One of my favorite scenes from the hit series Mad Men is Don Draper’s campaign pitch to the Kodak executives about a new slide projector, the Carousel. Don, is tasked with finding out of the box ways to market Kodak’s newest product by making it more appealing to consumers.
At the beginning of the scene, the Kodak executives asks Don if he’s managed to figure out a way to work the Wheel into it (referring to a unique part the product into the marketing campaign). The Kodak executives appear apprehensive and are concerned that people may not be able to relate to the product’s unique selling proposition or worst still, not buy the product altogether.
True to his quintessential style, Don starts off by saying that beyond technology, there is this rare occasion that the public can bond with the product if they have a sentimental connection with it. He illustrates by telling a story about his life, a time in his past and the meaning of the word nostalgia all the while using the Wheel to show pictures depicting nostalgic moments of his own family.
Intricately, Don weaves his story into the product and ultimately shows the Kodak executives that it’s possible to create an emotional bond with the Wheel. The pitch is done within 3 minutes and the Kodak executives are extremely impressed. I’d encourage you to check out the video on YouTube.
Simple yet insanely effective.
Fictional as the scene maybe, it’s interesting to note that Don didn’t use flip charts (I doubt he would have even used PowerPoint if it had been around) or talk about interesting facts or any number of the product’s attributes. Instead, Don successfully used the power of strategic storytelling.
Beyond fiction, I can personally attest, as a communications professional that strategic storytelling works on so many levels. I’ve used it successfully over the years pitching for new business, convincing clients and investors while helping CEO’s to engage employees with inspiring stories.
In fact, strategic storytelling has become an increasingly popular tool for business people and it’s being used by the most successful brands and companies the world over to connect and engage with audiences and target markets that are extremely polarized.
Stories in our brains
For the cynics wanting to dismiss this as just another marketing fad, you’d be surprised to know that beyond the well-crafted narrative, there’s credible research to prove that storytelling works.
According to renowned Neuroscientist Dr. Paul Zak, our brains are wired for stories. His research found that when we hear stories and can relate to them, our brains produce Oxytocin, a powerful hormone that acts as a neurotransmitter that helps us bond with other people long after we’ve met them.
Dr. Zak concludes that a compelling story with an emotional trigger alters our brain chemistry, making us more trusting and open to ideas. He’s been featured in Harvard’s Business Review and has advised anyone in business to begin their presentations with a compelling story.
People really don’t pay attention to boring things
Beyond science, people do in fact relate better to stories than they do mountains of data. Wouldn’t you prefer listening to a story instead of being inundated by facts and reams of information? I know I would. I also know that people like to be entertained, amused, inspired and engaged.
This is why strategic storytelling is such an insanely effective tool. It has the ability to reach people emotionally while profiling your brand, products and services in a non-hard sell way. In every sense of the word, strategic storytelling it is a communications game changer.
Whether you’re selling jet engines or baby formula, strategic storytelling is the emotional bridge that connects you with any audience, be it your clients, customers, employees and stakeholders. It helps you stick in people’s minds and it simplifies complex subject matters.
In Don’s example, he used the story and illustration of his family because most, if not all of us have family members that we have a relationship with and can automatically relate. He didn’t talk about the speed or size of the Wheel or how affordable it was in the market. He simply told a genuinely authentic story to relate to a product that didn’t look appealing and connected emotionally with his audience.
If you’ve got an important pitch coming up for a new piece of business or if you want take your presentations to a level that engages and inspires, I’d encourage you to use the power strategic storytelling to your advantage.
If you’ve had similar Don Draper success in the past using strategic storytelling techniques, I love to hear about it so please feel free to share.