Just do it: It pays to move your story from the telling to the doing

Long before television, newspapers and the town crier, our ancestors shared experiences by telling stories. The ancient storyteller had only his voice and words, but if he used the right words and told his story with conviction that was enough.

In our current world we put a premium on storytelling. What’s old is new again.

Marketers and communicators have rediscovered this art, with great success. It’s far more effective to tell about a customer’s experience with your brand than to simply tout the virtues of your product. You don’t have to look far to find examples of great storytelling. The shy kid going solo to prom is emboldened by driving dad’s AudiA winery owner tells how Prudential helped him start his business.

Along comes the turbocharged version called “storydoing.” In a recent HBR blog about this phenomenon, Ty Montague says storytelling through advertising isn’t enough. A whole new class of companies is emerging, he says, that “advance their narrative through action.” While it’s difficult to define the model, you know it when you see it. Your experience with a storydoing company is so memorable you want to tell a friend – or two or three. Characteristics of such a company, according to Montague, are:
  • They have a story
  • The story is about a larger ambition to make the world or people's lives better
  • The story is understood and cared about by senior leadership outside of marketing
  • That story is being used to drive tangible action throughout the company: product development, HR policies, compensation, etc.
  • These actions add back up to a cohesive whole
  • Customers and partners are motivated to engage with the story and are actively using it to advance their own stories
Montague took a whole slew of prominent companies and divided them into two groups – those that fit the criteria and those that don’t – and examined their revenue, share price and other financial metrics along with quantity and quality of social media mentions. Not surprisingly, the storydoing companies outperformed the pack. Think Target, Disney, Starbucks, American Express, Apple, Jet Blue and IBM

My latest fave is Trader Joe’s. They’ve made my life better in numerous ways and that’s probably why I don’t hesitate to share my experience – like when I shopped at a new location and had to ask practically every associate where to find something. Instead of being ashamed, I was proud to tell my Facebook friends, because I wanted them to know every associate treated me cheerfully and I’m kind of proud to tell people I shop at Trader Joe’s.

Point is, storydoing companies partner with their customers to create a unique experience – and customers come away delighted, energized and inspired to talk about it. It’s a phenomenon as old as time, re-imagined and reinvigorated by a high octane fuel called social media.        

What do you think? Is there a brand, company or product that you'd shout about from the mountaintops? 

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