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You can have the best product on the market, but if it’s not reaching the right audience and developing a dedicated fanbase, it’s not living up to its full potential. In Seth Godin’s 2003 TED Talk, he shared a powerful statement, “Ideas that spread, win.” One of the best ways to spread ideas is through story. Having just completed the intensive Story Skills Workshop by marketing expert Seth Godin and best-selling author Bernadette Jiwa, here are some takeaways about how storytelling can be used to enhance your brand marketing. 

What comprises a story?

While it may seem like the word anecdote and story can be used interchangeably, stories are constructed in a more meaningful way to include three key components: a beginning, middle and end. 

  • Beginning: At a time where we are at peak information overload, individuals must pick and prioritize what gets attention. With an average of 30 seconds or less to capture someone’s interest, stories must engage the audience immediately.
  • Middle: The middle stages of a story must maintain the audience’s attention and move the story forward. This is accomplished by illustrating the challenge that the hero faces and what’s at stake.
  • End: The end of the story is what the audience walks away with. In order to be as meaningful as possible, it must describe the change that the hero endured, while providing insights on what we can learn from it.

Although the story scaffold may seem lengthy, a story can be as long or as short as it needs to be in order to convey the proper message. The important thing is to ensure that it keeps the audience captivated and provides a takeaway. One of the most well-known and frequently cited short stories is attributed to Ernest Hemingway. At just six words it reads, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” 

Why do stories work?

“The psychological connection between head and heart is why stories work,” Bernadette says. That’s why when you watch something that is action-oriented or thrilling, your palms may sweat and you may feel anxious, as cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, is released. The same goes for “feel good” emotions – when you become invested in the story and its outcome, large amounts of oxytocin are released, allowing us to feel more and more empathetic. This emotional investment is what allows stories to not only reach us, but to resonate with us, causing curious minds to wander back to Ernest Hemingway’s six-word story and attempt to fill in the gap by asking the question: why were those baby shoes for sale? 

How can stories be utilized in marketing? 

Effective storytelling allows us to inhabit what the character is feeling – an emotionally evocative response that is key in marketing. Part of developing a powerful brand story, message and overall marketing strategy is seeing your brand through your customers’ eyes. “In order to understand your story goals, you need to know who your audience is and what change you’re trying to create in them,” Bernadette says. This requires another key component of great storytelling: to be, as Bernadette phrases it, a great listener and a first-class noticer. Next, comes their role in the story scaffold, or “hero’s journey.”

  • Step One: Be a Great Listener

That’s why our marketing process, known as the Orange Label Approach, begins with a deep dive into understanding those that know the company best: key stakeholders and, of course, the external audience. The View From The Field process allows us to conduct a one-on-one interview with the audiences to find out their experiences with the brand, what stands out to them, what – if anything – they would change and what must absolutely stay the same. This detailed process often unearths hidden gems that may have otherwise never come to the surface and allows the consumer-brand relationship to continue to grow.

  • Step Two: Make the Customer the Hero 

As Bernadette so eloquently added to Seth’s statement, “Ideas that matter, spread. Not by buying attention, but by earning trust. Not by reaching people, but by resonating with them. The goal is to get your message believed, not just noticed.” This isn’t accomplished by making the product the hero of the story. Instead, it’s accomplished by showing the customer as the hero and your product as the guide. 

When painting a picture of the customer as the hero of the story, “we see the customer as the person in a situation facing a choice and we get to witness how their life is changed in the presence of the product,” Bernadette explains. We saw this in Google’s “Loretta” Super Bowl commercial in which, “A man reminisces about the love of his life with a little help from Google.” Straight away in the YouTube description, Google positions the customer as the hero of the story and Google as the “helper,” or more appropriately, the “assistant.” True to step one, the ad was inspired and narrated by the real-life story of a Google employee’s 85-year-old grandfather. 


The power of a good story is that it resonates with audiences and persuades, influences and inspires them to take a desired action. Specializing in crafting copy with an emotional pull, our response marketing helps businesses establish and build lasting relationships with their customers, capturing attention and increasing affinity. Find out how our work has elicited response for companies in the healthcare and retail space:

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Founded in 1972

As Orange County’s longest-standing, privately held response marketing agency, we have witnessed dynamic shifts in the world of marketing. Through it all, we have ensured our clients stay at the forefront of communication and technology, driving response and value with every new endeavor.