[Story Sells] When You Have No Story To Tell

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I know what you’re thinking.

“Yeah, yeah, stories sell, blah, blah blah …

“… but I have no story.

“No earth-shattering One-Legged Golfer origin story.

“No life-changing testimonials.

“So … I guess that means I leave the storytelling juice to the lucky ones … right?”

Not so fast, amigo.

I learned this well on a recent Chief Chat where the guest was Ben Settle.

Ben kinda knows a thing or two about stories and selling.

If you read his email newsletter, you’ll see how often he uses a story to introduce an email.

Some of these stories will be indeed yarns about a marketing success, mayhaps from a glowing testimonial.

(Or a radioactive one, spewing hate — those make excellent fodder for El Benbow.)

But it might just as well be from a personal anecdote, maybe about his love life … or from a beloved movie, like the Dark Knight.

Stories that have seemingly nothing to do with his marketing product at all.

But these stories work.

I call ’em “Theme” stories rather than “Experience” stories — because they echo the theme of your product — not necessarily the literal experience of the product creator or customers.

I asked Ben about these “other” kinds of stories on the Copy Chief call, and he expounded on the idea.

Copy Chief members can see it here.

(You can also read more in Chapter 3 of Ben’s cheat sheet on copywriting, Crypto Copywriting Secrets, in chapter:6 stories, section Historical.)

On the Chief Chat, Ben said these “theme” stories can sell just as well or better as traditional, “experience” stories.

(They feed a need for entertainment, while selling the concept of the product at the same time.)

One excellent example comes from the scribbles of Gary Halbert.

One of Halbert’s famous headlines is “The Amazing Health Secret Of The Oldest Person In The World!”

That’s a hook that will get your attention.

And then, in a ballsy move, Halbert spends a fifth of the advertisement telling the story of Thomas Parr, the oldest man in history. (Yeah, plenty of dispute about that … but it is in the English historical record.)

Heck, the copy even spends time waxing on about Westminster Abbey, the place where Thomas was interred. Even though that has nothing to do with the product — but it sets the mood.

Halbert knew to take his time to tell the story.

And only at the end of the story do we get the bridge — the connecting theme — that this oldster was examined at death and was pronounced to have a completely clean colon.

Then, the transition to the importance of a clean colon … and only then does the copy introduce the product, a supplement for healthy colons.

Now, Thomas Parr didn’t pop a colon cleanse pill. Didn’t even do anything in his life that the colon supplement does — so there’s no similar mechanism.

Nope – old Tom Parr just lived a long time … and had a clean colon.

But it is a completely sensational story that is thematically related to the product.

Bottom line? It pulls you in.

(And does it without screaming “I’m an ad! Buy me! Buy me!”)

The MORAL

Don’t have a story? Do a little research, and find a captivating story that matches the “theme” of the product.

 Want to join Scott and all the other story junkies inside Copy Chief? Get instant access at that big box to the right that says INSIDER.

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Scott McKinstry
Scott McKinstry
Scott McKinstry is a direct response copywriter who specializes in telling stories. You can contact Scott and learn more about using the power of stories in marketing at marketingwithstory.com.
Showing 4 comments
  • John Belkewitch
    Reply

    Nice one, Scott. Always enjoy reading. Was just contemplating this very subject the other day regarding a project I’m working on. This helps reaffirm a few things I was questioning. Thanks 🙂

  • Scott McKinstry
    Reply

    Most welcome, John, and thanks for stopping by and scribbling on the wall.

    How’s the project going?

  • Ross O'Lochlainn
    Reply

    Great stuff, Scott.

    Love this sort of “practical application” stuff.

    Looking forward to see what’s in store next!

    • Scott McKinstry
      Reply

      Thanks, Ross!

      Here’s a preview …

      It’s another “practical application” article …

      A way to tell a story — fast — that I learned in an improv class …

      A method that’s simple but powerful enough that the story architects at Pixar use it to zone in on the essence of their story.

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