Shifting from Information to Imagination to Transform Your Business

Entrepreneurs and organizations with ample money to spend on marketing communications are quickly moving away from standard, boring mass media marketing tactics. Instead, these marketing moguls are spending their creative energies and marketing dollars on programs that are designed to capture attention and create buzz.

Let me give you a couple of imagination-filled examples…

A few years ago, Half.com was created to sell products at half price. The company’s founders created the company with the hope of selling it quickly and turning a nice profit.

Their first buzz venture was to convince the town of Halfway, Oregon to change their name to Half.com, Oregon. The name change received media exposure from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and the Today Show…and then they moved on to their next buzz adventure.

Recognizing that students were their prime target, the Internet company placed urinal pads in the urinals of men’s dormitories throughout Manhattan. The pads simply said, “Don’t piss away half your money, go to Half.com.”

The Half.com site received millions of hits from the Manhattan students. Shortly after these two attention-grabbing events, Half.com was bought out by Ebay.com for 350 million dollars…a direct result of this brilliant creation of buzz.

The Half.com entrepreneurs are to be admired for their unusual thinking that enabled them to create buzz, grab attention, and gain mind share. As Oscar Wilde once said, “There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “I don’t have millions of dollars to spend in an effort to capture media attention. Nor do I have any desire to convince a community to change their name or to print urinal pads. But wait, there’s a simpler way for you, and other entrepreneurs, to stand out in our cluttered marketplace. It’s called storytelling.

Stories are memorable. A story is like providing a listener with mental software that they can play over and over in their minds.

Stories are easily repeated. Marketing guru Seth Godin says, “Stories (not ideas, not features, not benefits) are what spread from person to person.” The most effective marketing strategy we can utilize is the customer referral which is a direct result of stories spreading from person to person.

Stories provide you with a competitive edge. In the information age filed with data and clutter, it’s the unique stories that stand out because they are so rare. Stories are the most powerful, most underutilized tool for creating a competitive edge. 

Stories can give you added credibility. Well-selected, well-crafted stories convince an audience that the speaker knows what he or she is talking about and establishes the storyteller as a respected expert.

Stories can win over resistant prospects. If you’re proposing a product or service and your prospect isn’t “buying it”, tell them a story that paints a picture of how the product or service has been used successfully.

Is there a future in storytelling? I think author Daniel Pink says it best, “The last few decades belong to a certain kind of person with a certain kind of mind…computer programmers who could crank code, lawyers who could crank contracts, MBA’s who could crank numbers. But, the keys to the future are changing hands. The future belongs to a very different kind of mind…creators, inventors, designers, storytellers, big picture thinkers who will now reap society’s richest rewards and greatest joys.”

If you want to gain market share, if you want to be remembered and respected, if you want to make a lasting difference and be a catalyst for meaningful change; start telling stories.