When marketing stories are false and manipulative.

(What follows is the outline I wrote in advance of recording the video. They’re my talking points. Not a regular post or article. Just an outline.)

Martin emailed me and said.

“Nick, I have been reading your work for years and have a lot of respect for what you do. But stories? Almost every marketing story I read feels totally fake and manipulative. What gives?”

Fair enough. (I’m guessing he hasn’t taken my course on Selling with Stories.)

In part, I agree. Although I think Martin overstates things when he talks about EVERY marketing story being fake or manipulative. But I do get his point.

The two kinds of false stories that irritate me the most are…

1. I was driving along the beachfront in my new Lamborghini, thinking about you, blah blah blah


2. I used to live on a mattress in a dumpster, and if I can get from there to being a millionaire, so can you…

There are hundreds of stories out there that follow these two approaches or “story memes”. Thousands maybe. A very small handful are true and completely honest. But most of them, not so much.

And there are experts out there who teach this as being the way to go.

Sure… stories like these can work. But they’ll fail the sniff test with Martin and many other people like him. Because even when they are true, they don’t FEEL true.

And when a story doesn’t feel true, it can damage your brand, or your client’s brand.


There are a ton of great stories out there that are true, honest and are not manipulative at all.

And they follow these two simple rules.

1. They describe something that actually happened.

Many of them are small ‘S’ stories. Simple stories or anecdotes with a strong message. And they are true, based on fact.

2. They have a business message and purpose.

By all means tell a story at a family gathering, just for the pleasure of sharing the story. For its entertainment value.

But at work, your story has to have a purpose… there has to be a lesson embedded within the story.

For example… and I’m taking this from an earlier video from a while back…

I told the story of a sales assistant at a retail store who went above and beyond by helping a customer carry some heavy bags out to her car.

The assistant didn’t have to do it, but she did.

A very simple, small ‘S’ story.

Its purpose? To say something positive about the culture of the company. A credible way to say, “We care about our customers”.

Whether for yourself or for a client… you’re almost always better off seeking out these smaller stories.

They reek of honesty.

And they deliver a valuable message or lesson.

NOTE: If you’d like to use the power of storytelling to increase your skills as a web content writer, online copywriter or social media writer, learn more about my course… Selling With Stories…

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