Ever watch Cinderella — the 1950 Disney version?
If it’s been a while since you’ve seen it, fast forward to the last few minutes, ’cause there’s a good storytelling lesson there.
It happens right at the climax of the tale (what I call the “Victory Moment” in your Magnetic Sales Story)
The Grand Duke is cradling the glass slipper, just as Cinderella escapes from her tower and rushes to be fitted for the shoe.
Once that bad boy fits, it’s game over for the wicked stepmother. Cinderella will vault into the princess pantheon.
But right before she gets to the slipper, her stepmother trips the Grand Duke and the slipper flies into the air and crashes into a million pieces.
Just when Cinderella is about to get out, they pull her right back in.
(No slipper, no prince, and no escape from evil step-family.)
Stepmother smirks and the Grand Duke cries (his bacon is on the line, after all — he doesn’t want to return to the King without a bride. It could mean his head.)
And then, a magical twist —
Cinderella sweetly offers, “Perhaps I can help.”
“No, no,” moans the grand duke, as he cradles his head in his hands (and calculates how fast he can ditch town.)
“But you see,” says Cinderella, with just the slightest touch of insistence, “I have the other slipper.”
Cinderella pulls out the other glass shoe, slips it on her foot, and suddenly all is right in the world.
Not for step-family — stepmother’s jaw hits the floor as she sees her plans ruined.
The moment Cinderella pulls out the slipper is when victory is snatched from the jaws of defeat.
It’s incredibly satisfying — if you can include it in your sales story, you help create a sense of fullness and “all’s right with the world.”
It’s a simple structure with 3 steps:
Step One: The hero is just about to grasp hold of the goal (after long struggle.)
Step Two: A final danger rears its head, and all seems lost.
Step Three: The threat is reversed … with a Twist.
Now, let’s talk about this Twist. It can’t be just anything, like the finger of God swooping down from the heavens to rescue the hero.
That’s crap storytelling, and it even has a name: the “Deus Ex Machina”
(that’s Greek for “god in the machine” – from when ancient playwrights had their heroes rescued by literally having a god, like Zeus, descend from the chariots in a flying platform.)
Instead, the Twist — the saving grace — must come from the hero itself.
Cinderella saves herself — she had the resourcefulness to keep the glass slipper close at hand.
Now, how can we apply this in a sales story?
Let’s see how Budweiser did it in its 2015 Super Bowl commercial.
This is a branding ad – using the technique Gene Schwartz calls “Identification” (Chapter 8 of Breakthrough Advertising, friends) – and it’s meant to sell the value of friendship and then link that sweetness with Budweiser.
(A commercial with warm and fuzzy feelings, for a product that can make you feel, well, warm and fuzzy — or angry or weepy, depending on your constitution.)
In Budweiser’s story, a dog gets lost because he was trying to catch up to his friend, the Clydesdale horse, who was taking a trip away from the farm.
Even though it’s only a 60 second commercial, the dog struggles to find his way home — he endures the pouring rain, wanders through barren fields … while his heartsick owner searches for him.
… until finally Dog reaches the crest of a hill and looks down to the glowing farm below.
Victory is at hand. (Step ONE.)
But we can’t let him off that easy …
Because just then a snarling, growling wolf appears.
Dog acts brave and hollers back, but it’s clear who’s gonna win this pissing contest.
This is Step TWO – just when victory seemed complete, one last threat erupts.
But Dog’s barking rouses Horse in the valley below, who comes barreling out of the gate with a whole herd behind him.
Wolf turns tail and runs – Dog is saved – and the two friends are reunited.
This is Step THREE, the Twist.
Again, even though Horse saves Dog (the hero of our advertisement), that’s only because of the firm bond of friendship between the two …
… which Dog proved at the beginning, by following Horse when he left the farm. So our hero is at least partly responsible for his victory.
And friendship is the Theme of this Sales story, so it all gels quite nicely … and drives home the message about beer and friendship.
(This Bud’s for you, hoss.)
How about you?
Can you find a hiccup right before you got your product or solution perfected?
These almost-defeats are a great way to set up your final victory moment.
They satisfy our story-minds and thrill us all the more when victory comes at last.
Search for the final dark before the dawn … when your product or solution had to fend off one last threat before victory could be won.
What’s your favorite “darkest before the dawn” moment in a story (or your life)?
Let me know in the comments below. And make sure to …
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