How To Sharpen Your Brand Message

by Gigi Barnett

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A few years ago, I met a person I will never forget. I interviewed her for an evening newscast.  Lacey was 17 years old with a rare form of bone cancer. And, it was terminal.

She secretly had one wish: to be her high school’s homecoming queen. What Lacey didn’t know is that her entire school voted for her in a hidden ballot campaign. Wish granted.

On the day the school announced the winners, Lacey’s parents and the school staff covertly invited several news reporters to watch the unveiling. They were going to surprise Lacey.

It worked; and, our cameras captured every moment of the event – from the drum roll, to the football stadium’s speakers blasting Lacey’s name, to her family and friends tightly hugging her, with tear-stained cheeks.

But, what is still etched in my mind is what happened when I asked her a hard question: How did she deal with the doctor’s prognosis? The cancer was spreading through her body.

“I know,” Lacey said. “But all I can do is live right now.”

Her answer wasn’t rehearsed. No one had given her a cheat sheet and said, “here’s what you say when the reporter asks.” And, she wasn’t afraid of the cameras.

I’ll never forget her. Why? Because she is real. The challenge she faced is real, too. The courage she displayed…real.

I’ve heard some marketing experts say that it’s acceptable to make up stories. And, if you think about it marketers and advertisers have done that for years. Some continue the practice in an effort to make their message memorable.

But, research proves that real stories in marketing works. It quickly captures the attention of customers. It effectively stirs them to action; and, when buyers hear facts embedded in stories, they retain more of them.

And, here’s the sweet spot: when customers share those real stories with other buyers, that’s when your marketing campaign takes off.

I believe another reason why real stories stick is because buyers know that what happens to someone else, can happen to them as well. No matter the situation, triumphant like becoming homecoming queen; or tragic like watching a loved one die from a deadly illness.

Tell real stories in your marketing campaign. They stick.

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