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Making Stories Compelling, Memorable and Tied to ROI

December 17, 2013 By Nicolas Boillot
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We all want to write great stories, and as marketers we understand that the best stories often last longer than competitive advantages. But let's face it, it's often hard to find the "gem" in our company tales. But I assure you, the gems are there and often right in front of our noses.

Ben & Jerry's offers a perfect example. Early on in the company's life, as Ben & Jerry's Premium Ice Cream started gaining popularity in and around the company's home state of Vermont, founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield discovered that Pillsbury was strong-arming one of its distributors. The food giant had told the distributor that it could either represent Pillsbury's brand, Häagen-Dazs, or Ben & Jerry's. But not both.

Many business owners, and sadly many marketers, would not even consider this a story. Even more disappointing, the communications staff may never hear about it. Instead, the company would treat the situation as an isolated business problem and relegate it to a sales director or relationship manager, or maybe the legal department.

But Cohen and Greenfield were smart enough to see a David and Goliath story in the making. They mounted a campaign entitled, "What's the Doughboy Afraid Of?" Nearly instantly, the company garnered national attention, including broadcast coverage, national news stories and a cover story in Time. The campaign was leveraged across numerous vehicles and media, and within months, Ben & Jerry's ice cream was selling across the country and around the world.

What tips can you learn from this story to apply in your own content?

1. The best stories are about people. Whether it's Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield or the personification of Pillsbury through the "Doughboy," this story would have resonated much differently if the campaign had been called, "Pillsbury Competitive Practices Unfair." While the campaign presented a business issue and a unique opportunity to introduce a great new ice cream to the world, it was framed in human terms that appealed to businesses and mainstream media.

2. Stories begin when results doesn't match expectations. In other words, if everything happens as you expect, there's no story. We care when events don't go as expected: The experiment yields an unexpectedly good or bad outcome. The boy gets bitten by a spider that's no ordinary spider. The beloved football player is a murder suspect. The giant doughboy is afraid of a tiny competitor. The cute doughboy we've gotten to know is really a frightened and conniving opponent to endearing entrepreneurs.


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