The Storytelling Imperative for Marketing Research

 “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Maya Angelou

Why do you conduct marketing research? Is it to uncover insights? To drive data-driven, fact-based solutions? Both are good reasons, but masterful storytelling focused on your key internal clients is equally, if not more important.

Stories that make insights come alive, brimming with human truth, energy and emotion. Stories that won’t be easily forgotten.

Because at the end of the day, do facts matter? There were hundreds of pages of detailed, thoughtful, fact-based (mostly) policies on On the other side was a highly flawed candidate who reminded us of his shortcomings every day of the campaign. But he stood for something that was easily communicated in four simple words: “Make America Great Again.” Hillary Clinton, who had her own trust likeability and trust issues to overcome, compensated by directing voters down in the policy weeds, failing miserably in laddering up to a core aspiration that was relevant and motivating.

One candidate told a compelling story of American decline and redemption, touching on the raw emotions of those who feel that they’ve been left behind.

The other relied on a logical, reasoned, fact-based approach. We all know how that turned out.

Yet another post-mortem on the election may be the last thing we need, but this story, one that clearly demonstrates the benefits of storytelling, is too important for marketers and insights professionals to ignore.

Are your research reports a collection of “findings” or “insights” with some recommendations attached? The marketing version of Or do they embrace a compelling narrative, one that not only reveals human truth, but one that does so in an unforgettable way?

Great research should always tell you something you don’t already know, uncovering insights and making sense of them. A great researcher will then leverage those insights to develop recommendations that clearly lay out the strategies and tactics to move the sales needle.

But that’s just the ante to get into the game. Storytelling will make the research come to life in an unforgettable way. And that’s what’s critical for your top management, who needs to endorse the marketing plans on which the research is based, and for everyone that needs to execute the strategy, from your internal sales and marketing people to all of your communications agencies. It’s not just consumers who make emotionally based decisions. As smart and analytical as they may be, so do your colleagues. So why limit the use of storytelling to consumers? Your colleagues will perform exponentially better if they’re truly “feeling” the research on a visceral level. Before you get to the consumer, you want to get your team fired up and all pulling in the same direction, not inspired simply by facts and insights, but by an irresistible narrative.

Finding out “interesting stuff” is never enough. It’s what your business and marketing partners actually do with that stuff. A great story will inspire them and send them off in the right direction, while a presentation deck will languish in the cloud.

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