Storytelling Versus Storymaking

Anyone engaged in business has heard about the import of employing storytelling as a means of selling. Stories are a tool scientifically proven to boost sales, and are highly effective not only for short-term profit, but for brand loyalty and advocacy. According to Yesware’s The Exchange, Neuroeconomics pioneer Paul Zak says that, “Stories are powerful because they transport us into other people’s worlds, but in doing that, they change the way our brains work and potentially change our brain chemistry — and that’s what it means to be a social creature.” I would add that social media is allowing us to transport us into other people’s worlds and share our own stories seamlessly. So we need more from brands. As sophisticated consumers with a voice, we want to be more involved. When brands are merely telling us stories about themselves, it comes across as almost egotistical –the “but enough about me, what do YOU think of me” scenario.

In his article  “The Beginning of the End of Storytelling,” David Berkowitz labels the necessary shift from storytelling “storymaking”, and proposes that, “Brands need to be story makers, not story tellers.” Berkowitz, the CMO at MRY, a creative and technology agency, distinguishes between the two by saying that storytelling has a beginning, middle, and end. C’est tout. Storymaking, however, propagates stories, becoming a network for people to connect to your brand with their own stories. Whereas the former can be staid and fail to connect, the latter is iterative and involves the consumer. Everyone’s individual stories that connect them to the brand make up one big Story.

As an example, Berkowitz highlights Coke and its recent “Share A Coke” campaign that, through the names and descriptors circulating on cans and bottle labels, enabled the genesis of new stories and connectors. An excellent example that the author gives demonstrates an application of this type of storymaking:

“One small but striking moment I witnessed was when my teammate Kate wound up with a bottle labeled “Adam,” and she saved the bottle for my colleague Adam, who was all too happy to have it. Before the campaign, they wouldn’t have even valued the empty bottle for the recycling refund. Instead, what would have been a piece of trash wound up strengthening their relationship in some small way.” Coke connected with us in a very personal way, through our names – and it made us feel special.

Stories are as effective as ever, arguably more so than ever, as these seven exemplary ads demonstrate. By all means, keep using stories. Just remember that it’s not just about telling anymore. Good marketing gives the consumer the chance to participate; to move from listening to your story, to making a story with you.



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