The Best Way To Use Storytelling To Create Product Demand
Updated: Jan 23
There’s something about a good story that can move whoever hears it. Story is something that’s so powerful, it’s the biggest contributing factor to our existence. That’s because throughout history, our ancestors relied on storytelling in order to ensure their survival.
Storytelling is how essential lessons were passed down from generation to generation. Lessons like: How to form a united tribe. Which animals were best to hunt for food and clothing. How to build shelter. Which plants were edible for consumption and which ones were poisonous. How to harvest those plants. Along with a myriad of other lessons that were requisite skills for survival.
Author and serial entrepreneur Peter Guber, articulated the power of story perfectly when he stated that, “The way we make sense of our life is narrative. Story isn’t the icing on the cake—it’s the cake!”
And since the goal of every brand is to move people to take a desired action in one way or another, it is imperative that every brand has a great story to convey to its audience. Whether it’s a company trying to convince consumers to purchase a product. Or a foundation trying to inspire people to make a donation. A good story is required to invoke a desired action.
Here’s a few ways your brand can use the art of storytelling to create a demand for your product or services.
Have specific intent
Before any great story begins, the storyteller should have an intent on what they want their audience to get from it and what they want that audience to do after they receive it. Some stories are cautionary tales aimed at discouraging the audience from going down the wrong path. Some are crafted simply just to get a laugh from the audience. But the most effective stories are created with the intent to inspire the audience to take a certain action.
For example, my intent for writing this article is to help and inspire my fellow marketers and business managers to effectively use the art of storytelling to create a demand for their brand's products and services (hence the title).
It's important to remember that the goal of product marketing is to ignite an intentional action. For the sake of this article, that action is to create demand for a product. But your intent should be more specific in regards to exactly what it is that you want your audience to do after you deliver your story in order for it to be successful.
That intent could be:
Getting someone to pre-order a product.
Purchasing a plethora of your products at once to save money.
Convincing consumers to tell others about your products or services after they've made a purchase.
Regardless of what your intent is, always remember that no story can be successful without a specific intent for the audience. Which brings us to the second step in how to use storytelling to create product demand.
Choose an ideal audience
No matter how great of a storyteller you are, your story can only resonate with an audience that's primed to receive it.
Case in point, you could tell an inside joke about a coworker by the water cooler at your office, but if the people that you're telling it to doesn't know the person that the joke is about or the backdrop to the story, the joke probably wouldn't land the same as it would with a crowd that had all of the pertinent information to the story. That's because the audience is the key ingredient to every great story.
In order to use the art of storytelling to create a demand for your product, you should target an audience that’s susceptible to receiving it. You can do that by:
Selecting an audience that's interested in similar products as yours.
Targeting your competitors' customers.
Presenting your story to the audience that it's most likely to resonate with from a psychographic and/or economic perspective.
The best storytellers understand that when it comes to invoking action from an audience, it's not about the author, it's all about the audience. Telling a tech joke at a plumbers union meeting will probably garner fewer laughs than it would if that same joke was told at a tech conference in Silicon Valley. The right audience is everything in order for a story to be successful.
Make your audience the hero
Have you ever noticed that some of your favorite films always have similar plots? There's a character that has a problem (the protagonist), which is usually caused by another character (the antagonist). And the rest of the film consists of showing how the protagonist overcomes their problem and goes on to live a better life and make the world a better place for themselves or others…in a heroic fashion.
But, have you ever noticed that in-between the time that the protagonist discovers their problem; defeats the antagonist, and becomes the hero - there's always someone or something that helps the hero overcome the obstacles that were in their way?
In the earlier Rocky movies, it was his trainer "Mickey." In the movie 8 Mile, it was B-Rabbit's friend "Future." And in the movie Home Alone, it was Kevin's scary neighbor "Old Man Marley" that turned out not to be so scary after all…unless you were a burglar (hey, he swung a mean shovel).
The thing is, most people grew up watching films. And after watching those films – probably wanted to be the hero. And while some wanted to be the villain—no one wanted to be the trusty assistant to the hero. Think about it, when was the last time you saw someone dress up as Alfred from Batman for Halloween?...Exactly!
That's where your brand comes into play. When telling a story to your audience, make sure that your brand not only accepts, but embraces the role of being the trusty assistant to your audience—while allowing that audience to be the hero. That means making sure that your audience knows that they're the ones in control of getting themselves to overcome what’s troubling them and your brand is just there to help them get what it is that they're seeking.
In his best-selling book, Building a Storybrand, author and CEO Donald Miller, stated, "Every human being wakes up each morning and sees the world through the lens of the protagonist. The world revolves around us, regardless how altruistic, generous and selfless a person we may be."
Here’s a fact, just about everyone’s favorite word is their name. No matter how unselfish they are, they love hearing their name and enjoy being paid attention to by others. Everyone also sees themselves as the hero of their own narrative. So, regardless of what kind of product or service it is that your brand provides, there's someone out there that your product or service could help become a hero and overcome an obstacle they’re facing.
Target those that could benefit the most from what you provide and help them become the best hero of their narrative by being the "Red" to their Andy Dufresne (The Shawshank Redemption is one of the greatest movies ever).
Articulate a desired outcome
Now that you’ve got a specific intent for an ideal audience that you’re going to help become the best hero of their own narrative. The only thing left to do now is articulate to your audience how their lives will be better after they take the steps that you want them to take.
I'm sure you're wondering just how to do that, don’t worry—I've got you covered. Here's a few things to keep in mind that will make it much easier for you to craft the perfect story to create a demand for your products. Consumers only purchase things for three reasons.
Those reasons are:
Validation - They want the product or service to boost their social status.
(High-end clothes, jewelry, expensive cars, expensive electronics, etc.)
Exhilaration - They want the product or service to break their monotony.
(Video games, smart phones, amusement parks, ski trips, etc.)
Alleviation - They need the product or service to get rid of a problem they’re having. (Hunger, dirty clothes, weight loss, shelter, transportation, unpaid taxes, etc.).
By knowing that consumers will only purchase your product for at least one of those three reasons, you can now craft your story in a way which shows your audience how they'll be happily satisfied after encountering your product—which will lead to them demanding to have it in order to make their lives better. Which it will because that’s just how good your product or service is, right?
As author Tom Albrighton, so elegantly stated in his book, Copywriting Made Simple, “As a copywriter, one of your most important jobs is to turn features into benefits by making them face outwards towards the reader so they can clearly see how the product will fit into their life.”
If your story shows your audience how your products will make their lives better—the only problem that you’ll have with product demand will be figuring out how to supply it.
I believe that there’s a special art to telling a great story. Great stories can paint a picture in the mind of everyone exposed to them. When used for good, they can inspire someone to achieve things that they never even thought were possible. And when used for bad, they can lead someone to ruin.
As a storyteller, you should always use your art to help others become the best versions of themselves by inspiring them (through story) to take the necessary steps to make their lives better. And if your product will give them what they’re looking for, your story will have a lasting impact on those that receive it and in-turn, it will create a demand for your product.