Selling the dream with storytelling

Using words and images to persuade human beings

“While people sometimes believe what they are told,” says persuasion strategist Blair Warren, “they never doubt what they conclude.”

Very wise.

We would add that what people conclude is often a subliminal mental process.

That’s a strong argument for storytelling, where the advertising copywriter can indirectly appeal to the customer by associating a product with the customer’s core values and deeply felt emotions.

Instead of lecturing to the customer about the product’s benefits and features, storytelling enables the copywriter to tap into the customer’s personal interests and unconscious desires.

We call this “selling the dream.”

By “dream,” we don’t simply mean plugging into the customer’s fantasies, although that certainly can be part of the process. We also mean appealing to the archetypal desires and gratifications that operate below conscious and rational awareness.

Because it is dependent on reasoning, using formal, didactic language is very limiting when trying to strike a responsive chord.

While you may want to give the customer the “rational armament” to justify his emotional purchase decision, “reason why” copywriting only works after the copywriter has triggered an emotional response.

Alternatively, storytelling can be vague, imprecise and even irrational. Storytelling enables the copywriter to paint word pictures, but fog the details, enabling the customer to fill in the blanks with pictures and emotions from his own experience.

Storytelling gives the reader permission to suspend his disbelief. It enables the human brain to process information subliminally, and to resolve the conflicts between reason and emotion.

Storytelling is the skilled copywriter’s route to integrating Dr. Paul MacLean’s model of the Triune brain.

With effective storytelling, the copywriter can resolve the cognitive dissonance that occurs among the primitive, hot-button survival instincts of the reptilian brain, the higher-level emotions of the limbic brain, and the neocortex — the brain’s control center for language and rational thinking.

Rolf Jensen, Chief Imagination Officer of the Dream Company, Copenhagen, predicts that we are moving from an Information Society to a Dream Society.

“Storytelling has become an important part of market strategy;” he says, “whoever tells the best story, and whoever tells it best, will win.”

We agree.

Ironically, success in the new art of online copywriting requires the ancient art of storytelling — using words and images to persuade human beings.

If you’re intrigued about this approach to marketing and copywriting, and would like to know more, please check out my short book, The secret weapon of a master direct response online copywriter: How to position your brand for success, based on the research of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung