June 29, 2017

Telling fibs in your stories

I’m sometimes asked whether the stories you tell in your marketing need to be strictly true.

My off the cuff remark is that yes, they should be true. This is true story selling, not false story selling.

BUT I think there are a few nuances to this.

The mind’s eye is very poor at distinguishing between real stories and unreal ones. It’s better to tell an embellished story that is based on the truth, than it is to tell a boring story. This is how most films and novels develop.

Another nuance is the role of myth. We often refer to ‘myths’ as a misunderstanding, or falsehood. We talk about ‘industry myths’, as a polite way of saying ‘industry fibs’. But proper myths pop up in our cultural worldview at all sorts of levels.

Most cultures for example have an origin myth. The English have stories of Alfred the Great, who fought off Viking invaders in the 9th century AD. Or at least we think he did, history being written by the winners and all.

The Romans had the origin myth of Romulus and Remus being suckled by a wolf. Which of course isn’t true, but it did serve to bind a disparate group of people into a highly successful shared culture and identity.

So the question is, does it matter whether the story is true, if it delivers the intended message?

According to Stanley Krippner, mythology is the “loom on which we weave the raw materials of daily experience into a coherent story”. The deepest function of a story is to lend narrative order to apparently disconnected bits of information.

So, do all your stories have to be ‘true’? Strictly speaking, perhaps not. But the message they deliver should be true.

Rob Drummond

Rob Drummond runs the Maze Marketing Podcast and Maze Mastery. Rob specialises in content production, ad creation, storytelling and CRM systems. He has two published books, Magnetic Expertise and Simple Story Selling, affordable on Amazon.