So, the other day I went into a local fish restaurant. When I sat down, I couldn’t help but notice a table talker – you know, those plastic encapsulated flyers that you so commonly find on tables with a restaurants special offer of the day – in this case, it was the Norwegian Salmon.
The waiter comes up to me and says: “Mr. Brown, can I recommend our offer of the day, the Salmon? It’s our special offer tonight where you get Norwegian Salmon and a medley fresh, roasted vegetables and it’s available for tonight only for R150.”
So, did the waiter do a good job at selling me on the special? Well, no. Selling me on something I already knew was the restaurant equivalent of that scene in the Wolf of Wall Street where Leonardo DiCaprio asks people to “sell me this pen”.
A pen is a pen and Salmon, well, is Salmon.
The Problem with Advertising
In this scenario, the role of advertising was quite simple – to let the customer (me) know that the “Salmon Special” was being offered and available, but from that point onwards the waiter repeating the advertised offer to me made no sense. You see, the role of advertising has limited equity. It was great for letting me know that the offer existed but did very little else – there was no story, no promise and no pitch – something to convince me that deciding to go with the Salmon was the right choice on the day.
Advertising has a kind of speed dating effect – you have a very short window of time to convince someone that you are the best option available at the time but it has very little probability in converting anything, because what’s required is trust – and trust in my view is earnt in drops, but lost in buckets.
How We Buy Stuff
Even if I was in the mood for Salmon, if I thought for a second that there was a probable viable alternative that could better give me the food experience that I was after, then naturally I would have considered it. Deciding on food – just like a product or service – is based on evidence and or a pre-existing experience that you have had. So, perhaps a steak then? Sure, let me give that a try instead. Why not? There goes the special offer of the day.
Consumers are fickle. More and more, we are making decisions not from what we know about a product or service or by how we understand something is made. Instead, we buy it’s why – why something exists – and it’s also becoming the future of brand storytelling.
The Salmon Story
Imagine for a second that instead of the waiter telling me what was obvious for me to understand, he offered me something that we are hard wired for – a story.
A story which could go something like this: “Mr. Brown, have you heard about the story of fresh Norwegian Salmon?” To which I’d reply: “Is it the same story of farmed Salmon, because I’ve heard bad things about that.”
“No, this is the story of fresh water Norwegian Salmon – this is entirely different. Some of these Salmon travel over 1300 kilometers up fresh water rivers from the ocean to find gravel beds where they can breed. But on the way, they encounter several threats including dams and other barriers blocking them from spawning grounds, habitat destruction and even bears who wait for them to jump from the water and catch them mid-air to eat them raw.”
“Yes, I’ve seen bears doing that on the TV before, but didn’t know they swim the equivalent distance of driving from Cape Town to Johannesburg. That’s crazy.”
“Yup. It’s why they are sometimes called ‘the King’ – it’s usually the most expensive because of its high fat content and melt in your mouth texture. It really is the prized fresh water fish of today. Just to get it to South Africa is a job unto itself. It is frozen immediately after being caught and then flown express overnight to South Africa some 15,000 kilometers and even then, we only serve the best Salmon fillets that arrive to make sure we give the best possible food experience imaginable. And it’s available today only for R150. How does that sound?”
“It sounds better than a steak, that’s for sure. I’ll take the Salmon.”
How to Sell Anything on a Podcast
Let’s be honest. It is highly unlikely that your average waiter would ever pitch a Salmon Special like this but what if they did? How much better of a pitch for the special would it be? It’s gives me context and a compelling reason to decide to go with the Salmon over something tried and tested like a steak. This simple story brought the special to life and gave it new meaning through a simple story and most importantly, it gave me an emotionally lead reason to try it instead of a functional benefit like price.
But here’s the thing. No amount of advertising in that restaurant could ever have relayed the Salmon story in such detail and this is what makes podcasting and branded audio such a compelling platform to tell stories on. Let me give you a real-world example of storytelling on a podcast and what it can achieve.
Hunting the Truth
When Microsoft launched its latest version of the hit game Halo, they launched a podcast called “Hunt the Truth” to augment the story in the game itself. But then a funny and unexpected thing happened. The story in the podcast became so popular that the hardcore gamers complained that the narrative in the XBox game was not the same as the one in the podcast.
The point here is that when it comes to storytelling – the most powerful form of marketing – you have far more creative license on a podcast than on any other medium e.g. video. Just take a listen to what is possible through audio based storytelling:
Essentially, the brands who are crushing it are moving away from highly competitive platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter and towards branded audio media platforms AKA podcasts where they are the only competition and have a monopoly over the attention of the communities that they serve.
In the attention starved world that we live in, reputational equity is becoming the new battleground in highly competitive marketplaces. Savvy brands like Microsoft, GE, MailChimp, Slack, eBay, Amazon, etc. – now understand the power of telling their own stories on podcasts and in the process, are creating new owned media platforms that only they can compete on and consumers are switching on and taking notice.