By Bev Burgess, SVP ITSMA Europe, firstname.lastname@example.org and Vincent Rousselet, VP Market Insight and Strategy, Amdocs
When Tim Cook emerged onto the stage of the Flint Center for Performing Arts in September 2015, he was about to tell not just one, but two stories. The first one was overtly in support of the day’s launches: the iPhone 6, iWatch, and Apple Pay. The other was the continuation of Apple’s story, a narrative started by Steve Jobs and running ever since.
Why is storytelling such a powerful technique? Stories reach three distinct parts of the human brain, directly connecting with our instincts, emotions, and higher-order, rational thinking. Over thousands of years of evolution, our brains have been wired to communicate in this way: stories turn us on.
Truth is, a war for the attention of buyers is being waged. Every minute of every day we create 204 million email messages, 684,000 bits of content shared on Facebook, 100,000 tweets, and 48 hours of new YouTube videos. And this only keeps growing.
Because storytelling engages audiences emotionally, it can help win this battle for attention. No surprise that, from HP to BT, from Telefonica to Orange Business Services, from Hitachi to Amdocs, an increasing number of organisations, having observed the effectiveness of storytelling in B2C, now deploy the technique in B2B markets.
In fact, in ITSMA’s 2014 Budget and Trends Survey, when asked about essential skills for the future marketing organisation, 53% of senior B2B marketing executives surveyed put storytelling at the top of the list, on par with leadership skills (51%) and ahead of data analytics (36%). Sadly, storytelling is the third most difficult skill to find, behind data analytics and subject matter expertise, according to ITSMA’s 2014 Marketing Talent Survey.
“Storytelling is the art of simplifying the complex,” says Chris Williams, head of global marketing at Amdocs, a global software and services company. “That gets harder to do the bigger a company becomes and that’s the reason we’re launching a new company-wide program that puts the art of storytelling at the very center of our marketing strategy and culture.”
So, how do marketers go about creating stories? Simply put, stories have three components:
• A plot or storyline: this is the essence of the story, which, according to experts, can be articulated in as few as six words.
• A story—or narrative—arc: starting with an opening scene, following various crises including a point of no-return, reaching a climax and finishing with the dénouement, the arc is the journey you are taking the audience on. Think Steve Job’s 2005 commencement speech in Stanford.
• A cast of characters, with predetermined roles: A hero and a villain is a good start. When they are joined by other archetypes, the story becomes more engaging. As part of its Rock Stars campaign, Intel put forward the co-inventor of the USB, as one of its heroes.
Apple may for now remain the best storyteller around, but it is clear many B2B marketers are catching up on the act.
This blog post is an extract from a longer article originally published in the 2014-15 Winter edition of Market Leader, the magazine of the UK Marketing Society