We’ve all heard the comparison: marketers are storytellers. It’s true. Here’s how I know.
Many moons ago, I was a theatre actress. I studied theatre in college and went on to perform in regional theatres and a few small films. I preferred the theatre for many reasons, but mostly because of the rush of live performance. From the stage, especially in a small theatre, the level of engagement from the audience could be felt. Their energy was as important to the show as our own performance. When the audience was engaged, they lifted the show to its highest potential. When the audience was disinterested, it felt like trying to raise the dead.
But no matter what, when the curtain went up, we found our place in the spotlight and we gave it everything, every time. Of course, we had no control over who was in the house, or in the end, how the show was received. All we knew was to stay authentic in our work and true to the story. The audience, whoever they were, would let us know if it resonated or not. Over the years I discovered this: even sellout performances had their critics, and even the most experimental projects found their fans.
Communicating stories from a stage is no different than communicating the story of a brand. It begins with an idea, words on a page, and a cast who is assigned a role to bring the story to life. The creative directors, copywriters, designers and marketers gather in a room and figure out how to convey the truth of the story in a way that is both universal and intimate; deeply authentic, yet broadly appealing. Rehearsals begin with aspirational and somewhat clunky renderings of the design concept and first attempts at communicating the language of the story. Through the creative process, it is shaped it into something refined, innovative and compelling. A million tweaks, edits, technical checks and previews, until finally, it’s opening night. Show time. No turning back.
Who will be in the audience? Sure, you did your due diligence. Your ideal customer persona is etched into your brain, a targeted pre-marketing campaign showed promise, your PR agency is all over it, you amped up your paid advertising and outreach to key influencers boosted confidence and pre-sales. But still…who will be in the audience? And, more to the point, will they all like it?
I’m going to pose a controversial question: Who cares?
Who cares if they ALL like it? Your job is not to be all things to all people. Your job is to tell a story as clearly, truthfully and authentically as you can. Your job is to uncover the essence, and reveal it in the most engaging way possible. Your job is to do what an artist does – which is to say “create something from nothing” – and leverage technology and marketing best practices to share the message with your audience. The world is full of people. Many of them are critics. The critics may infuriate you. They may teach you something. They may inspire you to work harder. They may motivate you to try something new. No matter what, your critics are just as important to you as your biggest fans.
Trying to please everyone waters down creativity, numbs out authenticity and dumbs down innovation. Don’t do that. The world has enough of that.
The secret to a great brand is the same as a great performance: stay authentic in your work and true to the story.
In the end, you’ll find your fans and you’ll have your critics. Your fans are your most loyal customers. Treat them like gold. Engage with them, invite them to your next show and give them VIP seating. Your critics are your best teachers. Listen to them. Take them seriously. Make adjustments as needed, as long as the adjustments don’t compromise your authenticity. Don’t adjust simply to please them. Adjust to make your brand better. Mindful marketers are grateful for their fans and critics, both.