Marketing to Women: The Power of Storytelling from Kurt Vonnegut
April 21, 2014 § Leave a comment
Stories are the playbook for life. Stories are the way we teach, the way we communicate, the way we entertain, and the way we impart value. Some marketers have known the value of story for many years. Researchers tell us that a story is the only way to activate parts of the brain so that a listener turns the story into their own idea and experience. Those of us who know the iconic J. Peterman catalogues read them for the mesmerizing value of their stories about where their exotic products were discovered and the effect of wearing their products.
Recently, as a literary & anthropological experiment, Rob Walker and Joshua Glenn decided to see if they could resell cheap knickknacks (avg. cost $1.25) on eBay and turn a significant profit by adding personal stories to the item descriptions. Their hypothesis was that creative stories would increase the perceived value of each object and create an incremental profit on each item sold. With the addition of colorful anecdotes, their $129 purchase of thrift store items was sold for nearly $8,000.
The Harvard Business Review reminded us of the power of the story as told by Kurt Vonnegut. It seems that Vonnegut devoted his master’s thesis at the University of Chicago to studying the shapes of stories. Vonnegut not only exhibits a great understanding of story, but is an entertaining storyteller. He tells us there are basically three types of stories that we humans find irresistible. The three stories are Boy Gets Girl, Man in Hole and Cinderella. He tells his audience that the Cinderella story is “the most popular story in our Western civilization. Every time it’s retold somebody makes another million dollars. You’re welcome to do it.”
What you see in this short film is the endless fascination that the human mind has for story. As marketers, we need to be students of Vonnegut and the story, and make all our marketing a powerful story for consumers.