Long, long ago, in ad agencies far, far away, creatives toiled mightily to come up with Unique Sales Propositions, aka USP’s. In those Mad Men days, the thinking was that all you had to do was claim a unique benefit, real or imagined, for your product or service, beat it into the collective consciousness with constant repetition and wait for customers to come, zombie-like, knocking at your door.
After 60 plus years of mass marketing and thousands upon thousands of claims of “uniqueness”, the public has understandably become somewhat skeptical. It’s becoming harder and harder to get anyone’s attention for longer than a half a nano-second, let alone make a sale or develop any sense of brand loyalty.
As the lines between marketing and entertainment continue to blur, many businesses are using a more engaging approach. They are using stories built around their brand’s experience that show those products and services in context, making people’s lives better, or at the very least more interesting. Advertising used to strive to “Make the Product a Hero,” today the idea is to “Make the Product a Star.”
Marketing Narratives are literally taken from the pages of real life. They aim to “share” rather “sell” the benefits of any particular brand experience. They especially resonate with consumers in this age of social media where branding experiences are reviewed, evaluated, shared and discussed.
This “narrative” isn’t fabricated by a team of over-caffeinated copywriters, but is based on the true life experiences of customers, employees, sales people— anyone who comes into contact with your company. It provides consumers with a “real-world” sense of what your company is all about.
We have a client who is an electrical contractor. Rather than create a campaign about the nuts and bolts of updating circuit boards or the dangers of knob and tube wiring, we looked at their business from their client’s point of view.
Typically every job would start with a call about a specific problem that might go something like this: “My outlets are smoldering”, or “The microwave trips the circuit breakers”, or “We had another electrician work on our house and when we turn on the lights in the bathroom the garage door opens”.
These people weren’t interested in discussing their home’s electrical infrastructure, they were interested in solving a specific issue that impacted their quality of life.
We developed a website/campaign entitled “What is Your House Telling You?” The home page features a slide show of a series of houses each with a word balloon that contains a different “complaint” taken from an actual customer call. (See illustrations below.)
We’ve made the houses the “stars” of the narrative, having them express real-life situations everyone can relate to. In addition, we are educating potential customers on how to “listen to their homes” and spot these issues before they become serious problems while also positioning our client as a contractor who see things from the home owner’s point of view.
Realism is the key to Narrative Marketing, it entertains and conveys information in a way that engages your prospects, making them more likely to take the desired action. Tell your story, the closer you speak to their experiences, the more effective your marketing efforts will be.