In the mid-1970s, my parents arranged for a condo in Florida when I was living in New York. We had a family summer vacation, joined by my brother-in-law and sister and their small two girls, aged 5 and 6. One day we were going to go to dinner with some people and had an hour drive to meet them. I piled into the back seat with my nieces who were particularly rambunctious at the time.
I decided to tell them a story hoping they would quiet down if they got involved in a story. It worked as I spun a story to last the drive, which I totally forgot shortly after our trip.
Later that year, I visited my sister and her family for Christmas. My nieces immediately wanted me to tell them the story again. Woops. It took some prompting from the two of them to even get started. As I told them the story again, they continually corrected me to keep me on the right track. Eventually we got through the story. I felt relieved.
Six months later, I moved to South America, My nieces were now reading, so I thought I would send them some stories by mail (that’s what we used before email). So, I hand wrote out a story, with pictures, to try to replicate the story they liked.
Then came requests for more stories with the same character, sometimes with little pictures to show examples. On we went, with a new story being required every few months. And sometimes for a birthday.
Things expanded to other stories. The characters and stories were our own inside-the-family shared experiences. They often featured a klutzy dragon named Simon whose unfortunate fire breath caused him various problems. He came into conflict with a group of Ice Crones, including their leader, the Ice Queen Crone who liked to freeze everything.
Hijinks ensued in the stories. Original pictures, drawn and crayoned, came back to me from the nieces.
We moved back nearer to them and could visit from time to time and read or tell stories face to face.
As the nieces grew, we went quiet for a few years. Then their brother arrived, and new stories emerged to entertain him.
Time has a way of going on… and on. Soon the little nieces were all grown up.
The older one had her own daughters. On one visit with them, I wondered if her little girls would also like some stories.
To my shock, my niece left the room where we were visiting and came back with the original hand-written stories we had sent to her from South America twenty years and more earlier. She had kept them all those years. Why? Because stories are special, particularly if they belong to you. After that a new series of stories came about for the new generation.
If you ever doubted, stories have enduring value consider all the stories you know and tell. The closer they are to you and the more you embrace them, the more they are valued and remembered.
This is not just a story about stories; it is a lesson for marketers and advertisers in sharing stories of their products and customers. Stories make their message memorable and worth saving in your memory.
The stories have to be closely allied with their products or services. The stories should be provocative enough to be remembered. Interesting enough to involve the listener/reader. And have a consistency so it is clear where the message is coming from and that every additional story enhances the overall message. Stories create a shared experience and sense of community amongst those who share the story.
Stories allow your potential consumer to see and imagine themselves with your product or service. Stories don’t go away the way a “buy this now” kind of message does. Stories have staying power, sometimes for generations.