It's the Story, Stupid

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What!? Your company doesn’t have a digital campaign running? No one on your team handles content marketing? Automated marketing? You don’t even have a Facebook page?

Feeling like your marketing efforts are a little behind the times? Don’t. Yes, technology continues to change the way companies reach customers, but that doesn’t change the one basic principle of successful marketing: Unless you have a compelling story to tell, you’ve lost before you start.

It’s true that the world of marketing and advertising has changed more in the past five years than in the previous five decades. And you must change with it. The onslaught of digital mediums and data now available makes it possible to track which tactics are working and which aren’t along every step of the customer journey.

But don’t spend your entire marketing budget on the latest, greatest shiny object without first honing the story you’re telling. Your story is the heart of your brand. Your brand is how people feel about your product/​service. And how they feel drives sales—or not.

With all due respect to communications theorist Marshall McLuhan, in 2019, the medium is just the medium. It’s the message that ultimately counts. Gone are the days when you could reach your target audiences by interrupting their choice of entertainment or news sources.

Technology has put the consumer in charge of what marketing messages they want to receive and when they want to receive them. So why do they want to hear your story? What value does your product/​service offer them? Why are you better than the competition? Why should they care?

Digital agencies will tell you that you have to be online to be relevant. TV and radio reps will tell you that they still offer the best way to reach consumers. Newspapers and magazines will tell you print is far from dead. Direct marketers will say they offer the true path to success. None of them are lying. They’re just representing their chosen tool in a world where the adage the right tool for the right job” has never meant more. And there have never been more tools, or mediums and distribution channels, to choose from than there are today!

But that doesn’t mean they’re all tools you should use. Just look at the responses to HubSpot’s 2019 State of Inbound report (below), which gathered responses from marketers about what channels they were likely to use—22% of them said None of the above.” Think about that. A quarter of respondents are adding something other than the eight options listed! 

State of inbound

Yes, they could be adding nothing at all and sticking with what’s working, but you get the idea. The key is to use the right tools (mediums and distribution channels) to build your story and reach the right audiences at the right time. And no matter what tool you are using, make sure it’s building the same brand story.

That’s the real challenge in today’s multi-medium, multi-channel, technology-driven world of marketing. How do you tell the same story using an online banner ad, a 30-second TV commercial or a 3-second radio ID? You start by crafting a brand story everyone in your organization understands, believes in and lives. Then, no matter how you tell it, the essence never changes. That’s the true art of marketing today—mixing a palette of mediums and distribution channels to best tell the same story with the greatest impact.

So be excited! There are more ways to reach your consumers than ever before and more ways to measure results. Just remember, successful marketing campaigns always have—and always will—start with one question: What’s your story?

Mike has been here since the beginning. Not the beginning of marketing; that’d be absurd considering marketing as its known today started in the Industrial Revolution … but definitely he’s been here since the beginning of Dixon Schwabl.

Mike Schwabl
Vice Chairman of the Board

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