Stories sell, there’s no doubt about it.
But they don’t sell because they tell people what to do.
It’s what a story allows people to tell themselves that makes it a powerful selling tool.
Sometimes people do believe what you tell them.
But people rarely ever doubt what they themeselves.
Take the novel and film Fight Club for instance.
- Some see it as a story about disaffected men who find gratification in fighting each other.
- Others see it as a glorification of nihilism.
- Still others see a cautionary metaphorical rejection of our shallow, materialistic society.
- And a few recognize it as timeless allegory for the tough path to enlightenment.
Now, laying out these differing interpretations might just lead to a fight club in the comments among fans of the story who think their view is the correct one.
And everyone would be right.
The key to a strong story from a marketing standpoint is to start as deep as you can get.
Tell a simple story that has meaning on many levels, and you’ll allow more people to draw the conclusion that’s right for them.
After they buy, listen carefully to why.
The reason why David Fincher pulled off the rare feat of making a movie as good or better than Chuck Palahniuk’s fantastic novel is simple.
He filmed the timeless allegory, rather than taking the traditional Hollywood route that would simply tell the story of guys who fight.
Everything worked itself out from there.
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Reader Comments (25)
You are absolutely right about why stories work so well. As usual.
I’m looking forward to you getting up to Louisville so I can sit around and listen to you for hours and hours.
The biggest takeaway for me was this –
” After they buy, listen carefully to why. ”
Stephen Pierce said this to me, in person, at a seminar in the Florida Keys in DEC ’03 –
” Knowing what they’ll buy will make you a living. Knowing why they buy will make you rich. “
Yep, Mike is spot on – it’s the “why” that counts – understand that and you’re on your way…
Now The Fight Club – when I first saw it for me it was about nihilism and instant gratification – but the more I’m into Buddhism the more I see it in a different light(s).
Chris Brogan... says
I loved Fight Club. I read the book first. When I saw the movie, I wondered endlessly how they’d pull it off. I was so pleased.
It works for me because it’s just so powerfully rendered. You hit a home run with your explanation on this one, Brian.
GOod on ya.
I am a beautiful and unique snowflake.
Mike, it’s a deal, and I’ll only make you pick up the bar tab. But be warned… I *am* Scotch Irish.
Martin, yeah, unless someone has taken time to learn about Buddhism (I first read up on it due to my fascination with quantum physics), that part is not clear. But if you have, it’s fairly transparent.
Chris, you are NOT a beautiful and unique snowflake! Now get off the porch! 🙂
I’ll get do the tabbin’ if you’ll do the gabbin’ !
I know where the best steak in town is, along with the best Italian red sauce with clams in it, the best fish, the best …. oh hell, I know food. Simply the best.
And as for Chris, I clicked and visited and I agree … he ain’t no freakin’ beautiful snowflake !
Mike, I don’t think you’ve seen the movie… 🙂
That would be correct.
So that makes me assume you made a reference I missed.
BTW – What’s a movie ?
That’s why it is generally a good idea to have some idea behind what you are doing. Be it to offer free copywriting tips or tips on improving websites to Improve the Web 🙂
Abdul Rahman says
Fight Club? Huh, never heard of this movie. By the way,
“After they buy, listen carefully to why.”
My interpretation of this would be:
Know the reason why they buy the stuff by knowing the “why” after they “buy”.
– Abdul Rahman
Abdul, Fight Club was a highly anticipated film that didn’t do all that well at the box office. But it has developed a fanatical following by the people who “get it” (whatever that means to that person) and therefore is a great example of the kind of niche marketing we all need to be doing online.
Jon Morrow says
You’ve just gone up another step on my list of cool people, Brian.
Stop that Jon, his head’s the size of Texas as it is ! 😉
Nick Wright says
Brian, you and I both know Fight Club has developed a cult-like following because it starred the multi-talented Meat Loaf.
Can’t go wrong when you cast Meat Loaf in your movie.
Good point about “people never doubting what they conclude.”
You know, I (along with Bobby Deniro in “Meet The Parents”) truly believe Peter, Paul and Mary were talking about a magical dragon when they penned their classic hit song “Puff, the Magic Dragon.” (me rolling my eyes with a grin)
Great post Brian!
Abdul Rahman says
Sorry for my interruption, Mike, but width of Texas should be 773 miles (1,244 km). Can’t imagine someone’s head THAT big. :p
I love this movie.
And then there are a couple of people who see it for the LOVE STORY that it really is….
“And suddenly I realize that all of this: the gun the bombs, the revolution…has got something to do with a girl named Marla Singer.”
Gerard McGarry says
Brian: Funny you should mention Fight Club – I’m reading the book at the moment. I sort of see it as a combination of all those elements you describe above.
Does that mean that I’m God?
However, Brian – you are bad for my state of mind.
Everytime I visit your site, I begin to regret I never studied copywriting from an early age.
I suck at it but your articles do hit the spot with me. I just need to roll up the tons of advice into my creativity sessions. And this is where I fail miserably – remembering all your advice.
Damn I could be brilliant if I did apply it all………!;-)
Now do one about Travis Bickle and Social Networking! 😉
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