Looking for the next big thing in marketing? I’d suggest reading Jonah Sach’s Winning the Story Wars.
Marketers have been hearing for some time the importance of telling a story. This book considers the broader perspective of how you choose to use those stories. Sachs labels most traditional marketing techniques as inadequacy marketing: you highlight a need or want, then offer a product or service as a ‘magic solution’ for that need. Buying something is the answer to any problem.
Contrast this with what he calls empowerment marketing – marketing your brand as something that empowers the customer (the story’s hero) to achieve their objectives. It isn’t new, but it’s starting to gain traction with some far-seeing brands.
As a liberal arts major, I love any marketing book that references Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey at the same time as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Even if you think that storytelling doesn’t apply to what you’re doing (and I would disagree), the book discusses salient trends that every marketer should consider:
- The growing influence of what Sachs calls the digitoral (or digital-oral) tradition – the online community that will share, mash-up, amplify or vilify your brand messages
- The diminishing effectiveness of interrupt-driven inadequacy marketing in a world replete with marketing messages
- The need for authenticity – online communities will see through cynical marketing ploys or brands simply pretending to espouse greater values, and they’ll call you out on it.
Empowerment marketing and B2B
If there’s one lesson that I wish every B2B company would take from this book, it’s this – make your customer the hero of your stories, not your visionary executives or the super-powers of your technology. Your technology’s value lies in what it can help your customers achieve.