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Do you buy a product? Or the story behind it?

I love stories. We all do.

Unfortunately, we don’t seem to use them enough in our communication. I don’t just mean telling stories for fun. I mean telling stories to send ideas.

Great ideas.

Great ideas don’t reach the masses

There are many great ideas that never reach us. Simply because they’re never told to us in a language that we understand. I always wondered why people thought that being a geek was strange.

Why was it strange to want to understand the world around us completely? To know of the newest technologies that could revolutionize our world and make things that much simpler?

Then, I realized that most of those ideas were written in words that weren’t understood. Worse,  they were sometimes written in words that were so complex and BORING that no one wanted to take the time to understand them in the first place.

And finally, the few ideas that did make it through, and were understood, didn’t take the time to explain how they could bring you any benefit.

Why should I care about your idea?

After all, what good is a pressure sensor that can now detect changes as small as 8 miliPascals? Makes no sense?

What if someone explained that you could use it to make better touch-screens for phones? Not so boring any more, is it? These are the ideas that build the technology around us, yet no one seems to care about them.

It’s a huge problem in engineering because it often means that great engineering ideas take a very long time to get to the masses. Think along the lines of 10 to 20 years to bring hybrid cars to market.

Why? Simply because society didn’t see a need for it and therefore no investors saw a need to put money into it either. It was only when the oil crisis struck that hybrid cars that saved fuel became something interesting for the consumer. Finally it fit into their own personal story. Finally they could relate to the idea.

And that’s all that storytelling really is. It’s about someone relating a concept or idea to you in the way that you best understand.

Don’t just provide a need. Provide an emotion.

It’s great if you can get people to relate to something, but that alone doesn’t really tell a good story. You want to tap into their emotions.

The moment that people start relating to your story, they should start feeling some emotion. What is that emotion? Fear? Anger? Happiness?

Take it and tie it to your product.

Take it and tie it to your message.

Take it and tie it to your story.

And that’s why commercials start by telling a story of a normal guy, just like you. A guy who has problems, that the product or idea solves. But the story isn’t about solving the problem. The story is about how that guy feels after the problem is solved. Relief? Happiness? Just not angry any more?

Great ideas don’t reach the masses, because they don’t make people feel any emotion, and feel a presence in their daily lives.

Most ideas don’t reach the masses, but a few have.

The few ideas that made it

One of them, is the green movement. The idea that we should protect our environment, and that we should all do our part for it. It’s a great idea, like many others.

More importantly, it told a story. It told a story, of how our children in the future would never know animals that were extinct. How they would never be able to enjoy clean air with all the pollution and smoke. How they would live in a world where global warming would drown them all.

It was just a story.

But you see, stories have power.

Another, is the story of iPhone. A story that said, if you didn’t get this phone, then you were being left behind by everyone else. It’s the 21st century! And there are millions of apps that help you do everything (even though you’ll only use the same few apps in the end).

It was just a story.

But you see, stories have power.

Or perhaps the story of cigarettes. Why do so many smoke them, even though it’s bad for their health? Because it told a story of independence and rebellion. A story that said if you smoked, then you were a person who chose your own way. You had power. You were cool.

It was just a story.

But you see, stories have power.

It doesn’t matter if any of these stories were actually true. it just matters that it gave an emotion that people desperately wanted. And so, they bought the story, to fulfill their own deep needs.

Maybe it was a story of caring for the young through the environment. Or a story of not feeling inadequate through buying a phone. Or maybe the story of covering your own insecurities through smoking.

We buy based on emotion

Stories have power.

And it’s time that you realize that you often buy something because of your emotions and not your logic.

A product with emotion tied into it will often sell even when another product is better

It’s something that most people don’t like to agree with, because it means that they didn’t buy things logically. But it’s true. And if you stay in denial, then it probably means that you’re that much more influenced by emotion.

It’s not even always a bad thing. But you can only make an informed choice when you realize that part of you brain could be hijacking you.

So whenever I buy a product, or buy into an idea, I always try notice now if I’m actually buying the product itself, or if I’m just buying the story.

And the best way for me to buy into an idea or movement, is also by telling me a story.

But tell me a good one, please.

Simply because I love a good story. We all do.

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