirations and beliefs."
[I'm not sure why, but I think God made us this way - we love to hear stories about those who aspire to more than their own selfish ambitions, with a belief in something beyond themselves]

David versus Goliath - "Rooting for the underdog grabs our emotions, creates meaning, and invokes passion. We like to listen to the little guy talk about how he’s going to win and why the world—or the industry—will be a better place for it."
[Never mind that David and Goliath isn't really about the underdog but you get his point. It's the staple of every good sports's why we love Hoosiers and why the Miracle on Ice in 1980 captivated a nation. As a GMU grad, this is a great time to remind you once again, of the Patriots' historic Final Four run in 2006]

Avalanche about to roll - "This theme taps into our desire to get the inside story before it’s widely known."
[I think of this as the "bandwagon effect" - we can't help it, we love to get a jump start on the "next big thing".]

Contrarian/Counterintuitive/Challenging Assumptions - "Contrarian perspectives defy conventional wisdom... The boldness of contrarian views grabs attention"
[Thinking differently, challenging assumptions and changing status quo isn't just about creativity, it also takes courage....and willingness to look foolish. Perhaps that's why we love to talk about these stories]

Anxieties - "Anxiety... is more about uncertainty than an emerging, disruptive trend."
[Think Y2K - remember how that story got transmitted? Our sinful hearts tend to fear and unbelief ...and we can't help communicating our anxieties to those around us]

Personalities and personal stories - "There’s nothing more interesting than a personal story with some life lessons to help us understand what makes executives tick and what they value the most."
[Think about how Jim Elliot's story inspired a generation of missionaries]

How to stories and advice - "...people love pragmatic how-to advice: how to solve problems, find next practices, and overcome common obstacles....[but] how-to themes need to be fresh and original"
[Diet fads thrive on this principle, as do superstitions and folklore]

Glitz and Glam - "Finding a way to logically link to something glitzy and glamorous is a surefire conversation starter"
[Sadly, this is only too true - the plight of Dafur got real buzz when Bono got involved.]

Seasonal/event related - "Last, and least interesting but seems to resonate, is tying your topic into seasonal or major events."
[Seasonal: This summer, I'm learning to sail. Spread the word ... and warn all sailors!]


Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

sounds interesting - must admit - I like the counter-intuitive ones the best because those are the ones that make me think

Mark Goodyear said...

Very interesting, ESI! I'm already thinking of how some of my favorite stories and companies use these different archetypes.

In a few of them, you said it was sad that we paid attention to certain kinds of stories. Certainly, we can pay attention to the wrong kind of stories based on anxiety or glam. But I don't think that makes our interest in anxiety and glam are necessarily bad or immoral. (I'm putting words in your mouth, I know.)

For example, Bono knows people pay attention to glam. And uses it to direct their attention to good causes. The internet filter I use at home knows parents are anxious about protecting their kids online. And the company taps into that anxiety appropriately to help motivate me to act.

Every Square Inch said...


Me too. Regardless of the line of work you're in, there is conventional thinking that turns us all into lemmings.

That's why I love hearing how someone challenged conventional thinking and opened up new possibilities.

Every Square Inch said...


Yes, it's interesting to think about how certain successful companies and movements tap into one of the basic storylines.

Yes, I did mention that it's unfortunate that Bono's "glitz and glam" is required to "sell" the plight of Darfur. And, I think to an extent, it really is unfortunate that in today's mass media world, good causes, life/death causes, cannot get our attention apart from celebrity endorsement. It's not to say that Bono and other celebrities shouldn't use their fame for good but a commentary that something is amiss when the celebrity endorsing the concept is more compelling than the dying person(s) at the end of the cause.

L.L. Barkat said...

I'll remember this if I get the unusual urge to go sailing!

All of this other info reminds me of the book I just read... Made to Stick. Of course I'm not sure it really matters. Meaning that the best writers can take the dreariest moments and make them memorable. And the worst writers can take a great story and make everyone simply yawn. You know?

Ted Gossard said...

Wow, ESI, alot of great stuff here! I guess I'm pretty plain and ordinary, though it is good to see how we might better appeal to others without compromising the Lord or ourselves.