How to Tell a Seductive Story

Has a singer ever been more seductive than Marvin Gaye?

Especially when crooning his classic, “Let’s Get It On”?

We often think about seduction in this sense: as being sexual, sometimes even manipulative. And sometimes it is.

But that is not the type of seduction featured on today’s episode of The Lede … though Marvin does sing words of wisdom to which we advise you pay heed:

Aaa-nnd,
Givin’ yourself to me,
Can never be wrong,
If the love is true …

As you’ll hear Demian and me discuss — with decidedly less seductive voices than Marvin’s (sorry) — if your love for your audience is true, if your intentions are pure, then tapping into their emotions through the art of seduction can, well, never be wrong.

So come on, come on, come on, come on, come on reader, stop beating ’round the bush …

Oh, and get it on … with yet another episode of The Lede. ;-)

In this episode, we hope the spirit moves you to let us groove you on the following:

  • How to give ‘em what they want
  • Richard Branson’s fantastic lesson in storytelling
  • The five elements every marketing story needs
  • Why tapping into a reader’s willpower is so important
  • How to overcome inertia and inaction
  • The importance of P-A-S
  • Why you shouldn’t feel bad about seducing someone into taking a positive action
  • How logic-based decision making is overrated

And a whole lot more.

Hear for yourself below.

Listen to The Lede …

To listen, you can either hit the flash audio player below, or browse the links to find your preferred format …

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

The Show Notes

The Transcript

Please note that this transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and grammar.

The Lede Podcast: How to Tell a Seductive Story

Jerod Morris: You’re listening to The Lede, a podcast about content marketing by Copyblogger Media. I’m your host, Jerod Morris.

If you want to get a content marketing education while you clean the garage or while you get your swimming pool ready for spring, this podcast is the way to do it. On today’s episode we break down the seventh essential element of a blog post: how to tell a seductive story. And who better to seduce us with his knowledge on this topic than Copyblogger’s Chief Copywriter, Demian Farnworth.

Daniel Joseph Boorstin, renowned U.S. Historian, wrote the book “The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America,” which describes shifts in American culture due, in large part, to advertising. One of his more famous quotes is as follows: “The deeper problems connected with advertising come less from the unscrupulousness of our deceivers than from our pleasure in being deceived. Less from the desire to seduce, than from the desire to be seduced.” Which brings us to our topic of discussion today on The Lede: how to tell a seductive story.

Demian, our readers want to be seduced. How do we give them what they want?

What a marketing story needs to succeed

Demian Farnworth: Right. So I think it’s pretty natural to start off with a story, and the story I’m going to tell is called The Fantastic Tale of The Young Branson. It’s a commercial that was published about two years ago, in March of 2012, and it’s a short commercial, so it’s a minute long. This is am example of a great marketing story.

In this fantastic tale, the young Branson, a little toddler — from the very start he has this belief that we should be able to talk anywhere at a young age. And they show that he actually pulls out the cord while his mom is on the phone, so it’s symbolic of this thought of mobile phones. And then it goes through a sequence of events where he’s making money as a lemonade stand guy, then a newspaper guy, and it demonstrates his business drive from his youth.

Then it shows him as a teenager in college who’s this crazy dreamer, hungry for efficiency, who thinks that everybody should be able to talk to anyone, anywhere, for as long as they want. But of course he’s mocked and he’s rejected. But he overcomes that obstacle, and then eventually we have at the end Virgin Mobile, his phone company.

And the moral of the story is that everybody should be able to talk to anyone, anywhere, for as long as they want. And this fits the mold of the seductive marketing story perfectly.

Jerod: And a quick note about that commercial, which I love: my favorite little detail of it is how he has the goatee even from when he’s young all the way through.

Demian: (Laughs) Right!

Jerod: It’s kind of that visual cue so you know who it is. Okay. So, now, why don’t you explain then how that fits the mold of seductive marketing?

Demian: All right. So I’m referring back to a post that Sonia wrote, and she gives five elements of a great marketing story.

  • First, you need a hero.
  • Second, you need a goal.
  • Third, you need an obstacle.
  • Fourth, you need a mentor.
  • And fifth, you need a moral.

