Never underestimate the power of a story.


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This year, more people will visit the California Wine Country than will visit Disneyland.

How a 20-mile stretch along Napa Valley’s Highway 29 went from being a non-descript region of 25 wineries, a few dozen vineyards and a handful of sleepy agricultural towns 40 years ago to become California’s #1 tourist draw today is truly amazing.  Even more amazing when you consider the products sold there are available at just about any major supermarket in the country. No $15 sandwiches or two-hour crawls on an over-crowded highway required.

But the success of the Wine Country isn’t about the wine. It’s about the story behind the wine. When you stop at a winery visitor’s center, you’re treated to more than a few sips of the latest petite syrah release. You get a story to take home with you. You get to see where the wine is made. You get to touch the vines that give life to the grapes. You get the sights, smells and views of the tasting room. You hear the stories of how the wines are made, where the grapes are sourced, and if you’re fortunate enough, might even get a chance to shake hands with the winemaker. And when you head home with that case of Grgich Hills late harvest Chardonnay, you have more to share with your friends and family than wine. You have a complete story.

Try getting that at your neighborhood Safeway.

Developing a complete story around your product is the best way to build a community of fans.

Banana Republic catalogue, circa 1979. Not what you’d find on Fifth Avenue.

A company that was totally built around a story was the retailer Banana Republic. Mel and Patricia Ziegler started the retailer as a mail order company of military surplus items back in 1978. Mel, a writer, and Patricia, an artist, self-published their own catalogues, and pioneered the concept of “armchair adventure,” creating stories around every item they sold. These extreme tales of adventure from the Amazon rain forest or the desolate Australian outback added life to the military jackets, crew socks and pith helmets they had for sale. The hand-illustrated catalog, stapled together on the Zieglers’ kitchen table in Mill Valley, California, soon drew scores of followers, and by 1983 the business had grown so large, the Zieglers sold out to The Gap.

Is there a story to be told about your product or service? One that people would be interested in, that is relevant to what they are looking for, one that would give them a reason to pass it on? Stories are the way to break through the veneer of resistance and to get to the feeling level.

As the saying goes, your customer may forget what you say, he may forget what you did, but he’ll never forget what you made him feel.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Mickey Lonchar
Mickey Lonchar has spent the better part of two decades creating award-winning advertising with agencies up and down the West Coast, Mickey currently holds the position of creative director with Quisenberry Marketing & Design, a full-service advertising and interactive shop with offices in Spokane and Seattle, Wash.


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