Let Me Tell You a Story

We began telling stories 30,000 years ago and we are still telling stories today. Why?

Initially stories were meant as a way to preserve and pass down the history of peoples. Later, they were called “parables” and were used to teach lessons. And that is no wonder. Stories are remembered 22 times more than facts alone. It is why even in today’s world, Steve Jobs remarked that “The most powerful person in the world is the Storyteller.”

Why would Jobs, the consummate business person, be interested in storytelling? Because the entirety of Apple as we know it today was built brilliantly on stories, not products. Think about that for a moment. Or two.

From the beginning, Apple positioned itself as a premium brand. The tech was great – even occasionally groundbreaking or category-creating, but the story they told was the clincher. That story was based on their consumer’s needs. Technology had become confusing and more like a bag of uncoordinated parts than a cohesive whole. Apple determined that the customer they were targeting wanted an elegant system that “just worked”, and that they were willing to buy into a lifestyle rather than purchasing technology. They built the story around that consumer’s story.

Their success should be instructive for all marketers. Too often, we go to market armed with slide decks that are chock full of statistics. Yet, as David Aaker remarked2 “Stories are orders of magnitude more effective than facts at achieving attention, persuading, being remembered, and inspiring involvement.”

More importantly, Lindsey Pedersen notes3, “Story does not invite debate. Unlike the presentation of facts, listeners do not debate stories. Stories circumvent that part of our listening apparatus and go straight through to our consumer’s hearts and minds.” Imagine talking to a prospect or client without objections to overcome!

Marketers spend hours upon hours harping on the importance of “content”. Yet few of them understand that content is stories. Fewer still know how to construct a story that invites their prospect in. Most still position themselves for failure because they don’t understand their appropriate role in the story.

If you want to have success, avoid endless objectives, have a message that resonates with the clients you want, and create enduring relationships you have the right idea. Stories help you get there.


As seen on

USA Today
Townhall Finance
Digital Journal