Reason #4 Tell Me a Story
My daughter came home from college this weekend and proudly informed me that she gets, on average, five to ten text messages per day about parties occurring on any given evening in and around campus. I asked how many phone calls per day she gets about parties. The answer – none.
Why? In her world, invitations to parties are merely information. Information is best conveyed via text. “Why would I want to talk to someone about a party coming up. What else is there to say?” In essence, after receiving a one-way information transfer, she has received all the content she needs and there is no additional reason to engage.
She went on further to say that the only time she picks up the phone to talk, is if there is a story involved. While she can either phone or text back and forth to engage in a story, she feels that with a story, she has something to which the other party can respond. Stories contain the type of content where the reaction of the listener adds to the story experience, and makes it richer and more emotionally engaging for both the storyteller and the listener.
Mobile is good at communicating both one-way information transfer as well as content for emotional engagement, provided that it is used in the right way. SMS marketers will tell you that using the words “free”, “discount”, and “% or $ off” are very effective at transferring compelling, transactional-based information that will motivate a sale. In the right context, that type of information by itself can motivate an action.
But what about when factual and transactional-based information alone cannot prompt the desired action? How about when a more involved level of emotional engagement is necessary to motivate a particular action, or for the successful continuation of an entertainment or brand-based relationship?
When the start or continuation of a personal, emotional engagement with a customer is required – especially on the mobile phone – consider the use of ‘story’ as a means to achieve that engagement.
The mobile phone is a highly personal device where most people use it to interactively communicate with each other. And the predominant form of that communication is narrative. “We seem to have no other way of describing “lived time” save in the form of narrative. Narrative imitates life, life imitates narrative” (Jerome Bruner Ph.D., Social Research magazine, September 2004).
So why not use narrative or story to emotionally engage your mobile audience since that is how they engage each other already. There is no behavioral change. No adjustment to how the information is received, processed, or interpreted. No difference in the a priori expectation that they will interact with that information. And most importantly, narrative and story are very natural to every consumer’s existing organic mobile phone experience.
Story does not have to be confined to an aural experience either. The mobile phone is a two-way communication device with a wide range of options for interactive messages from text to sounds to visual and moving images. Any one of them, or combination of them, can be used to communicate the message via story.
Robert Dickman, in a 2003 article published by the Society of Organizational Learning and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, defined a story as “a fact wrapped in an emotion that can compel us to take action.”
What a great recipe for brand engagement. Tell us a story. Give us the facts and the emotions that compel us to take action, in the same way we take action every day – on a medium on which we are very comfortable interacting with narrative. With our friends. With our family. And now, with your story and your message.