The Power of Storytelling: Lessons Learned from CMF 2013

In the original Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie, Wendy asks Peter why no one in Neverland grows up. And Peter replies, “Because we don’t know any stories.” With this anecdote, Andy Goodman – author, speaker and consultant in the field of public interest communications – memorably hit upon the overall theme of this year’s Cause Marketing Forum (CMF) conference: the power of storytelling.

As Andy and many others went on to emphasize throughout the conference, storytelling is the single greatest tool we have as marketers. All of us, Andy reiterated, are storytelling creatures; stories are the foundation of our identity, our history and our memories. And as those of us at the conference last week learned, storytelling is particularly impactful when it comes to cause marketing. Referred to as the “identifiable victim effect,” people are more likely to offer aid when they learn about an individual’s plight, as opposed to statistics related to the whole group. In other words, to really increase giving, you should appeal to the heart, not the head.

The second word we heard most often at CMF 2013 was “authenticity.” From moms to Millennials, today’s consumer is naturally skeptical and apprehensive of ads and marketing. In order to truly resonate, your story must be authentic. And at the end of the day, it’s the emotional connection that will drive consumers to engage with your cause.

While I could go on for ages about all of the engaging speakers, inspiring case studies and valuable lessons learned at CMF 2013, here are just a few of my top takeaways:

As Procter & Gamble’s Bryan McCleary reminded us, “Cover bands don’t change the world.” Successful cause marketing campaigns come from doing something different, unique and creative. After all, that’s how the best stories are made.

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