Narrative Rationality in Your Marketing Strategy

(Contributed to by Natasha Zukowski)

Let’s talk about knowledge. How do you know what you know? How does what you know influence your behavior? According to the theory of narrative rationality, initially penned by Walter Fisher, human beings are storytellers by nature. We know our world through the stories we have heard and the tales we tell ourselves. Now you may be thinking, what on earth does this have to do with marketing? If the theory of narrative rationality is to be believed, then the way people interpret the world relies on a sense of narrative. The most successful brands do not just sell products. They trade stories that people want to engage with. Here at Decibel Blue, our tagline is “Telling your Story®” because we know that a compelling tale often moves people more than cold hard rationality. So when crafting your marketing strategy, you may want to consider the product you are selling and the story you are inviting people to become a part of. Using narrative rationality in your marketing strategy may sound complicated, but it is simple once you consider three things:  

What story are you inviting people to be a part of?

Shakespeare said that “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players.” In marketing, it is up to your strategy to bring your brand to center stage. When creating your plan, you must consider your story, what your product represents and why the players should follow your script? The best way you can do this is to identify your brand’s story and ensure that your marketing strategy reflects a coherent narrative. Once you do this, you can tell a story that your audience doesn’t just want to hear, you can weave a narrative that people want to immerse themselves in.  

What stories does your target audience tell themselves?

Now that you have your script, you know your story but do you know your audience’s? If you work in marketing, you are probably familiar with customer profiles. You may know that Kathy is single, has two dogs and makes 30k a year as a teacher, but do you consider why Kathy has dogs? Or why did she decide to become a teacher? People, like brands, have their own stories that motivate their buying behaviors. So once you know your brand’s story and think you’re ready to put it out on the main stage, think again and ask yourself, what is Kathy’s story? How does my product marketing appeal to her sense of who she is in the world? Because if you spin a tale with no thread that Kathy can relate to, then your play is going to fail at the box office. To make a smash hit, you have to see Kathy as not just a dog owner but a dog mom, and your audience as characters rather than consumers. 

Where does your story intersect with your audience’s?

It’s opening night. The lights are down. The audience is seated, thumbs at the ready, but you must consider one final thing before you open the curtain. Where does your story intersect with your audience’s history? Why should they join in on the narrative you have written? At this point you have two tales, the brand’s and the customer’s but how do these two narratives reconcile and become one? The answer is narrative fidelity, a chronicle’s qualities that strike a chord with the reader and cause them to see not just a storyline but a form of salvation. So before you draw the curtain, make sure your brand and your audience are in agreement on which threads of your storyline can be woven into their lives. 

Here at Decibel Blue, we are committed to telling your story in a way that brings you and your audience to the front row of success. So your storyline can become a lifeline and bring you customers that will last a lifetime. 

Tyler Rathjen

Tyler Rathjen is a partner in Decibel Blue, where he leads some of its highest-profile lifestyle clients. Whether developing strategic marketing plans, establishing creative programs, or managing digital, advertising, social media, influencer and branding projects, Tyler has a wealth of communications expertise. Tyler began his career with Decibel Blue in 2006 and has since overseen the launch of more than 120 franchises across the nation, including 80 Dunkin’ Donuts stores.

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