Join Jonah Berger for an in-depth discussion in this video Telling stories that carry your message, part of Jonah Berger on Viral Marketing.
When people think about making their ideas spread, they often think they need to do a lot of selling. That they have to convince people to buy their product, to join their movement, or adopt their idea. And if they just sell, sell, sell a little bit harder, people will come on board. But what I want to talk about in this segment is how you should stop selling and start story telling. Because stories are the currency of conversation. And if you can get people to pass along your message in a story, you'll be much more successful in the end. But to do that, I want to talk about a particular type of story.
So imagine you're at a party. Maybe it's a get together on a weekend with some of your friends, and someone walks up to you and they said hey, did you know that Subway has five subs under five grams of fat? What would you do if someone walked up to you and said that at a party? Out of the blue, just basically reiterated a Subway ad. What would you think of that person? You'd probably say something like, oh okay that's great. I left my bag over there, give me just a couple of minutes and I'll be back. And then they would never see you again, because no one wants to be friends with someone who sounds like a walking advertisement.
If people just spurted product information out like that, no one would want to listen to them. But imagine if the person did something slightly different. If instead, they told you the Jared story. And many people have heard the Jared story already. So I'll tell the quick version. But there was this guy. His name was Jared. He was in college. He was way overweight, something like 400 pounds. He would pick his courses based on which ones had the biggest seats, rather than which ones were actually useful for his education, or which ones he could drive up close so he didn't have to walk very far. His roommate at the time said Jared, you're morbidly obese, you have to do something about it.
So Jared went on a Subway diet. Every day for lunch and dinner, he would eat Subway. Six inch sub for lunch, foot long for dinner, again and again for weeks on end. Sometimes the cold cut trio, sometimes the tuna subs, sometimes the veggie sub, he lost hundreds of pounds by eating Subway sandwiches. Went from something like a 50 or 60 pant size down to a normal 36 or something along those lines. Now, that's a good story. I told a very quick version of it, not a very engaging version. But notice what you learned about Subway, while I was sharing what just seemed like an idle narrative.
Well, you learned that they have healthy food. So healthy that you could eat there for weeks on end, and not just one option, but multiple healthy options. Everything that was in that subs, five subs with five grams of fat is also in the story. That story's not just a story, it's a carrier. It's a vessel of information that brings along other content for the ride. It's what I'll call a Trojan horse story. We don't just want to build stories. Yes, stories are the currency of conversation. Yes, people love telling stories. We want to build stories that bring our message, or our idea along for the ride.
Craft a narrative that carries that message inside of it, and it'll be hard for people to forget it.
- Word-of-mouth marketing
- Harnessing the power of social media
- What makes content go viral
- Why people share some stories more than others
- Telling stories that carry your message