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Book Summary • StoryBrand

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A brain dump on what I found interesting from the StoryBrand book. These notes are for future reference for myself, but might be useful for others also.

In short #

The book could be about 20% smaller and had a bit too much “StoryBrand is so amazing” about it. But the main idea is very useful for creating presentations, marketing pages, blog-posts, brand messages, propositions and writing project proposals. You can use it either for your entire company, your product or for personal branding.

I can honestly say I’ve benefited a lot from reading it.

The main message:

Customers want to know where you can take them

You achieve that by writing your content to contain these seven steps:

  1. A Character [usually the hero/your customer]
  2. With a problem/pain/need
  3. Meets a Guide [the brand]
  4. Who gives the hero a plan [precise steps to achieve a goal]
  5. That calls them to action
  6. That results in Tragedy [failure]
  7. or Comedy [success]

So, what’s the StoryBrand method? #

The author proposes to use elements from storytelling to convince potential customers to explain who you are and to buy your products. The goal is not to learn how to write stories, but to use methods from storytelling like ‘story-gaps’, ‘villains’ and ‘heroes’.

The story-brand method means creating a simple and memorable story for your company or product and use this every time you communicate (in marketing material, sales pitches, presentations, etc.).

Keep it simple, direct and consistent: “confuse you lose”

The story gap #

The idea is that you place a gap between a character (the customer) and what they want: “you identify a potential desire for your customer, and that opens what’s called a story gap”.

You have to word this desire in relation to the customer. It helps to talk about their problems. The more we talk about the problems our customers experience, the more interest they will have in our brand. Personify the problems their customers face.

“The most frequent reason for unsuccessful advertising is advertisers who are so full of their own accomplishments (the world’s best seed!) that they forget to tell us why we should buy (the world’s best lawn!).”

quote from another book, Made to Stick, which I didn’t read yet. Seemed to illustrate this concept really well though

Your customer is the hero. (You’re the guide) #

The guide, not the hero, is the one with the most authority. Still, the story is rarely about the guide. The guide simply plays a role. The story is about the hero.

The only two motivations a hero has in a story are to escape something bad or experience something good:

  1. Win some sort of power or position
  2. Be unified with somebody or something that makes them whole
  3. Experience some kind of self-realization that also makes them whole

At the beginning of a story, the hero is usually flawed, filled with doubt, and ill-equipped for the task set before them. Your brand is helping people become better versions of themselves. It’s not easy being the hero. If there are no stakes, there is no story.

In Star Wars, Luke Skywalker was told by his uncle that he was too young to join the resistance, so he doubted his ability until the very end.

which translates to:

Steve Jobs understood that people felt intimidated (internal problem) by computers

About your villain #

The villain should be a root source. Frustration, for example, is not a villain; frustration is what a villain makes us feel. High taxes, rather, are a good example of a villain.

The villain should be singular. One villain is enough. A story with too many villains falls apart for lack of clarity (confuse you lose).

The guide (you!) #

You are the guide. You should show empathy and authority, but the story is not about you. The story must always be focused on the hero, and if a storyteller (or business leader) forgets this, the audience will get confused about who the story is really about.

You see it in a lot of marketing pages, the company boasting about how good they are (they are “we-ing” all over their customers).

The guide has a plan #

Instead of talking about yourself, you help the hero (your customer) with a customized plan. Show them they can overcome their obstacles, defeat the villain and become a better person (with your plan).

Communication #

  • Consider how your customers want their friends to talk about them
  • After the climactic scene, the guide often comes back to affirm the transformation of the hero. Think about showing how your brand helped people and how it transformed them
  • The audience needs to be told very clearly how far the hero has come. Think: who you want your customer to become?
  • Create a logline for your company (it’s a movie’s one-sentence description, Speed is “Die-Hard on a bus”). Memorize it and use it everywhere

Always provide a CTA #

Help your customers identify what is the best next step. Tell them where to click to buy your product. Don’t hide that button.

Make sure to call today. The call will only take a couple of minutes, and you’ll be in our system forever.

Some stuff about E-mail #

The author proposes using email is a good way to communicate with your customers.

A good way to craft each nurturing e-mail is to use an effective formula that offers simple, helpful advice to a customer (”I’ve been using this formula for years and customers love it”).

  1. Talk about a problem
  2. Explain a plan to solve the problem
  3. Describe how life can look for the reader once the problem is solved

I also recommend including a postscript, or the P.S. Often, the P.S. is the only thing somebody who opens a mass e-mail will actually read.

That’s really it. If you cover these three areas as efficiently as possible, you’ll be crafting e-mails your customers open, read, and remember.

Conclusion #

The book is a good read. But, you can also just jump ahead to StoryBrand and create a brandscript right now for free ;)

I recommend the book and method, but suggest you skip the first chapter because the author is full of himself. Also, the author uses the same trick of the story gap too often in his writing trying to leave suspense in each chapter. Annoying, but not distracting.

Note: I did not write this blogpost using the method 😇

graph above not under the Creative Commons license