Every day all of us market. Some of us are really lousy at it, and worse, believe the reason for our failure is some sort of intrinsic inadequacy. It’s not. You’re just not good at telling stories. Yet.
Customers pretend that they’re rational and careful and thoughtful about the stuff they buy. Actually they’re not. Instead they rely on stories.
Stories always matter.
If you bought a book, it’s not because you’d already read it and liked it.
You probably bought it because you’d read something else by the author.
Or it was recommended by a coworker.
Or you read the back cover and figured it was worth a shuttle flight.
Or it was face out on the bookshelf and something about it caught your eye.
Even if a story is based on fact, all the stories people rely on to make decisions are blown out of proposition. One story isn’t the whole truth.
Marketers freaked out when the television-industrial complex came crumbling down. They panicked because they had been living and thriving under the illusion that marketing = advertising, and when advertising stopped working, they had no idea at all what to do.
In an Internet world, opportunity for marketers has nothing to do with re-creating mass marketing and creating commercials that can’t be skipped. Instead marketers can use the many dimensions of our media culture to tell more complex stories faster and more effectively than they ever could have using television commercials.
Now we know that marketing = storytelling, and everything an organization does supports the story. So everyone is in the marketing department and a company either tells a story that people care about, or their story disappears.
Stories only work because consumers buy what they don’t need. When a person really needs something, he cares a great deal about the essence of the purchase.
If he’s really hungry, the food is more important than the package. But being really hungry in our society is pretty rare.
Today the world is richer than it has ever before. Even poor people in this country own a color television set. As a result, most everyone has what he needs.
If consumers have everything they need, there’s nothing left to buy except stuff that they want. And the reason they buy stuff they want is because of the way it makes them feel.
This occurs just as often with products sold to business. The myth of product superiority in business to business products is just that. The people who buy for business are people first, and they buy things that get them promoted, that make them feel safe and secure or that give them a sense of belonging.
Consumers care a lot about the buying process. They care a lot about packaging and peer approval and the out-of-the box new product experience. They care about the provenance of the item and the circumstances under which it was made.
Sure, once something is purchased, people care about durability but they care far more about the way the stuff at the company treats them when it breaks.
Is there a connection between the utility of a product or service and the way it makes a person feel?
Of course, a consumer shapes his desires based on what he’s heard about it’s utility from other people. He is excited to see a movie because the reviewer said it was good.
But is the utility of the product the main way people shape their desires?
No way, and that, people are desperate to understand why their product or service isn’t selling better. They always begin by pointing out how good their product is, how much better/faster/more durable it is. They are obsessed with the utility and they can’t understand why the market isn’t responding to their micro analysis of the difference between their offering and that of their competitor.
Finally, stories let us lie to ourselves. And those lies satisfy our desires. It’s the story, not the good or the services you actually sell, that pleases the consumer.