There’s been a fevered interest in the art of storytelling among the marketing crowd recently.
The masters and the hacks alike are thumping from every available pulpit that storytelling is the most powerful device on earth in regard to human influence.
We are told that story — applied to salesmanship, preaching, advertising, conversation, marketing, songwriting, and blogging — contains the power to deliver the world to the deft storyteller’s door.
This is correct.
But what is a well-told story? How do we know we’re getting down to the true thing?
Libraries are filled with books on craft. You can (and should) read everything from Aristotle to McKee to get your chops. Today, let’s get into a simple note or two from the pen of a contemporary legend.
David Mamet, America’s greatest living playwright, has forgotten more about all this than ten internet marketing gurus sipping mojitos in San Jose will ever know.
A few months ago, a memo surfaced, written by Mamet to the clan of writers working on his television show. This little “memo,” as Movieline states, is actually more a master class in writing and storytelling.
Let’s let Mamet take us to school …
Information is … information
The audience will not tune in to watch information. You wouldn’t, I wouldn’t. No one would or will. The audience will only tune in and stay tuned in to watch drama. ~ David Mamet
50,000 people were waiting. Untold thousands would watch online in the hours and days ahead.
He walked onto the dark stage in faded jeans and running shoes at 10 am sharp. In his right hand was a simple clicker that moved the images behind him as he spoke.
For two hours, the audience laughed, roared and gasped as the unassuming everyman showed them exactly what they wanted. And then gave it to them, in spades.
Steve Jobs runs one of the greatest theater companies on earth.
What is drama?
Drama, again, is the quest of the hero to overcome those things which prevent him from achieving a specific, acute goal. ~ David Mamet
He landed in this country a small child with nothing but his family. He grew up oppressively poor, but found early on that he had a taste for hard work and persuasion.
He was going to make it in this new world. No matter what.
With a Big Wheel and a fistful of pocket change, he worked to find in-demand products to sell to his buddies in the neighborhood. The kid from Belarus was on the move …
A chain of lemonade stands.
A baseball card empire.
Earning four-figures a week before turning teen.
Then it came to an end. His father demanded he show up every day at the family liquor store to carry out the most menial tasks in the place. Day after day, week after week, he slogged it out for a fraction of what he’d been making on his own.
A few years later, flipping through a wine magazine, he made a connection between the guys who’d bought his baseball cards and his father’s customers that collected wine.
From packing boxes in the basement, to shipping wine out the door, he grew the family business from $4 million to $60 million in less than ten years.
Gary Vaynerchuk was only getting started.
Who cares about drama? I’m in business
If the scene bores you when you read it, rest assured it will bore the actors, and will, then, bore the audience, and we’re all going to be back in the breadline. ~ David Mamet
Read Mamet’s first quote again, about what the audience will or will not tune in to watch (or read, or listen to).
The Information Age is coming to a close. It is crumbling around the ancient foundation of the human desperation for meaningful story, unadorned truth, and compelling drama that holds a mirror to life.
Information is simultaneously too much and not enough.
Information is impotent to reach the hearts and minds of those who can use your idea, product, or service.
If you think I’m swerving into hyperbole, check in with the infobesity epidemic.
Or the minimalist revival.
Story is virile, rare, unforgettable. And when done well, more true than plain fact.
You, me, Mamet — we all eat or starve in direct proportion to how good (and truthful) a story we tell.
Every marketer a playwright.
Each prospect an audience.
Every retweet a ticket to your show.
Enter, stage left …