Truly great stories succeed because they are able to capture the imagination of large or important audiences.
A great story is true. Not true because it’s factual, but true because it’s consistent and authentic. Consumers are too good at sniffing out inconsistencies for a marketer to get away with a story that’s just slapped on.
Great stories make a promise. They promise fun or money, safety or a shortcut. The promise is bold and audacious and not just very good-it’s exceptional or it’s not worth listening to.
Great stories are trusted. Trust is the scarcest resource we’ve got left. No one trusts anyone…As a result, no marketer succeeds in telling a story unless he has earned the credibility to tell that story.
Great stories are subtle. Surprisingly, the less a marketer spells out, the more powerful the story becomes. Talented marketers understand that the prospect is ultimately telling himself the lie, so allowing him (and the rest of the target audience) to draw his own conclusions is far more effective than just announcing the punch line.
Great stories match the voice the consumer’s worldview was seeking, and they sync right up with her expectations. Either you are ready to listen to what a Prius delivers or you aren’t.
Great stories are rarely aimed at everyone. Average people are good at ignoring you. Average people have too many different points of view about life, and average people are by and large satisfied. If you need to water down your story to appeal to everyone, it will appeal to no one. Runaway hits like the LiveStrong fund-raising bracelets take off because they match the worldview of a tiny audience-and then that tiny audience spreads the story.
And most of all, great stories agree with our worldview. The best stories don’t teach people anything new. Instead, the best stories agree with what the audience already believes and makes the members of the audience feel smart and secure when reminded how right they were in the first place.