So looking back at that Branson commercial, he is the hero. His goal is that he wants everybody to be able to talk to anyone, anywhere, for as long as they want. The obstacle, of course, is that this seems like an unbelievably ridiculous, unattainable goal. He is, in this sense, the mentor. And the moral is simply, again, everybody should be able to talk to anyone, anywhere, for as long as they want.

And as Sonia mentioned back in her article: this idea that you have these heroes. You can make the character the hero, but at the end of the day you need to spell out — again, this is what we’re talking about when we talk about a moral — you need to spell out what you are trying to do for them. So in the traditional storytelling setting, you typically wouldn’t have the moral. But in a marketing setting, you want to be very plain and clear about what you’re trying to communicate to your customers.

Jerod: Okay, so in this example with the Branson commercial it sounds like the business is the hero. Like you said, Branson is the hero. Are there also cases where the customer is the hero, and maybe the business is the model?

Demian: Yeah, it’s absolutely what we do here at Copyblogger, where the writer and the content creator is the hero. Those people that we are looking for, our target audience, are writers and creators.

The goal is: we want to help them. They want to build an audience and they want to build a business. Their obstacle, of course, is obscurity and it’s actually making money, being profitable. And so we come in as the mentor, helping them walk through this process of overcoming this particular obstacle. And the moral behind that is we will help you become a smart, successful media marketer.

Tapping into your reader’s willpower (and other seduction techniques)

Jerod: So let me ask you this, Demian … We talk about seductive storytelling, and actually there’s a link I’m going to put in the show notes to a previous podcast from Internet Marketing for Smart People, an interview that Robert Bruce did with Robert Green, who is the author of The Art of Seduction.

He talks about how you use seduction in marketing, and one of the things he talks about, and I want to get your thoughts on this, is this concept of willpower and how to engage your reader, your audience’s, willpower. You present an idea and almost get them to think that it’s their own idea, and this really seduces them into following along with what you say and getting them to the end.

What are some other techniques, tips, tools, things like that, that we can give to the listeners here as they try to craft these seductive stories?

Demian: Well, you bring up a great point mentioning willpower, because what we’re dealing with here is inaction. We’re dealing with inertia. People typically don’t want to do things. We’re lazy or selfish. We want things to be brought to us. That’s just the nature of it. But what you’re trying to do here is you’re trying to make people feel like it’s a mistake to walk away.

A great example of this is, say you walk into a doctor’s office. And in that doctor’s office, he tells you that you have a serious, terminal disease. And then he just spends the next 35 minutes talking about all the procedures that you have to go through, the treatments that you have to take, the rehab that you have to go through, if you want to sort of survive this disease. Well, most people would think, “That’s what you just told me? The solution? The treatments? Sounds a lot worse than the actual disease.”

So what the doctor should have done is flip that and spend about 35 minutes explaining the disease, the source, the origin, how it’s going to make their life absolutely miserable … and then at that point, by the time he’s finished describing in great detail the problems that the disease is going to create, then he gets to the solution and the patient is going to be super eager to hear what he has to say.

So that’s what we’re dealing with here: is this idea of inaction. That’s what Green meant when he’s talking about willpower. We have to get people to feel like this is something they really want to do, because otherwise they’re going to just sit on their bottom.

So here’s a tip: a great tip that I love to use in copywriting is the PAS. So it’s problem, agitate, and then solve.

We know that every great story begins with a character and conflict, and then it’s amplified so that character’s life is completely miserable, and then it ends with the resolution. This is true with good copy writing: we start with a character and conflict, our customer. And then a good copywriter will amplify the conflict so life is miserable for that customer, painting the picture, and then ending the story with the resolution. It could be, like, “Hey, subscribe to an e-mail newsletter to learn more,” listen to a podcast, or actually purchase a physical product.

And so here’s how I would do that. For instance, say you’re talking about insecurity. You would say something like, “Are you suffering from insecurity? If so, you’re not alone. Thousands of people do that. Thousands of people have self-esteem issues. However, if you don’t do anything about that, you’re going to be the perennial wallflower, the person who always gets passed up for promotions, the person who never finds the right gal or guy, the person who never publishes the book,” whatever. It’s like the Mel Martin idea of hitting the maximum points of anxiety and filling in as many of those as you possibly can.

So you paint this really ugly picture of what life will be like if they don’t listen to you, if they don’t do what you say. Because by the time you get to the point of, like, “Here’s the solution,” they’ll be more than happy. And again, it’ll be like, “Hey, that is my idea,” in order to do that.

And so here’s the thing, the idea with Boorstin. When we talk about marketing and advertising, there is a stigma that it is manipulative. It is icky. But if you truly believe in what you are selling, if you have something that will truly improve somebody’s life, if you believe that you can make somebody happier faster, better, whatever … then we live in a world of commerce where between individuals, between companies, companies to companies, we live in a world in which we have to make money in order to buy things. And so we use a story to tapping into people’s emotions to help better their life.

So for example, if you want to help people quit smoking, I think that’s a pretty darn good thing. So if you’re selling a product or a program in order to do that, then helping people, tapping into them emotionally is a good thing, and it’s a positive thing because you’re helping somebody improve their life. And of course, all that can be manipulated for the bad things, but just make sure you’re on the good side, and you’re on the white side rather than on the dark side.

Jerod: I’m glad you just said that. You basically just answered a question before I asked it, because that’s what I wanted to ask you. You talk about seduction. You can’t really seduce if you just give everything right off the bat, right?

Demian: Right.

Why tapping into emotions is essential

Jerod: There’s got to be a sense of suspense, a sense of leading this reader somewhere. And obviously, within reason.

So I think that’s a very important point to accentuate, that you have to tap into emotions sometimes to really do that. You can’t just give everything away right there in the introduction, because that may not necessarily actually inspire them to action. It may inspire them to knowledge. They’ll know this thing, but they may not act on it. And so would that be a fair way to talk about the difference, that really if you want to inspire action, you’ve got to tap into those emotions, and that’s what the seduction part does.

Demian: Yeah. That’s absolutely a great point, because it’s wrong to think that we don’t make decisions with emotions, or that we wouldn’t want to make emotional decisions, that decisions should be made logically, fact based. Those things are important, but anybody who believes that, that emotions should not be part of the decision making process, needs to read Antonio Damasio’s book “Descartes’ Error.”

He explains how it’s been proven that people who have lost that part of their mind where their emotions reside, when that part of the mind that has been destroyed, those people — so we’re looking at people who are analytically pure — they don’t have any emotions backing them up. They are your most logical people you could possibly have. Well, they can’t make decisions. Like easy decisions, as in what sports jacket to wear today, or what restaurant to go eat with their wife, because they don’t have an emotional connection to it.

If you think about it — why we choose things, why we work at certain places, why we drive certain cars — there is an emotional connection to it. Why we eat certain foods.

I mean, why in the world would people pay and wait in line for 30 minutes to eat a freakin’ doughnut with a pretzel stick stuck in it? I mean, it doesn’t make sense. But there is an emotional attachment to it. It’s a commodity, and that’s the beautiful thing about someone like Voodoo Doughnuts, is that they’ve tapped into that emotional sort of connection with people, that it’s different. I mean, they’re eating it differently. So they’re kind of creating this lifestyle that is different. When you think “Krispy Kreme,” you think “doughnuts.” You think “Dunkin’ Donuts” and you think “Cops.” You think “Krispy Kreme,” and you just think, “cheap,” right? “Cheap” and “fast.” But here’s Voodoo Doughnuts. It’s like, this is cool. This is creative. And so that’s an emotional thing.

Like you said, again: willpower. You have to stand in line. If you’re going to stand in line for 30 minutes you have to have willpower, and there has to be some sort of desire driving that, and it comes to emotion.

Jerod: I don’t think 12 minutes and 15 seconds has ever flown by faster on one of these episodes, recording this. Here’s the great thing: We’re going to talk about this topic more in the next episode when we talk about [redacted], because it still sticks with that same idea of suspense and drawing people in, and tapping into emotions, all of those things.

Demian, thank you. Everybody, tune in next time when we talk about [redacted]. We’ll talk to you soon.

Demian: Thank you.

Jerod: Thank you for listening to this episode of The Lede. If you like what you’re hearing, please consider giving the show a rating or a review on iTunes. You can also show your support by writing about the show on your own blog, and recounting some of the lessons you’ve learned. If you do, send us a tweet to @Copyblogger because we’d love to take a look.

When Demian and I resume our series on the essential elements of a blog post, we’ll be discussing … well, I guess you’ll just have to tune in or go to Copyblogger.com/ingredients to find out.

Talk to you soon, everybody.

# # #

*Credits: Both the intro (“Bridge to Nowhere” by Sam Roberts Band) and outro songs (“Down in the Valley” by The Head and the Heart) are graciously provided by express written consent from the rights owners.

About the author

Jerod Morris


Jerod Morris is the VP of Marketing for Copyblogger Media. Get more from him on Twitter or . Have you gotten your wristband yet?

Print Friendly

Smarter is Better Solutions for Smarter Content Marketing

Here’s what we’ve got for you:

  • 15 high-impact ebooks on content marketing, SEO, email marketing, landing pages, keyword research, and more.
  • A 20-part Internet marketing course that lays out a comprehensive path for your own online strategy.
  • An organized reference guide to the “best of the best” of Copyblogger.com, and how it all profitably fits together.
Free Registration

Take The Conversation Further ...

We'd love to know your thoughts on this article.
Meet us over on Twitter or LinkedIn to join the conversation right now!

Comments

  1. Good stuff Jerod! I received an email today where it started off with “I was packing my suitcase for this upcoming trip to…” and I could actually see the guy packing his suitcase. Stories don’t need to be complicated, they just need to be told. Love this podcast!

  2. All great storytellers, movie directors, and other creatives know that seduction is emotional engagement, the core of branding.

  3. Interesting stuff… *quickly subscribes via itunes*. :)

  4. Great podcast (as usual!)

    Telling a story is a very compelling way to “paint the picture” to your readers. Not only is it a great way to captivate them, but it is also useful in building their trust with you.

  5. This is something I am struggling with because I feel that my niche is quite small so trying to find a way of capturing the imagination of potential readers is difficult.

    • Mark, that sounds like an opportunity to me. If it’s a small niche, you should have an easier (or at least more efficient) time getting to know your niche. What motivates them? What scares them? What do they love? And then use that knowledge to craft stories that, well, seduce them.

  6. Great thoughts on willpower and seduction! As I remember reading before, logic alone does not incite action; only emotion incites action. Logic only justifies the action.

    I really like the storytelling formula you shared, too. Applying a good moral to it is always the trickiest. In fact, the “moral” doesn’t even have to be factual or ethical.

    For example, car commercials religiously portray their “moral” as: buy the car; get the girl. ;-)

    Of course, that works mostly for a male audience, but this is where it comes down to seeping into your target audience’s mind by displaying a solution for achieving all of their desires.

    Anyway, thanks for another great podcast! You guys rock! :-)

    • Thanks James. And yes, you’re right: you have to know your target marketing intimately.

    • James, you always frame it so much better than I do. Anyway, I really enjoyed this podcast as well and learning about the elements of a great narrative.

      ‘Seduction’ is quite an interesting topic, especially when applied to marketing, business strategies, psychology, and related.

  7. I love this use of mythic structure. It is amazing all the applications you can have for it. Thanks for using it in a unique and novel way. I wonder how eles it can be used?

  8. Nice linking the music and theme, makes things so much more accessible and interesting. Never really been a Marvin Gaye fan but the message worked : )

  9. Oy vey Jerod!

    After I read your marketing seduction story I felt sadness beyond believe. It reminded me again that survival of humankind is less than zero.

    The world is on the brink of unbelievable catastrophe, precisely because of marketing seduction story, told millions of times every day.

    It boggles my mind that we cannot grasp the consequences of manipulating unsuspecting fragile human psyche, with such ruthless precision, and exploiting it to the hilt. And to what end… to make a few dollars.

    The most devastating thing is that readers of your story are inspired. They simply don’t see anything wrong in it, despite the abyss of the story staring them in the face.

    As I read your transcript, there was an interview with Russian citizens on the TV. Every single one of them was proud that Putin blatantly and in the front of all world stole Crimea from Ukraine.

    The reason for their totally misguided pride is the marketing seduction story told by Putin and his predecessors again and again.

    The marketing seduction story permeates every sphere of human activity. Therein lies the catastrophe.

    Please don’t see this as anything personal. Every one of us, including me is telling the same story every day of our lives. I am ashamed of myself.

  10. Very cool Jerod. I especially enjoyed the part about Branson!