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Are you telling overdog or underdog stories?

I attended a function recently and was introduced to a guy I hadn’t met before. He asked me what I did, and then cut me short and proceeded to spend 20 minutes telling me all about his wonderful life. How well his business was doing, his six-figure income that was...

Felix Baumgartner didn’t feel a thing

On the 14th of October 2012 Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner became the first skydiver to complete a free fall jump from the stratosphere back to earth. He used a helium balloon to ascend to an incredible 39km above the earth. On his descent he reached an...

Sweet and Salty Stories

I’m not a big popcorn eater but I do have a weakness for Sweet and Salty popcorn made by Sweet As Popcorn in Raglan, NZ. There’s something about the contrast of sweet and salty flavours and the way that they interact with my palate that I find intriguing and...

Forget storytelling and start storymaking!

Imagine for a moment, that you have invented something totally novel that will revolutionise the world. Your ‘Aha!’ moment has arrived. You can’t believe no one has thought of this thing! It’s going to be fantastic and life-changing! You spend months building the...

What can content marketers learn from Dr Seuss?

Dr Seuss, one of the world’s greatest storytellers, can teach us Thing One and Thing Two about inspired story-driven content marketing. “If you never did, you should. These things are fun and fun is good.” Don’t be afraid to try something new – it might be FUN....

Are customer stories the new case studies?

Content is the single most cost-effective way to project to the world who you are and what you do. So why are we still using boring old case studies as a means to propel business? We are evolutionarily wired for stories. Reading stories releases neurochemicals that...

Are you telling your story or leaving it to chance?

You’re telling a story whether you know it or not. It’s been said time and time again that we are wired for stories. From cavemen drawing on walls to stories passed verbally from generation to generation, it’s simply in our genes. Our brains like to process...

Has your content marketing lost the plot?

There are seven model plots on which all storytelling is based. Are you using one to tell an effective story?  No matter where we are from, we have shared points across cultures and histories that wire us to respond to one of seven basic plotlines. Using these...

How to elevate your content with storytelling

We all know that wading through the multitude of content on the internet can be tedious and mind-numbing. It is a crowded, noisy place. In the age where content is king, where facts are not enough to engage customers, how do you catch interest?...

Web design trends in 2018 – New Zealand

Web design is constantly changing from year to year. Here are some trends that are making it big in 2018. Hand-Drawn Fonts Just look on Instagram to see how viral custom hand-drawn fonts are becoming in recent months. These unique typefaces add character and charm as...

I attended a function recently and was introduced to a guy I hadn’t met before. He asked me what I did, and then cut me short and proceeded to spend 20 minutes telling me all about his wonderful life. How well his business was doing, his six-figure income that was likely to increase by 50% this year, the new Maserati in his 100m2 carpeted garage, the Europe cruise booked for later in the year and so on and so on. He was intoxicated by his own success and loved hearing the sound of his own voice. So much so, that I struggled to get a word in, and when I did, he didn’t really hear or register anything that I was saying.

This is a classic ‘overdog’ story and you’ve probably heard plenty of these yourself over the years. Don’t you find them a big turn-off? Many brands are like this guy at the party and are guilty of telling overdog stories – infatuated by their own sense of importance and their supposedly unique contribution to the world. How many websites have we seen where brands are talking about being innovative, world class, world leaders, best in class etc?

Legendary storytelling coach Robert McKee says that brands have got to stop bragging and promising, and start telling stories. Brands need to stop trying to be the hero in their own story, and let their customer be the hero. They should focus more on being a mentor – kind of like an Obi Wan Kenobi character, helping the hero on his journey.

I believe that brands are far better served by telling underdog stories.

Why? Because we always root for the underdog, and relate more deeply to his struggles, so there’s a higher trust component and a much stronger emotional connection. And the underdog always has something to prove so we feel like we can count on his loyalty. The underdog won’t abandon us in times of trouble.

Richard Branson really gets this principle, and always chooses new business opportunities and markets where he can tell a classic underdog story. One of his famous quotes is, “We look for the big bad wolves who are dramatically overcharging and under-delivering.” Notice his use of the term “Big bad wolves”. This is classic story language and an analogy that we all recognise from childhood.

A fantastic underdog story example is Avis campaign launched in the eighties. At number 2 behind Hertz, their campaign bluntly stated “We try harder.” The humility and directness of this line immediately builds trust and creates the feeling that Avis will work harder to please you than their competitors will.

There’s much more power in being the underdog than the overdog. The key to a great business story is to get your audience to make an empathetic connection with you.

Underdog stories do just that. Overdog stories just turn people off.