But the truth is, I can't quote baseball statistics. I don't know which really, really tall guy plays for which NBA team. (NBA is basketball, right?) And the only reason I watch the Superbowl is to see what those fabulous Budweiser Clydesdales are up to this year.
True confession No. 2: I love, love, love those enormous Clydesdales and their canine buddies. Who knew horses played football? Started snowball fights? Rescued golden retriever puppies?
But now that we know, how can we forget? Budweiser's clever Clydesdales steal our hearts and stick in our heads year after year, long after we've spaced on thousands of other ads. And by the way, did anyone say anything about beer? Did anyone need to?
Budweiser brewer Anheuser Busch isn't the only global firm to discover what I call "Story Power." Nike, Volkswagen, Intel, Coke, AT&T, Procter and Gamble, and Toshiba, to name a very few, have all turned to storytelling to supercharge their branding, marketing and advertising. In fact, for the last several years, nearly every television commercial honored with a Clio award--the Oscar of TV advertising--has told a story.
Taking it a step further, some companies are cashing in on what's become known in marketing as "story-doing." Tom's Shoes, for instance, through its unique practice of donating a pair of shoes for each pair sold, has built a dynamite brand story that's put Tom's in a class of one.
"People don't just wear our shoes," explains Blake Mycoskie, the company's founder and CEO, "they tell our story." And no other shoe company in the marketplace can compete with the Tom's story. It's a powerful differentiator in a ridiculously crowded marketplace.
A second big reason advertisers have embraced storytelling is that technological advances have given consumers ways to avoid intrusive ads. We seldom have to read, watch or listen to anything that doesn't interest us anymore. Instead, the click of a mouse or fast-forward button whisks us away in search of something more to our liking.
So the savvy people who work in advertising agencies have figured out that today's consumers will only tolerate content that actually appeals to them. And they also realize that people can't resist a good story any more than a dog can walk past a bone, or a cat can ignore a laser dot.
As author Christina Baldwin puts it: "We live in story like a fish lives in water."
The most underrated skill
Still another clue to the widespread adoption of business storytelling is the growing frequency of articles on the subject in prestigious business publications like Forbes, Fortune and the Harvard Business Review. Written for business owners, executives and managers, these pieces document the power of stories not only in marketing and sales, but leadership, team-building, motivation and performance.
Some of the most successful corporate leaders of our time, including Steve Jobs, Sheryl Sandberg and Richard Branson, have used storytelling to persuasive and profitable advantage. Top-selling business author Tom Peters underscores the wisdom of their approach. "The best leaders," he says, "almost without exception and at every level, are master users of stories and symbols."
And yet most companies haven't even plugged into their Story Power. Author and serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk goes so far as to say "Storytelling is by far the most underrated skill in business."
Power up your results!
In my experience, I've found that most transformational entrepreneurs are barely aware of the value of storytelling, and few are skilled in story strategy. Yet no one is better poised to benefit from sharing their signature stories!
Most service-driven entrepreneurs--and probably you, too--have chosen their work because of some life experience that triggered a desire to serve in a particular area. That life experience is your story. Tell it well, and power up your business results!