The Power of Story
Updated: Oct 6, 2022
By Carolyn R. Parsons
An attractive man leads a horse by its reins into a barn; a Labrador puppy peeks its head out from underneath a pile of hay. The Proclaimers’ song “I Would Walk Five Hundred Miles” plays, the tempo slow.
A driver climbs aboard a delivery truck and the curious puppy runs towards it, scampering into the back. The door slams: the driver is oblivious.
Tires screech, horns blare, and the delivery truck slams on the brakes. The back door swings open, and the puppy jumps—gulp—right out into city traffic, a long way from home.
Back home, the farmer is worried. He hands out posters and staples them to trees. Meanwhile our forlorn puppy sits in a box, in the pouring rain.
The farmer leads an agitated Clydesdale into the barn and lays his head on the horse’s nose for comfort.
The puppy runs over muddy fields and through dark foggy meadows. He barks.
The horse lifts his head. “Was that . . .?
A coyote growls in the dark and the puppy yips in fear and backs up. The Clydesdale kicks his stall in frustration.
The vulnerable puppy faces off against the vicious coyote.
Then, out of nowhere comes a stampede of Clydesdales. Will they get there in time?
The coyote sees them, tucks his tail, and runs. The puppy spots his heroes, four massive Clydes.
The sad farmer, coffee mug in hand, glances out the window, and his countenance changes. He can’t believe he is seeing a very dirty puppy leading four massive horses home!
Relieved, he sets about bathing the journey-weary but happy puppy. There are face-licks and a reunion in the barn!
Fade to the Budweiser logo with the hashtag #bestbuds
This heartwarming narrative is told in exactly sixty seconds, with the elements of a novel or feature film, before we ever get to the tag line. That’s because it has an inciting incident, a character out of their element, emotional ups and downs that follow on each other, sadness, determination, relief, horror, fear, tension, conflict, climax, and a satisfactory resolution. It’s a story, and the ability to tell them is one of the major things that sets humans apart from other animals.
Human beings don’t just tell stories: we crave both telling and listening to them. It’s how we’re wired. Think about how much time you spend either relating or consuming a story. And not just through media. We constantly construct narratives to help us make sense of the world, and we relay our experiences through our stories in conversation.
“My God, Marg, I was at the Shoppers, and you will never guess what happened . . .” is the beginning of many a familiar tale in this province, and we’ve all started a story in a similar manner because storytelling is a fundamental part of communication. It enables us to share information in a way that creates an emotional connection. It helps us to understand each other and makes information memorable.
Making information memorable is useful in marketing. The curious thing is, though, if you can tell a story and make it relatable to the most people possible, it doesn’t even have to be about your product. There isn’t a mention of beer in that ad until the tag line, yet millions remember it, even though it’s a story about puppies and horses. If I tell you that my books are launching to the moon as part of a literary time capsule (true story), you’re probably more likely to remember my name, even if I never tell you the name of one of my books. And one day when you stumble upon them, you’ll put it together. That’s the power of a good tale.
Incorporate the power of story into your marketing. Make your stories relatable, emotional, and funny, with a beginning, middle, and end. Don’t ask people to buy your product; instead, give them an experience that leaves them with a good feeling about it. People are emotional creatures, and nearly all purchases are decided by how a person feels about the product or service and the company that delivers them.
Stories matter and that’s what makes them a powerful marketing tool.
Novelist Carolyn R. Parsons is owner of Cabochon Manuscript Services, helping non-fiction and fiction writers through business plan writing/consultation, coaching, classes, developmental editing, and eventually, retreats. In 2021 she was one of 125 authors selected to have her entire body of work sent to the moon on the Peregrine Mission via Astrobotic and NASA and the Lunar Codex project as part of their lunar time capsule payload. The Peregrine launch is scheduled for November 2022, with the Lunar Codex project launch, in 2023, also carrying Carolyn’s work. Her novels, Desolate and The Forbidden Dreams of Betsy Elliott are highlighted on the project websites. The mission has been called a message in a bottle to the future. Artists from over 120 countries are represented; Carolyn is the only writer from Newfoundland and Labrador to be selected. She is from Change Islands and lives in Lewisporte.
Carolyn can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find out more about Carolyn and her work at www.cabochon.ca.