Tell Me a Story, Marketers


Marketing emphasizes the quick impression, the hook, all part of the countdown to the end of the consumer’s attention span (I’m not sure if it’s really shorter than that of a goldfish. I’ve never marketed to goldfish.) Six words in a billboard headline is the conventional wisdom. Less than three seconds for a Snapchat ad viewing is a newer axiom. It all makes the 30 seconds of a traditional TV ad seem like War and Peace.

Kimberly Whitler acknowledges the archetypical commercial as she urges marketers to be storytellers, not carnival barkers, moving away from the oversimplification, the bombast, the gimmicks commonly seen in the above formats. The idea is to foster deeper relationships with customers through extended communication. Storytelling does not render standard marketing tools obsolete. Subaru’s “Love” series of commercials is an example such storytelling in a marketing campaign. Content strategy, a major component of modern marketing, is steeped in storytelling as digital communication offers long-form opportunities to engage customers with lengthier pieces and/or series of pieces.

Kotler and Keller present storytelling as means of positioning, “the space” a brand occupies in the customer’s mind. Specific approaches include:

In my work as a nonprofit fundraiser, I regularly use storytelling to connect with donors. The personal anecdotes and marketing communications are akin to testimony. With storytelling in fundraising, the cause becomes personal and specific. The challenge becomes emotional and relevant. The donor’s role in the story’s outcome becomes clear.

Jesus is the Master Storyteller. He wants change hearts and minds and prompt desired action, just like any good marketer. His use of parables allows the listener to place him/herself in the story. He makes complex concepts relatable.

Matthew 13:36-39 (NIV)

The Parable of the Weeds Explained

36 Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”

37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age,and the harvesters are angels.

How can Christian marketers use a storytelling approach to connect with customers? What combination of marketing communications tools would you use in such storytelling?

Identify a marketer that uses storytelling? Is the campaign effective? If so, what could learn from it for future use?

How can Christian marketers make sure their storytelling is genuine and not manipulative?

Biblical image: Lumo Project/

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