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March 9, 2010

What Star Wars Can Teach You about Inbound Marketing

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Inbound StormtrooperIn our busy, time-constrained world, it is harder and harder to generate a large amount of content in a short amount of time. One solution to this problem is what I like to call Storybook Marketing. The general idea is to use age-old archetypes and paradigms to do an end run around the requirement to process everything. One of the best known examples of using these storytelling methods is a little film you may have heard of -- Star Wars. George Lucas was greatly affected by the Joseph Campbell book, The Hero With a Thousand Faces. By using the "monomyth" idea presented in the book, Lucas was able to tell a story that people immediately engaged with and understood across many cultures because it was hard-wired into people's human experience. Imagine how much more powerful your business blog or tweets would be if they accessed people's core understandings of how the world works. But how might you do that?

Your Product as a Character

Think about your product or service as a character. Is your product the loveable rogue, such as Han Solo? Look again at your product or service's characteristics. Is it fun? Powerful? Efficient? Use those characteristics to discover who your "character" is. You must also understand where on its journey that character is. For example, if your service is new and groundbreaking, your character may be at the stage of "Crossing the First Threshold" where it "actually crosses into the field of adventure, leaving the known limits of [its] world and venturing into an unknown and dangerous realm where the rules and limits are not known." Certainly sounds like launching a new product or service, doesn't it? Use these characters and narrative structure to determine how to position your story.

What or who is your product's nemesis?

Discover what your product or service's nemesis is. Apple does this extraordinarily well. It is clear that Microsoft is the nemesis to be defeated. This gives them the ability to use certain shorthand when making comparisons and engages consumers who will frequently root for the "hero." That desire is coded in our humanity! Your nemesis needs not be a specific company or product. For example, it can be argued Google's nemesis
is closed and disorganized information. You probably know your mission, but defining your "nemesis" gives power to your mission and makes it easier to communicate.

Clear Goals for Your Product

Clearly set what your product must accomplish in order to win. You must have a goal for your consumers to pull for. Imagine trying to cheer for someone who is racing if you don't know where the finish line is! This doesn't need to be your final goal, just as an Olympian may ultimately be targeting a gold medal, but still has to win many races along the way. What races does your product or service need to to win? Setting those goals help consumers feel as if they are part of something and cause them to engage in the chase for it. Is it becoming the number one product in its niche? Is it helping 100,000 customers? Set this goal and communicate it. This also gives you fodder for frequent blog or Twitter updates -- the perfect excuse to remind people of your mission.

Use Symbols to Fill the Gaps

Think about what age-old symbols and other characters you can use to quickly fill in the blanks for your customers. One of the oldest examples of this is the snake. Simply using the snake as a symbol brings to mind evil and sneakiness. Symbols such as this can quickly fill in the blanks for customers and help set the right tone.  Imagine if you were selling a personal safety product. Simply place a photo of a snake at the top of your blog entry. Immediately this prepares your readers' minds as you write about sneaky threats to their personal safety or how danger can creep up without them being aware. Your blog entries become super powered with an emotional charge that only symbols and archetypes can create.

These four tips together can power your inbound marketing in new and exciting ways. These techniques will allow you to quickly communicate information to your customers, and emotionally charge it. Your product or service will cease to be simply a product or service, but rather take on a personality and character that can be cheered for and supported.

In a time-compressed world, people talk about that which they care about most. Given a generic product or your storybook-empowered product, you will hold their interest while your competition will fade from their mind.

Photo: Hawee

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