We’re a generation of binge-watchers. Regular cable can’t keep up, so we stream docu-series or we squirrel away entire TV sitcom seasons in our DVR (who says Millennials don’t appreciate delayed gratification?). This habit also refutes our reputation for having the attention span of a flea, so what gives? Why do we dedicate hours of our lives to fictional characters or real people who are so overexposed they’ve become internet memes?
It’s all for the story, man.
We invest time and emotion in fictional stories, we click and share strangers’ stories on Facebook, and we cherish shared experiences with our friends and families. When we consider our own identities, we see the collage of people, challenges, and successes that have shaped us, not our our jobs or degrees or houses. In other words, stories make people tick. Not products, not services, and not facts and figures.
So how do you make your products and services appeal to the masses, especially the millennial generation?
Focus on your business’s stories: its origin story, the stories it inspires with your clients, even its imagined future.
Two major companies, Mercedes-Benz and Comcast, have figured this out just in time for the Christmas season. No two holiday commercials have ever made me cry while also inciting rage in my heart the way these two do. The rage is because I am aware that these companies are manipulating my emotions and the tears are because they’re good at it.
Let’s start with Comcast Xfinity’s commercial, “Hooking Up Grandma’s House”:
I imagine that Wifi and On Demand are the least likely ingredients in a recipe for holiday cheer, but factor in an angsty tween cheerily face-swapping with Grandma, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zero’s insanely sweet and catchy song “Home,” and a Christmas-tree-lit scene of the whole family watching It’s a Wonderful Life, and you’ve got a bonafide, warm-and-fuzzy tearjerker. The message is as clear as the lights on the tree: old people, you’d better get Xfinity so your grandchildren will want to come spend the holidays with you. Savage. But good.
Actually, Edward Sharpe, home is wherever there’s Wifi.
On to Mercedes-Benz and “Snow Date”:
It’s a tale as old as time: you have fun plans for the first time in weeks and suddenly snow is pouring out of the sky like God himself told Old Man Winter he could have the pleasure of ending the world. Tween Boy (tweens are fragile—good for sentimentality) won’t give up on his movie date, and Mom, who, in any other circumstance, would not let anyone out in this mess, whispers to Dad to “take him.” There’s the money shot: they go flying over the packed snow in Dad’s Benz and end up at an empty movie theater. Until! Tween girl pulls up in her Benz and they go on to have their date! (I don’t know about you, but my dad would never have let 14-year-old-me walk into an empty movie theater with a boy.) The soundtrack really underscores the steadfastness of young love with Sleeping At Last’s version of “Make You Feel My Love.” We know it’s ridiculous, but we don’t care. We awww anyway. Even though a nagging feeling tells us the message here is “only rich kids find love.”
Well played, Benz.
Storytelling can help you market your product or service to a crowd outside of your normal target audience, and the holidays provide a perfect opportunity to capitalize on emotions and sentimentality. Imagine scenes that typically play out around the holidays and ask yourself how your product fits into the equation. And if all else fails, underscore it with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. That song could make even the Grinch cry (the old one—before his heart grew three sizes).