Finding Your Single Story – Seattle Interactive Conference Recap

How to find the “why your company exists” and the “why it matters to your audience” and the overlap between the two is critical to creating brand loyalty and consistent messaging across all of your marketing needs.



For those of you that attended Seattle Interactive Conference this year and were able to attend my talk with the Emmy award winning designer Lindsay Daniels, you already know all of this.  For those of you that would like a refresher or missed the talk, here’s a look back over the key points of our discussion.

We initially identified some current trends in how marketing content is frequently generated and wanted to suggest a slight shift in the approach.

There is a focus on tackling immediate needs

vs. designing a smart framework

Often times, we tend to tackle one marketing need at a time, as they arise, which creates a very reactive situation rather than a proactive approach to creating marketing content.  We tend to have recreate the wheel for each task and develop new messaging each time.

If, instead, we take the time to develop a framework built on the foundation of a single narrative around a brand, we find that it is significantly easier to create consistent messaging across all of our marketing and that the groundwork is already done when we need to meet a new need.  We can react faster and maintain a consistent conversation with our audience.


There is a tendency to talk about what you make

vs. why you make it

We all know what we make.  We spend all day doing what it is we do.  It’s easy to explain.  But why do we do it?  Why do we care about it enough to do it in the first place?  Why are we passionate enough about this thing to spend all day with it?  This creates a significantly more compelling story.

And it is common to talk about your product

vs. talking to your audience

It’s easy to talk about your product.  It’s a very concrete thing.  But identifying who your audience is and what matters to them and figure out why your product will matter in their lives, that’s where the real conversation is.  This is where you find the story that your audience will actually care about.

Shifting the approach to create a single narrative and developing an emotional connection with your audience about what matters to you and what matters to them and your shared values and beliefs has a major impact on your marketing content.  It creates a consistent message across all of you marketing channels and taps into how the human brain processes information and makes decisions.  And ultimately this approach leads to more views, more click throughs, more conversations, more brand loyalty, and more sales.

Finding the “Why?”

Imagine that you have to sell your product to some one, but don’t mention the actual product.

How will the product make them feel?

What do you have in common with them?  A shared belief?  A political or social issue that is very important to both of you?  Where is your common ground with this person?

How will the product change their day?  Their life?  Their community?  Their world?

Can you answer these questions?  This is where you begin to tease out why your company exists in the first place and where you begin to identify your single story.

Focusing on why your company exists builds an emotional connection with your audience.

Focusing on the why increases the impact of your marketing.

Identifying your single story gives you a foundation for consistent messaging across an ever expanding marketing ecosystem.

Simon Sinek really does a fantastic job of describing his “Golden Circle” theory in his Ted Talk below.



Simon Sinek talks about Apple in his Ted Talk, and I go into more detail about Apple’s single story and their use of the emotional appeal in my other blog post so I won’t revisit it here.  But they are the master of having a single consistent narrative for their company that has been consistent for decades in an industry where the products change every few months.  Which really drives home the point that your marketing messaging really needs to be rooted in something far deeper than the product.  Products evolve.  What’s at the heart of your company?

When you can find the overlap between why your audience cares about your product/company and why your company exists, that’s where you will find your single story.

Hacking the Brain

Why does this approach work?  Because of how the brain has evolved.  Simon Sinek touches on this in his Ted Talk and neuromarketing research has been around since the 90’s so this isn’t really a new revelation, but still very relevant.

What does (or doesn’t) happen in the brain when you talk about the product

The brain cannot translate features and functions of a product into benefits.  Meaning that people can’t figure out why they should care when the only information you give them is how something works.

Because they don’t care, that information never gets past the short term memory and is quickly forgotten.

And when you ask people to process logic and language, they are accessing parts of their brain that have no direct relationship with the parts of the brain that make decisions.  The effort they are putting into processing features and functions is actually preventing them from wanting to take any kind of action.

What happens in the brain when you make an emotional appeal.

Feeling emotions connects your audience with the part of their brain that makes decisions and takes action.

Attaching an emotion to information transfers that information to the long term memory, making your message more memorable.

And feeling emotions triggers our instincts to share that emotional experience with our social groups.

Creating an emotional connection makes your message more memorable, more shareable, and inspires action from your audience.

Here are the examples we used of companies that have developed strong single stories and the results of those marketing efforts.

Under Armour: Misty Copland #IWillWhatIWant

Results: 6.5 million youtube views, 34% increase in sales

Virgin America Safety Video

Results: almost 10 million youtube views and increased brand awareness, reinforcing their company narrative

Always #LikeAGirl

Results: 48.9 million youtube views, dozens of articles written about the campaign, significant social conversation

Don’t just tell them a story.  Give them a story to tell.

Posted on February 6, 2016 in Marketing

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