When I was growing up, I thought creative was drawing and painting. I couldn’t draw. But I persisted. I took art classes. I bought art books. I practiced. I failed. I accepted defeat. I just wasn’t creative.
I’d always been praised for my writing. However, this didn’t equate with being creative – at least in my mind. I couldn’t draw, therefore I wasn’t creative.
But I did like to write. So as a high school senior, I decided I would major in English. Then my AP English teacher told me I couldn’t write. The only English teacher through 12 years of school who told me that. I listened to her – instead of everyone else – because I had a very fragile ego.
I majored in Business instead of English.
Creative or Not?
I wasn’t creative. I accepted it. I continued to write short stories. I threw them away before anyone read them. My husband found one. He loved it. He said I should submit it to a magazine. I didn’t listen. What did he know?
Then I had children. In my mind they were the most wonderful beings on the planet. Smart. Funny. Creative. I found my creativity sparked through them. I used it in teaching them. In disciplining them. In trying to help them expand their own creativity.
And through that, I realized I was creative. I just wasn’t visually artistic.
I started exploring my creativity. I looked back on different situations in my life. I realized that when I successfully solved problems, I used my creativity.
I Started Writing Again
I even had a few short stories published! I started exploring my writing and realized I’d been writing my whole life – mainly newsletters for the Junior League and corporate manuals for employers.
And I freely edited anything and everything anyone sent me.
Then I discovered my inner hero – you know that voice that tells you to go forth. “Just write,” it said. “Write for yourself and others.” Wow. What a concept – to get paid to do something fun.
I explored different types of writing – newspaper journalism, B2C copywriting, and B2B long-form content creation. I discovered my love for researching, simplification, and storytelling. I realized it’s not enough to be successful. You’ve got to have fun in that success as well.
Fun is What Stories Bring to Your Marketing
Four ways stories make your marketing fun and effective:
- Stories are relaxing. When you started reading this post, you saw it was a story. Your brain – and body – immediately relaxed. “Oh good,” you thought, “I can just sit and read. I don’t have to learn. She’s not trying to make me change. She’s not selling. She’s just telling me a story.”
- Stories build confidence. Reading my story let you into my world. You got to know me just a bit. Maybe you empathize with me. Or maybe you think I’m silly. Or stupid. However you feel, you know me a teensy bit. It’s been said, “A story is the shortest distance between a stranger and a friend.” Stories help bridge this gap by build trust and confidence.
- Stories help your buyer feel smart. They make things easy to remember. Stories are like concrete for your brain – they cement concepts together. This was shown by Chip Heath, an organizational behavior professor at Stanford University. He had a class about “sticky ideas.” His students were assigned to give a 1-minute speech about crime in the U.S. After about 10 students’ presentations, Professor Heath showed a short video clip from Monty Python. Then he asked the students to write about the ideas they’d heard from the speeches. Although most speeches had over 2 statistics, the statistics weren’t remembered. What was remembered were the stories. And only about 1 in 10 presentations had stories.
- Stories give people a reason to buy. Seems strange, doesn’t it? That a simple story helps people buy. This concept is beautifully shown in an experiment by Joshua Glenn & Rob Walker. They purchased 100 insignificant objects at thrift stores, created fictional stories around these objects, and sold them on ebay. They determined that “significance-driven value could be artificially injected into insignificant objects. . . The tchotchkes they’d purchased for $128.74 sold for a whopping $3,612.51.” When the buyers now show these items to their friends, they have stories to go along with them.
We love sharing stories. They make us feel smart. They help us feel confident. And most of all they help us justify our purchases.
If you see marketing as helping people buy things they need and want to buy – instead of just “selling” something to anyone – then stories are a natural and fun way to share your marketing message.