Modern marketing is built around creating a cohesive brand identity, building a consistency of character around a company, and its products and services, that make it trustworthy and distinguishable from its completion. It has become essential that a company has a story to tell. That story can’t be just about what the company makes or does; it must be broader more humanizing, something to soften the perception of salesmanship and relate to people on a level they are more comfortable engaging.

Narrative surrounds people in our current culture. Content of all types is given an overarching story to engage people. This has and continues to be overwhelmingly evident in entertainment, in TV especially, where we expect the writers to carry us on an arching journey showing us complex people and meaningful change. It applies to the news industry, where facts get molded (rightly or not) to fit together to create a digestible narrative for readers. And, in PR and marketing all large brands create a story, not only for their products and services, but also as a narrative to position the Company in the best light as if they are a protagonist striving and achieving to obtain some noble goal for us all.

We are in the age of Story. In Bob McKee’s aptly titled Story he writes, “Story is not only our most prolific art form but rivals all activities— work, play, eating, exercise— for our waking hours. We tell and take in stories as much as we sleep— and even then, we dream. Why? Why is so much of our life spent inside stories? Because, […] stories are equipment for living.”

Obviously, this quote is more applicable to the more artistic mediums of storytelling (novels, films, theater, television), but I do think it lends an interesting insight into the core of this narrative marketing as well. It means that a marketer must understand that the story they tell about their client’s company, its products and services, has to fit in with that idea of ‘equipment for living.’ How will what they do impact people’s lives? How will getting them to buy the product make life better in some way? In the marketplace people don’t buy goods and services per se, they purchase the expectation of a benefit to themselves. So, when crafting a marketing message, this should be a prism through which your ideas can flow and refract: Am I building a narrative where my product or services are going to make a difference for the consumer? Let this true north guide you to your story.