This Story Made Me Sick, But in the End I Pulled Out My Credit Card


It was my last day in the Alaskan wilderness, and I knew there was a fiercely protective mother bear between my 3-person hiking party and our bush plane; we had seen her and two of her cubs, passing ahead of us on the narrow trail only 20 minutes earlier. We had hoped that brief encounter would be our only one.

It was not to be. I’d fallen maybe 50 yards behind my companions, taking my time and enjoying the warm, late afternoon sunshine. Suddenly, I heard the sharp sound of twigs snapping and leaves rustling to my right. I froze in my tracks and turned in the direction of the sound: there she was, not a stone’s throw away, firmly planted, panting and drooling with flared nostrils. Her eyes locked with mine.

The charge caught me by surprise. Instinctively, I unslung my rifle from my shoulder and began to raise it just as the grizzly reached me, snarling, rearing up, and looming above me so close I could see the yellow on her massive teeth. I had one chance at this close range, but a good one.

I squeezed the trigger, barrel pointed straight at the bear’s chest. There was a sickening click…

So: Curious to know what happened next? Would you like to keep reading to the end and find out all the–pardon the pun–grisly details?

Read on, it gets better.

And that, in essence, is my job as a writer and a marketer–to grab your attention, engage your senses and get you to commit to the book, brand or service I am representing. You can easily see from this naked example that the technique works, but there is also plenty of practical scientific research behind why such story telling works so well for today’s big brands. Especially in the demanding and crowded social media space that we’re all forced to function in.

It may just be the oxytocin, the same powerful chemical that bonds people together after intense lovemaking. According to Claremont Graduate University’s Prof. Paul Zak, who studies the effects of oxy (and who has drawn blood of those who watched or engaged in powerful, character-driven narratives first) the chemistry can even predict which TV commercial will pull best during the Superbowl.

It’s an expensive lesson to ignore. With an ever more important emphasis on creating compelling, on-going stories to differentiate our brand (or our clients’ brands) we likewise need talent who can keep powerful narratives coming day in and day out across deliverable channels–from :30 broadcast spots to brand blogs to well-placed PR.

Even a sixty second ‘elevator pitch’ for a venture investment or a movie project can benefit from one’s ability to tap into and grab the audience’s attention and leave an indelible impression behind…an impression that can separate your product or service (or even just you, yourself) from all the other voices clamoring for the sale, the contract or the job.

Does your proposal–or even your résumé–create an oxytocin-worthy result that showcases your strengths, burns you into your prospect’s psyche and gets you the callback you deserve?

Companies like Narativ, which charges companies from $6000 to $25,000 to learn how to connect through speeches and corporate training in story telling, has built a successful 20-year business on this science.

In my personal experience, I can attest to the efficacy of using a great yarn to bulk up your brand message as if it were on steroids.

Crime writer Mickey Spillane had the formula down cold. “Grab your reader’s attention from the opening paragraph of your book,” he advised, “and hold onto them until the very last word of the last chapter.”

Kind of like a grizzly bear with a rag doll of a human in her jaws.

Want to know more about how you can integrate powerful story telling into your brand? Have I got a story for you!

Tom Stevens is a writer who specialized in “content” when it was still called “copywriting.” If you want–or need–words that can spark revolutions or merely cause people to pull out their checkbooks or credit cards, call or write him before some third world despot has him kidnapped to write propaganda for their rotten regime. For more from Tom visit

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