What’s the Story? — Tips on getting to the heart of it

Whether it’s a feature film, broadcast or print ad, website, lyric, logo, video, tradeshow, multi-cast event,  business meeting or stunt – what moves us viscerally has the greatest impact; hence, the most powerful motivational force.  Somebody knows what our buttons are and how to push them. Somebody knows who we are and what’s important to us – what we want, need, and fear. In other words, they know our story.

We need to know the story of our target audience. How the product and/or solution that is being presented will impact them personally. That insight is the “gold” which enables the creative to be its most powerful and, in turn, compels an audience to think, shift, and act.

Here are some helpful tips on getting to the heart of it …

Every story has a main character, a protagonist — the good guy or gal.  The person we’re cheering for.  Start thinking of the target audience of an event or video, or print piece, as your main character.  And in order to build a compelling story, find out what the main character wants, needs, and fears.

Next – whether your audience is 10 or 10 million, think of them as one person.  This is a trick top voiceover people use in order to make a radio or tv spot sound more personal, as if they’re talking directly to you.

As for the antagonist or enemy of the story — rather than a person, let’s think of it as the problem that creates chaos. The system that goes down – the air pollution that makes us sick – the gas and oil that seem to elude us when we need it to fuel our cars and heat our homes.  Personalize it and it hits you in the gut – always a more powerful motivator than just an intellectual concept. Together, however – concept and emotion are primo.

So – again, you need to know who the main character (target audience) is, what he or she wants, needs, and fears. And, who the antagonist or the problem, is.

Think:  Client = Product/Solution Target audience/Desired response = main character vs. problem or antagonist. Every one of us wants to feel that what we do is meaningful. That somehow we make a difference. Even when the target audience isn’t the end-user, he or she can feel like the hero by bringing the product/solution to the attention of his or her company.  You need to motivate them to do that. And you can when you know the…

  • Main character’s wants, needs and fears
  • Problem or enemy
  • How the product can eliminate or diminish the main character’s fear or discomfort and satisfy his/her wants and needs

The more technological our society becomes the more human our stories need to be.

Without emotion the result becomes one of indifference – regardless of how clever or cutting-edge the design or visuals may be. The reaction becomes: So what?  when we forget to make the audience care.

The tendency is to get caught up with the concept of what a product is rather than the impact it has on the end-user or our society as a whole. We tend to forget to link the client and the product with the human element – lifestyle, hopes, wishes, and dreams. By asking questions that will reveal what the story is – you will bring home the gold that is needed in order to create the most powerful story possible.

Another plus – when you know the story, you will feel more comfortable. You will understand your client better. You will be able to offer additional services that are appropriate. You will be able to clearly explain the story to others. Any way you look at it, it’s a win-win-win. It enables you to provide your team with the information you need to develop compelling creative that will help you win jobs, satisfy your client’s needs, and in turn, create long-term client loyalty.

Here’s an example of how knowing the story and being able to communicate it to a creative team enabled strong creative to be written for a software proposal and helped win the account.

The Account Executive at the marketing agency understood his client’s (let’s call it, Software, Inc.) “protagonist,” – the IT Professional who would be sitting in the audience at Software Inc.’s IT conference — and the “antagonist.”  Because he had asked the right questions, the Creative Director on the project was able to ask him what the IT Pro’s biggest pain button was, as well as his/her wishes and needs.  Their greatest nemesis turned out to be: having their lives interrupted by pagers and cell phones – being on call to put out IT fires 24/7.  They could be pulled away from any number of personal activities – attending church, spending time with family, hanging out with friends.

That was the gold.  The real personal stuff – the buttons to push – the connections needed to immediately let the audience know that Software Inc. “got” who they were and cared.

This is what was revealed: The IT Pro was the unsung hero.  The “on-call” software firefighter who wanted a software solution that would give him his life back. Hence, the gold needed to create an emotionally compelling, strategically on-target case for using  Software Inc.’s products and learning all there was to know about them.

This resulted in a powerful opening and closing video and CEO address designed to achieve the target’s desired response.

Regardless of the scale of the creative needed, you always need to provide a rationale for everything you propose based on “real stuff.” You can do this by asking the right questions from day one.

Now – how do we find out what the story is? Research. Ask the right questions. Keep drilling to you find gold.

In this next case – by asking the client the right questions, the stunt revealed itself.  To be more specific – the Sales Exec. learned that (let’s call it, Software Two) was offering free bandwidth for news groups in their booth at a major trade show. Their objective: Get the “right” people to the booth and have them sign up for the offer.  They didn’t care how many people showed up – they wanted the right people.  In this case, “qualified” prospects.

The Account Exec. also learned that Software Two was advertising this offer over the Internet with Intergalactic newsboys. Ding! That was our stunt.

The creative idea: Thirty to forty people outside the venue dressed as Intergalactic newsboys handing out incentives that would generate activity to their booth where they could qualify their prospects.

Find out what the story is and you’ll be amazed at how the information you need will unfold. If your client or prospect doesn’t know those answers, and in fact, that’s part of the problem – then you can use this as a way of explaining the importance and power of discovering what those answers are and how powerful the results of the event or project could be

Let’s revue the gold: What’s the story? Who is the main character? Who or what is the antagonist or problem?  What is the desired response/result of positioning the product or service as the hero?

Again, the more technological our world becomes the more human our message needs to be. The more direct and personal. It is through emotion that we motivate and transform. So …

Try this out. Hold this simple thought in mind when meeting with a client regarding a project — a theme, logo, stunt, training program, web site, product launch, business meeting, video, multi-cast event, etc.  What’s the story?  What’s the story?  What’s the story?

Need help moving your target audience to action?

Contact Jerelyn Craden at:  OneSmartMarketer@yahoo.ca



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