Home' micenet eMag : micenet AUSTRALIA August September 2014 Contents Ihad a discussion recently about what’s the lying-est lie that
sales people and presenters use. The words that light up the
subconscious lie detectors in your brain like a tiny Vivid Festival,
every instinct telling you that your trust carries the same doomed
optimism you see in anybody marrying an actor or musician.
There were some strong finalists. ‘Wow factor.’ ‘Thought
leaders.’ ‘Mouth-watering.’ You can imagine each of them coming
out of some confident tosser who will let you down in a blink.
But as a sign that you’re dealing with a straight-up, forked-
tongue, fingers-crossed-behind-their-back liar, I’m giving the
prize to ‘seamless’.
Nothing in life is seamless. People who say ‘seamless’ don’t
actually know what it means or how to make it happen. They’ve
just been trained, like a dog, that if they say the special word
someone might give them some money. But it’s not very
persuasive, because words are easy to say, and there’s an
infinite supply of other people who also say them. Net
competitive value: zero.
People like to sell and present with lists of boasts because it
plays well in your own office, where everyone agrees that your
own product is awesome. So someone selling a venue or
catering service says ‘exquisite dishes prepared from the finest
ingredients by our renowned chefs’. This style comes straight
from the 1950’s school of thought that you persuade people by
saying how great you are.
Why does this technique suck so deeply? Because it’s full of
adjectives. Adjectives make your message weak and unprovable.
Exquisite. Finest. Renowned. Really? Says who? The Independent
Board of Catering Quality Benchmarking? Or is it from the Institute
of What You Reckon? Verbal polyfilla you made up because that’s
what marketing is supposed to look like, hoping that your
prospect will race back to their office and go: “Guess what? I’ve
found a place you can get EXQUISITE DISHES!”
There are two ways to solve your adjective infestation. One is
being refreshingly honest. If someone said “our enterprise software
has seams, but they’re really carefully stitched,” I’d buy from them
because they sound like realists. It makes you stand out.
But for making people listen and understand, the best
approach is stories. Contrast the sales blather above with a
story from Phil, the executive chef at Adelaide’s National Wine
Centre, a client of ours. Chefs tell it to you straight. They don’t
have to worry about persuading you with adjectives, because
they carry knives.
They’re in Adelaide’s Botanical Gardens. And the kitchen has
developed a close relationship with the gardeners there, so there’s
a source of produce literally outside the back gate. In fig season
they go out and harvest enough fruit to make a year’s worth of fig
paste. That helps the gardens, as otherwise the ripe fruit would
drop, go all smooshy and attract fig-eating night critters. The
gardeners have sorted the herb section into edible and inedible
sections, so Phil’s team can take modest, sustainable clippings.
It’s a lovely story with a happy sense of community.
Let’s analyse what makes it, like all good stories, a powerful
way to communicate.
Nobody else can tell that story, because there’s nobody else is in
the gardens. So it’s competitor-proof.
Local Sourcing At Its Most Local
People who love food know that Copenhagen’s Noma, which
gets voted best restaurant in the world a lot, sends their kitchen
staff out to forage for ingredients in the harsh Scandinavian
landscape. The whole locavore movement makes Phil’s
approach a clear signifier of produce quality and an antidote to
generic function dining.
Another word that people just say because they feel they
should, but what’s more sustainable than food that grows within
a short walk that would have otherwise gone to waste?
Stories like that make people think: where do other venues get
their produce from? Some giant distribution warehouse filled
with preservative gases? Probably not, but it’s not going to be
as good as Phil’s green idyll.
Easy To Remember and Re-Tell
This is the greatness of stories. You could get up right now and
tell that story to anyone, because stories stick. If Phil just said:
“At the National Wine Centre we have a unique location, fresh
local ingredients, sustainability and close community
partnerships,” three minutes later you’d be all “yeah, whatever,
something freshness, green, I forget the rest.”
So search through your organisation and get some stories
that don’t come from marketing people, folks, they’re
presentation gold. Or get Lynne Schinella to teach you. She did
a fine session on storytelling at the MEA conference in KL
recently. Not seamless at all. m
Ian Whitworth leads a double life as a co-founder of audio-visual group
Scene Change, and principal of creative marketing consultancy, A Lizard
Drinking. He can be contacted on email - firstname.lastname@example.org
You can’t touch this guide to using stories instead
of cheesy adjectives, writes Ian Whitworth.
BY IAN WHITWORTH
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