Have you heard the story about the little green book?
It was all set to revolutionise the way autistic children engaged with the world.
But it didn’t have the clout of a scientific journal, the popular appeal of Harry Potter or the bright colours and textures of early learning books.
And it was tiny. Sitting alone on a shelf beside a mass of other educational texts in a packed bookshop, its magic went undiscovered.
If only they’d known.
The real story of this book can be told long before a page is turned.
It’s the story of why it came about, how it came about and precisely how the author sees this slender manual enriching the lives of countless children and their families in Australia. Maybe in the UK and USA. And quite possibly all over the globe.
Which is quite something for a little book – green, tasteful and rather shy– to own.
The tale of the little green book can be told in numerous ways. It’s just a question of knowing where to start. And understanding how the smallest volume can reach herculean heights if you know how to tell its story.
The digital marketing force
“Every story, even the driest, has a human face. Draw it well and put it on display, for to readers it is a mirror and a magnet.” Francis Flaherty, The Elements of Story: Field Notes on Nonfiction Writing
The best digital marketers thank the messenger – technology and software – but quickly move beyond it.
Never taking their eye off the ball, they harness the power of technology with one aim in mind – the telling of a darned good yarn.
How do they do it?
They know how to:
- Relate their product or service to the people within its orbit – those who inspired it, made it happen and stand to benefit from it.
- Identify their story and tell it in a strong, compelling, engaging and human way. Tell it, don’t sell it!
- Discover the human face at the heart of it. Every product has one. A nail, a bolt, a pencil sharpener, a toilet brush – the lowliest objects serve a human purpose in the working, resting and playing of a normal day.
- Decide on the medium to tell their story – such as an appealing website which takes viewers on a digital journey through well-crafted words and visuals, or engaging social media content which sparks their interest and elicits an online enquiry or a direct sale.
Smart marketing cookies refuse to fall into the trap of seeing their product as ‘just a product’. Every product or service is simply a means of making someone’s life richer, fuller, easier, or more exciting, surprising and meaningful.
Track your product down the line and see where you end up. That’s what United States poet and political icon Benjamin Franklin did – and what a marketer he would have been. Remember the nail?
“For the want of a nail the shoe was lost,
For the want of a shoe the horse was lost,
For the want of a horse the rider was lost,
For the want of a rider the battle was lost,
For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a horseshoe-nail.” – Benjamin Franklin
It’s not what the product is – but rather what it means in a world full of people, relationships, challenges, conflicts and intertwined lives. Oh, and stories of course.
So the marketing and branding of a product or service is actually a search for meaning. Which brings us back to the way people live their lives, and what they need to help them do it.
Engage through storytelling
“The artful writer sees what others see. He just sees it in a drawn-fresh way.” – Francis Flaherty
In our imaginary example, how does this help market a book which can change the lives of children with autism instead of gathering dust on a bookshop shelf?
- Interview the author, discovering that she has raised two autistic children. The author explains numerous ways in which the book’s program has transformed her children’s lives.
- Make a series of website videos, each one demonstrating children actively engaged with the corresponding steps of the program.
- Run a series of blogs drilling down into the reality of living with children on the autism spectrum – the stresses, challenges and rewards of everyday life.
- Invite parents of autistic children to participate in an online forum where they can get support, exchange information and discuss issues with others who truly understand their difficulties.
- Create a lively animated sketch ad drawn by autistic children to represent and explain the different steps of the program.
- Develop a mobile app which replicates the program’s steps in digital form.
- Capture parent testimonials in words and on video, along with comments by children actually using the program.
- Embed a virtual 360 degree tour of the ‘test classroom’ where the tools and equipment needed for the ten steps are displayed.
- Bring the website to life with bold, colourful images of the children the little green book helps.
- Re-purpose the book’s contents into a series of articles on a blog, posts on a social media channel and a downloadable eBook that constantly updates with new information and revisions.
- Encourage parents to share their experiences and engage with other parents on social media.
And then it’s not a little green book any more. It’s a gateway to multiple human stories of challenge, anxiety, growth and reward.
So when the next consumer buys the book, they will be buying more than words on a page. More than hope. They will be buying steps to a new life.
How well are you telling your story?