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Michael Parrish DuDell Headshot

Extreme Storytelling: What It Means for Your Business

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Hi. I'm Michael and I'd like to prove a point. But before I do, allow me a moment to better introduce myself. I'm going to give you two options for an introduction and let you decide which is more compelling. Stick with me here.

Option 1: I'm an entrepreneur. I like business a lot, especially marketing. I've been interested in business since I was a child. Over the years, I've been lucky enough to find myself in the right place at the right time on more than a few occasions. I've worked with a lot of brands. I've met a lot of people. Today I have my own consulting firm. I get to help other businesses. I'm happy.

Option 2: At only 8 years old I could whip up a pitcher of lemonade that would make a blind man see. As the Owner and Chief Executive Squeezer of the most successful lemonade stand in my neighborhood, I felt it was time to expand my company. Recognizing that freshly squeezed lemon juice was my secret sauce, I tried to franchise my business by selling sandwich bags full of lemon juice and sugar to children in other neighborhoods who were getting by on mere concentrate (CONCENTRATE!). But as it turns out, not all grownups are willing to pay a premium price for community lemonade. And so with only one buyer and more bags of lemon juice than I knew what to do with, I threw in the towel. It was my very first taste of failure. As I grew, so did my entrepreneurial spirit, and after working with some of the coolest companies on the planet and learning from some amazing people, I started my own business. Today, life is as satisfying as that first pitcher of lemonade.

Now which introduction is more compelling? Of course you chose Option 2; you're a human. My story is far more interesting than a measly list of facts and data. So why is it, do you think, that so many businesses regularly deny consumers their story -- their real story? Why do otherwise smart and savvy companies forget that the cornerstone of what they do is not actually what they do but why they do it? Most of the time it's because they're thinking too much like a business and not enough like, well, a human.

Strategy and spreadsheets are fantastic; they're important, too. But a story, a real life story, is very often the most effective way to develop true consumer loyalty. For instance, consider Dollar Shave Club -- a membership-based business that delivers affordable, quality razor blades to your door every month. Neat idea, but they're selling razor blades. It's going to take a lot to make me care, let alone to become a member. Or is it? In a one-minute-and-34-second video, Dollar Shave Club was able to tell their story in a way that not only attracted millions of people (including yours truly) but that also caught the attention of investors. The moral of the story: Razors are boring, stories are not. Story beats razor. Rock, paper, scissors.

What Dollar Shave Club recognized is a truth that's growing more relevant with each passing day: as the marketplace becomes increasingly crowded, a quality product or service simply isn't good enough.

Gone are the days when a new toaster created buzz because the toaster company took out a fancy ad. It just doesn't work like that anymore. Today it's about the story, the narrative, the "why" behind "what." The future of business isn't just about innovating products and services; it's about innovating the storytelling process behind those products and services and doing it in the most compelling and authentic way possible.

The era of extreme storytelling has just begun. And thanks to digital media and the rise of the connected consumer, this shift is only going to grow more dramatic. So now what? Are you going to choose Option 1 or Option 2? Will you market what your company does or why your company does it in the first place?

At first, grownups may not be willing to pay a premium price for community lemonade, but share a good story and you may just change their minds.