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A More Human Model for Product Storytelling

by Kathy Klotz-Guest  |  
October 16, 2013

Humans are wired for stories; we're storytelling animals. The resurgence in storytelling, the original social medium, is an important and welcome evolution for many reasons. Memorable stories scale in a way that facts alone cannot. And a multiplier effect is critical in marketing. Finally, stories cut through the tremendous clutter—much of it lacking context and meaning—created by the never-ending content explosion. Here's where stories pay dividends: According to a recent Stanford study, stories are remembered up to 22 times more than facts alone.

In a world of noise, the best stories win.

From Product-Centered to Story-Driven Content

The most important thing any organization can do is become a storytelling organization. That means elevating your product or service discussion to one that focuses on the human needs of your audience.

It all begins with telling the right stories about real people who use your product or service and not focusing on the product itself. Your best stories are not about your products or you. Your goal is to tell a bigger story that makes your customer the hero.

Customers are doing their own research, and they're asking the most important question: How will your product or service make my life better? If your marketing fails to elevate the discussion to one of change for the better, you'll never rise above the din.

Getting Started

One of my favorite models for getting started with storytelling comes from improvisation—one of the most powerful ways of co-creating stories. It's also that classic and fun universal bed-time story model that you'll recognize from movies. I've used this model as an improviser on stage and as a marketer. Recently, I used this approach in several storytelling sessions I gave at Product Camp Silicon Valley 2013.

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Kathy Klotz-Guest, founder of Keeping It Human, helps companies turn marketing-speak into compelling human stories. A comic improviser and marketer, she also runs a marketing podcast. Reach her via

LinkedIn: Kathy Klotz-Guest

Twitter: @kathyklotzguest

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  • by Felipe Wed Oct 16, 2013 via web

    Liked a lot!
    You are so right. Emotinal bons with customers are so powerful.

  • by Jenny Spring Wed Oct 16, 2013 via web

    Good stuff! Love the simple layout, easy to follow and get started.

  • by Carl Hartman Wed Oct 16, 2013 via web

    That is rather contrived. That is not, for the most part, how to structure good stories in marketing.

    All of our content is written by professional screenwriters that understand how to wrap a story (a term so over used and no well understood) around a product and marketing.

    You don't want to tell the story about the product. That is still a pitch, it is not a real story that evokes emotion. Stories are about the people and the product is secondary. Lifestyle content must be about the lifestyle and not pitchy. Everything you have is pitching a product, its not telling a dramatic story.

    I have a track record on Emmy Award winning TV shows. Real dramatic stories wrapped around content is what I have been doing for 30 years. Story world content is not content marketing. It is light years ahead.

    The real art is not pushing a product. Buick did this in their latest campaign. The product is never mentioned and rarely seen. The entire series of videos and content they did was about the lifestyle their product afforded and the people - and the real kicker, they featured other complimentary products and sold those and never pushed their own product.

    Everything you mention here is just the same old pitch video masked as a story. That is not a story, but a pitch, plain and simple. Pitches don't build emotional bonds, just boundaries.

  • by Ann Bevans Thu Oct 17, 2013 via web

    Great post, Kathy! In my opinion, there's no better way to stand out than by telling great stories. The model you provide is a great starting point for beginners. Marketers should also be thinking beyond product stories (I call these customer stories) and looking for ways to tell origin and employee stories that reveal what their business stand for. Well done!

  • by Joanne Thu Oct 17, 2013 via web

    Terrific article and provides me with a great incentive to incorporate more of this element into our marketing. I will re-write the radio spot that I was just sending off to the station!

  • by Kathy Klotz-Guest Thu Oct 17, 2013 via web

    Jenny, it is a great way to get started, and it works. You can add to it and make it your own.

  • by Kathy Klotz-Guest Thu Oct 17, 2013 via web

    Absolutely.There are many types of stories and product stories can be thought of as case studies. A company needs all kinds of stories - company/origin, employee, product stories/customer success stories in its arsenal.

  • by Kathy Klotz-Guest Thu Oct 17, 2013 via web

    I don't think you really read the article or understood it. And I don't think you're interested in a sincere exchange... Nowhere does it mention pushing a product. This is about elevating the product. You do have to think at that product level when you are in a competitive sales situation and selling a product - what does the product allow people to do better? We're not talking about advertising content here - advertising is a small part of marketing. There are times you need case studies (product stories), employee stories, company stories. There is no single model for storytelling. Different stories do different things. And this model is used in both content marketing and by studios (Pixar) with great emotional effect, as are other methods - all of which can be helpful.

  • by Jayden Chu Sun Oct 20, 2013 via web

    Storytelling is indeed one of the best way to market. The perks with storytelling is that consumers will be able to relate since they can sympathize with the story. The important thing to remember is to talk about the consumers, not about your business.

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