This is the best way to undermine your marketing

If you really want a terrible marketing campaign, bombard your prospects with facts.  Facts are, after all, difficult to remember and never engaging.   

Yet most of us use facts to try to sell ourselves, our products or our ideas.  And, surprise, it doesn’t work. 

Think of telephone numbers. 

If someone turns to you and rattles of their telephone number, how likely are you to remember it after 30 seconds?  Or even remember the first number by the time you hear the tenth?

Most of us struggle to keep 10 number in our heads. 

Yet the Atlantic from a few years ago relates the story of a man who was able to train himself to encode, remember and repeat flawlessly a string of 80 numbers. 

So, he could hear 8 telephone numbers and then repeat them all from the beginning. 

There was nothing special about this man other than he put an extraordinary amount of work into learning how to memorize numbers.  It took him about 20 months of practicing an hour a day, 4 days a week to do this. 

So, I recommend writing down numbers instead.

How to get people to remember facts.

The “how”, is the interesting part.  He used a, to my mind, very complicated structure based on running times and scores to encode the numbers so that he could recall them. 

The challenge that his system addressed is that facts alone enter and leave our short-term memory very quickly. 

In order to create long-term memories, we need to take this “primitive information” (facts) and give it meaning.  He did this with running scores.

In marketing, we need to find a way to encode our facts in the brains of our target audience.  And we don’t have 20 months of practice time. 

Our prospects will give us about 8 seconds. 

And we can’t use running times and scores because those are not a common frame of reference.

But the challenge remains: encoding “primitive information” or facts as meaningful memories in our audience. 

The solution is storytelling. 

Storytellers have been connecting with their audience for millennia.  They are as effective today as they have ever been in connecting us and helping us create meaningful higher-level memories.

This is actually a physical, biological, reason for this. 

Daniel Siegel, professor of psychiatry at UCLA put it this way:

"Storytelling is an integrative process, It not only weaves together all the details of an experience when it's being encoded but enhances the network of nodes through which all those details can be retrieved and recalled. Research shows that we remember details of things much more effectively when they are embedded in a story. Telling and being moved to action by them is in our DNA."

You probably have to read this a couple of times to get it (it isn’t, after all, a story), but the key line is the last one. 

It bears repeating:

“Telling and being moved to action by [stories] is in our DNA."

So, if you want to engage your audience start telling stories.  Or, alternatively, you can sit them down and drill them for twenty months on the facts of your offering. 

Telling a story is just easier.