Facts Tell, Stories Sell

"After nourishment, shelter, and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world." -Philip Pullman

A lot of people are hesitant to move over to a narrative video strategy (aka: using stories instead of facts) because they are convinced that "the facts" are the most persuasive pieces of content they can deliver. Is that true? According to research by psychologists Green & Brock, no.

But let's take a step back... imagine with me for a second your last purchase. Mine was a beard balm (seriously). I was standing in front of a display of beard-products at Target, looking for which magic lotion would solve the incessant itchiness plaguing my face when the "a-ha!" moment came. I realized I'm not a professional beard grower, groomer, or (full disclosure) wearer... so what would I know about beard balm? What would I know about X oil or Y% or Z additive that is or is not included? Nothing. In fact, the only leaning I had towards any of the five options was, well, the cheapest one... because I didn't know why it would cost any more or any less. I'm not a pro.

Do you want to know something funny? The product I purchased wasn't bought at Target... it was purchased from my phone while I was standing in front of the display stand for a bunch of other beard-grooming products. Why? Because I called my friend who has had a beard for years and asked him what product he used and why. And do you know what he said? Zero things about the facts of this that or the other thing... he said, "Well, I use Honest Amish because it stopped my beard from itching". That sold me. And it's what sells every customer in every situation regardless of the product, service, or price-point.

So here's a question for you... was the fact from Green & Brock or the story that followed more affirming of my point?

Let's Put This Into Perspective:
Here are a few things that we see advertised almost daily... Political Candidates, Real Estate Agents, and New Phones (or Gadgets). Check out the table below... which column are you more drawn to?

The craziest part is, more often than not, the "Fact" column represents one brand, and the "Story" column represents another... and they are almost the exact same product! This is not always true, obviously, but the point is that 9 times out of 10, people are drawn to the story side whether it's the same product/person/service repackaged, or an entirely new one being launched.

So, What Now?
To clear the air, I'm not an advocate for avoiding facts altogether; but rather, for creatively incorporating them into the wider narrative of a brand or direction. Borrowing a page from the one and only Daniel Levis, here are four of his eleven reasons why (with some explanation):

  1. Stories Avoid Confusion By Expressing Things In Terms People Are Familiar With
    You can take your product or service (even and especially if it is new, complex, or confusing) and make it relatable, normal, and understandable.

    Picture a confusing medical device or pill that is just released... you don't know it from a hole in the wall. And why would you? You're not a doctor, you're a marketer! However, when you read the true stories of the benefits it gives to arthritis patients, you suddenly consider it for yourself.

  2. Stories Bypass Skepticism and Neutralize Sales Resistance
    The natural condition of your potential buyer is “guard up”, mind closed — afraid of having to think something new… of being taken advantage of… of looking foolish in front of others for making a bad purchase. They’re fighting you all the way.

    But when you sell with story there is little to resist against. You are not telling people what to think. You are simply showing them what happened in a similar situation to their own, and leaving it up to them to draw their own conclusions.

  3. Stories Increase the Number of Times You Can Touch Your Market
    The more times you make contact with your prospects, offering sound reasons to buy your product or service, the more likely they are to do it. But if you send too many sales pitches to people, you will come across as pushy, annoying and desperate, pushing them away from you instead of pulling them towards you.

    Not so with stories. They’re soft, cuddly and non-threatening, allowing you to sneak up on people and ask for the order more often.

  4. Stories Can Give You License To Say Bold Things to Your Prospects
    What does that mean exactly? It means that, through a story, you can often times say things that are close to the bone, highly personal, perhaps even offensive if communicated full frontal, but which allow you to trigger powerful ego-driven emotions that are incredibly motivating to people.

    You can imply your potential customer is a loser if he or she turns their back on your offer… that he or she will be a god or goddess to the opposite sex if they do buy… and other such powerfully motivating identifications… all under the radar… and with total impunity as a seller — very powerful.

Now it's time to build stories for your company that engage audiences and sell!

Like this post? SUBSCRIBE!

About the Author
Jake LeVoir is the Director of Sales at Slate and Main. He has built a career on helping organizations grow by developing engaging video campaigns that drive consumer traffic and increase brand awareness.

Subscribe for more video production news and advice!