Storytelling is quickly becoming the foundation of good content marketing, and no one knows this better than Skyword CEO and Storynomics author Tom Gerace.
Gerace, who co-authored Storynomics with Robert McKee, sat down with Content Science Review to chat about how brands can navigate the rapid decline of interrupt advertising, the components of good storytelling, and why story-centric marketing is the wave of the future.
Customers and prospects have become harder and harder to reach. Ad-blocking, ad-free subscription services, email filtering, callerID – all of these technologies give people control over who can reach them and when. And people are rejecting traditional forms of interrupt marketing en masse.
When businesspeople hear the words story and storytelling, they immediately think of cookies and milk. But stories shape cultures, change policies, and in a business context they build brands and drive sales… if you know how to use them. Storynomics is an approach to connecting with an audience that combines the craft of storytelling with an economic model that drives revenue, margins, and brand loyalty.
For decades, marketing and advertising have been nearly synonymous. With people blocking, ignoring or opting out of ads with subscription services at record numbers, the ad model is collapsing. It hammered media companies first, but the impact in marketing is more of a corrosive one. Brands that rely on advertising are rusting away. Challenger brands, built with sustained storytelling, are already emerging to replace them.
Advertising worked when consumers were captive audiences. We had three or four networks and no choices. But today, we choose what we watch, hear or read, when, and how. Netflix customers never see an ad. And consider the news last week: Google Chrome ad blocking went into effect, stopping those annoying overlay and autoplay ads that interrupt our experiences. Consumers hate that interruption and tech companies, increasingly, are enabling them to avoid it.
Conflict drives stories. If you don’t have conflict, you can’t tell a story. So you need a protagonist, who wants to achieve something. Bob calls that “something” the protagonist’s “object of desire.” You need forces of antagonism (a villain, a hurricane), that will prevent the protagonist from obtaining that desire. These forces give the story its energy. And then you have the choices the protagonist makes. With each choice, we discover more about the protagonist. Her values are revealed and, as they are and the universe reacts, we gain insight into the world.
Studies have shown that the best way to persuade someone of something or disrupt their thinking is through story. Our brains are wired for it. If you tell a great story, consumers come to you, and return to you, instead of rejecting you. If you give them the gift of a good story, whether a news story, business story or fictional tale, you will build [an] audience. Tell stories the right way, and that audience will identify with your brand or choose to buy your products and services.
They conflate content and story. All stories are content but not all content is story. Story is a specific form that hooks, holds and rewards audience attention. Learning that form is critical for marketers who want to succeed in this space.
We are moving from ad-centric to story-centric marketing. This provides marketers with an extraordinary opportunity to drive the financial success of their companies. But it’s more than that. Many marketers use the stories they tell to help their customers see the world differently, make better choices, and live more fulfilling lives. Putting those two things together is the holy grail.
The world is changing quickly. We needed to provide a roadmap for marketers that would help them transform their marketing approach. And CMOs are busy people. They can’t always make a day-long seminar or a multi-day strategy session. We wanted to make it easy for marketing leaders to learn this new approach in whatever way is right for them.
One of the most important jobs the CMO must do in the enterprise is to help the company discover, define and live by its values. This is absolutely critical if brands want to build empathy among their customers.
Skyword is working with some of the world’s top brands to transform their marketing teams to create original stories that connect with audiences. This takes more than education. It takes technology to create, manage and distribute those stories on a regular basis. It takes access to storytellers, editors, and strategists. Skyword provides this solution, and we intend to continue to solve the evolving challenges that companies encounter when they dedicate themselves to great storytelling.
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