This is the maiden voyage of a series of blog posts about storytelling in marketing. First up is Robert McKee’s new book on storytelling for business, Storynomics: Story-Driven Marketing in a Post-Advertising World. If you don’t know McKee, he is longtime screenwriting guru whose name is linked to a truckload of award-winning films over the past several decades. He’s an astute observer, a precise writer, and is wicked knowledgeable about how stories are put together, what constitutes a story and now, how the business world can put stories to work. The number one reason this book is important is trust. No one believes marketing anymore.
I’ll mark specific passages of the book with Excerpt and I’ll indent so you know where I’m pulling from the text.
Excerpt from McKee:
THE TWO TYPES OF MARKETING DECEPTION
Historically, marketers have driven sales through two types of pretense, one rational and the other emotional.
1. Rational Communication
Classical marketing theory asserts this premise: Human beings are rational decision makers who, when faced with an important choice, gather relevant facts, weight alternatives, then choose the best option. Therefore, to persuade consumers, present your claims in a factual, logical, scientific manner. That’s the theory. In reality, what advertising passes off as logic, is in fact, rhetoric. Science seeks the truth, rhetoric seeks the win. Now more than ever, marketing via rhetorical argument provokes skepticism in the mind of the customer and a negative attitude toward your product or service.
So we get to the problem pretty much right off the bat. Classical marketing theory asserts that human beings are rational decision makers. Ha! I think classical marketing theory has it backwards. We use our emotions to make decisions and use our reasoning powers to justify doing the thing we want to do. So let’s get to that.
2. Emotional Communication
“At the heart of an effective creative philosophy is the belief that nothing is so powerful as an insight into human nature, what compulsions drive a man, what instincts dominate his action, even though this language so often camouflages what motivates him.” ~ Bill Bernbach.
One of the ideas that emerges in this section speaks to Bernbach’s approach to clients. He didn’t talk about advertising but the art of persuasion. ‘Ads needed to touch people’s basic, unchanging instincts — their obsessive drive to survive, to be admired, to succeed, to love, to take care of their own.’
We all know this, we’ve all lived with it, and worked with, and even succumbed to these ideas. The curious thing about all this is there’s a deeper thing going on. That thing says, Paul Bloom, professor of psychology and behavioral science at Yale, in his book How Pleasure Works is this: ‘What matters most is not the world as it appears to our senses. Rather, the enjoyment (or suffering) we get from something derives from what we think that thing is.’ What follows are citations from research and various experiments that demonstrate that our reactions are lashed to the mast of our beliefs. If we believe we’re drinking more expensive wine, we like it more. It works for pleasure and for pain.
The problem is that this sort messaging infrastructure, toying with people’s emotions, is manipulative and is a good part of the reason why advertising and marketing are in so much trouble.
Stay tuned for the next post. Thanks for reading.