What Makes Great Marketing… Great?

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There are many words you can use to describe great Marketing.

Seth Godin asks brands to figure out their Purple Cow (or, to "be remarkable"). I’ve made the case (time and time again) for brands to be "interesting" and "relevant". Kevin Roberts asks brands to define themselves by creating Lovemarks (and with that comes "loyalty beyond reason"). In the end, it’s all about the stories that we tell (not about the channels we use or the content we create). And how authentic, real and connected those stories are to the people we’re trying to reach and engage with.

Marketing has always been about telling great stories. The problem is that telling great stories is not an easy thing to do.

The reason most Marketers struggle with telling great stories is because they have not spent enough time deconstructing what makes a great story. Ira Glass is here to help. Glass is a well-known radio personality with NPR. He is the producer and host of This American Life, and there is probably nobody more suited to explain the schematics behind brilliant storytelling than he is.

Watch this video: YouTube – Ira Glass On Storytelling #1.

Why is this not the first thing they show students studying Marketing 101?

(hat-tip Paul McEnany).


  1. Great call Mitch. By telling great stories, marketers have an opportunity to relay their messaging in an engaging format.
    In my mind, this is why custom publishing has taken off in recent years: brands are looking for ways to interact with their most devoted brand advocates, and nothing does that like engaging editorial content created independently, but with the core values of the brand at its heart.
    Thanks for sharing this great video!

  2. Reminds of the wonderful essays of Stephen J. Gould: grat anecdotes- leading into heavy science. But by the time you hit that science, you’ve been hooked.

  3. Mitch!
    You know why marketers can’t tell stories?
    Man! I know first hand. It’s like asking plumbers what kind of wallpaper to put up! (thanks Jim for the line all those years ago)
    As a journalist and professional storyteller, I can tell you my greatest frusration was when I worked with a marketing giant and found that in essence you are dealing with two solitudes.
    Writers and the creative folks are the story tellers. We know every story has a beginning a middle and and end. We know what resonates because we tell stories everyday.
    Marketers are too often about brand compliance, brand identity, brand voice, brand tone…….they are about meddling and about inserting their own stamp on the project.
    Nice to haves become must haves……copy flow and engagement with the reader becomes secondary to brand and key message.
    No one wants to be shouted at. They want to have a conversation. They want to engage, to be able to relax at their purchase decision knowing they have covered off their key wants and needs….
    You do that for the most part by creating stories around the object of their affection or attention.
    But the decision makers in marketing for the most part remain on the OTHER side of the brain.
    Writers and creatives are a lobe separated from numerical thinking and never the twain shall meet. Or at least rarely.
    So in their lust for a .00001% lift in response marketers will sell their soul.
    Writers will shrug and say….ahh well, the people we reached will continue to evangelize their purchase decision long after it’s completed because there’s a story attached to it.

  4. What a find, Mitch!
    Ira’s example demonstrates how a boring story creates interest. Maybe there’s hope for me 🙂
    PS Thanks for your great-as-usual presentation at CALU 2010 on Monday.

  5. Why is this not the first thing they show students studying Marketing 101?
    Because in general terms, Marketing Studies are more concern about Sales Method and Numbers than to Message Communication.
    They have not realized that the most important “business” of every business should be communication.
    Great video, great story, great question.

  6. In just 5 minutes Ira teaches his lesson including a great model with his mini, off the top of his head story. In my experience working with businesses on their sales and marketing presentations, the people trained in and committed to marketing are too often all about theory and principles, and not enough about the people who are the receivers. And those who hire marketing people are often bottom-line kind of people who hear the word story and think ‘fluff’. Those of us who believe in the power of stories to lead people to change have a lot of work to do.
    Thanks for brining this video to my attention.

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