Let’s talk about storytelling and story-selling.
Take a moment and click on the image above and read the text on the back of these three bottles of shampoo, conditioner and body lotion.
Storytellers weave magic with their words and transport their listeners to other lands, ignite dreams in their hearts, bring out tears and laughter, desire and rage. Storytellers move worlds with words. Storytellers exist in every age, every culture. In the modern world, some of the best storytellers are in marketing and business writing.
Not too long ago I read two excellent books about the art of storytelling and how it applies to marketing. Both The Idea Writers: Copywriting in a New Media and Marketing Era and Ogilvy on Advertising hammered home to me that good ad writing is really storytelling that makes consumers want to buy the product, or as I like to call it “story-selling.”
Whenever you’re writing for an audience, you’re selling something. You’re selling the premise of the book, the authenticity of the characters, the believability of the climax and the satisfaction offered by the ending. The same goes for when you’re writing copy for a product or an argument in an article. The writer must sell the story.
That’s why I snapped a photo of these shampoo bottles from our hotel in San Francisco. The story on the back of these tiny bottles sold me on the product. I kept them to remind that even with an extremely limited space careful word selection can suggest powerful emotions. Consider Hemingway’s iconic six word story: “Baby shoes for sale. Never worn.” So moving, so evocative, so short. (I love it so much I hosted my own six word story contest.) Also, those shampoo bottles made me laugh. People love to laugh.
What’s the shortest but most effective story you’ve ever written?