A word we often hear mentioned when discussing content marketing strategies is “storytelling.” Usually it is referencing storytelling to sell products. Although it’s a common word, it’s likely we don’t know exactly how it applies to content marketing and how storytelling can sell a product, a service, or—as we shall discuss—a president.
First, what does storytelling entail? When it comes to content marketing, storytelling usually has the following three components:
- A problem
- A hero (e.g., a person, a product, a service)
Given that this is an election year, appropriate examples of how effective storytelling is used as a marketing tool involve politics. Storytelling has been used in politics since the country was founded.
The examples are based on how marketers, especially marketers of politicians, explain how President George W. Bush was re-elected in 2004 and how President Barack Obama was elected in 2008.
When it comes to politics, the solutions used to address the problem typically involve either “fear” or “hope.”
By 2004 and due primarily to the war in Iraq, Bush had a very high negative rating. Private polling by his own party indicated there was a good chance he would not be re-elected. So—using the three storytelling components—the following story was told to help get Bush re-elected:
Problem: The president might not be re-elected.
Solution: Because of terrorism, 9/11, and perceived threats to traditional values occurring in the United States, it was determined that “fear” based on these concerns would be the most effective way to re-elect the president.
Hero: The hero that could ease our fears and protect us: George Bush.
The result: It worked.
Obama faced several obstacles: He was African American; he had limited experience in politics; the country was economically on its back, and Obama had no economic experience; he was young; and he was perceived as a “liberal,” which ran counter to the views of many Americans.
Problem: Obama would have a tough time being elected president.
Solution: Because his opponent, Senator John McCain, continued to use “fear” as a central theme of his campaign, the Obama marketers decided to counter that with “hope”—hope that we could turn the economy around, that we could reduce tensions around the world, etc.
Hero: The hero that could bring us hope: Barack Obama.
The result: It worked.
We can use these same storytelling techniques to market a client’s products. First we discuss the problem—whatever the challenge facing the building owners and cleaning professionals. Then offer solutions. Many times there are different solutions to a problem, and to enhance credibility, we mention those. However, invariably, there is also one best solution—our hero—and that is my client’s product.
This is how content marketing and storytelling sell.
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