Story Versus Facts

October 4th, 2011

In the famous 60s TV show, Dragnet, officer Jack Webb made famous a catch phrase for integrating witnesses to a crime.  “Just the facts, m’am.  Just the facts.”  But as it turns out, the real crime is using facts alone to tell a marketing story.

“Story, as a pattern, is a powerful way of organizing and sharing individual experiences and exploring and co-creating shared realities”, says story researcher Tom Atlee.  He points out that stories are more than dramas people tell or read.  They form one of the underlying structures of reality, forming what he calls narrative intelligence.

Narrative intelligence goes beyond the facts.  A fact just sits there, but stories – well crafted and well delivered – spread.

Marketing guru Seth Godin agrees in his own blog:

The facts

A statement of fact is insufficient and often not even necessary to persuade someone of your point of view.

Politicians, non-profits and most of all, amateur marketers believe that all they need to do to win the day is to recite a fact. You’re playing Monopoly and you say, “I’ll trade you Illinois for Connecticut.” The other person refuses, which is absurd. I mean, Illinois costs WAY more than Connecticut. It’s a fact. There’s no room for discussion here. You are right and they are wrong.

But they still have the property you want, and you lose. Because all you had was a fact.

On the other hand, the story wins the day every time. When the youngest son, losing the game, offers to trade his mom Baltic for Boardwalk, she says yes in a heartbeat. Because it feels right, not because it is right.

Your position on just about everything, including, yes, your salary, your stock options, your credit card debt and your mortgage are almost certainly based on the story you tell yourself, not some universal fact from the universal fact database.

Not just you, everyone. Work with that.

Think about your own marketing presentation; how much time and space are you wasting with facts?  Where are the stories?

Storytellers: Leave a comment with a good example of your marketing story.

Posted Under: Branding, Point of View Marketing, Storytelling
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