On the use of story in user-centered marketing

My first love in marketing is copywriting.

Not the creative stuff of big brand agencies, mind you..

Rather, the tradition of split-test direct response marketing.

A tradition which underpins the entire field of experience design.

[dc]H[/dc]ow so?

Because the complete direct response copywriting process includes all of the broad concepts and principles of UX… if not the specific tools and techniques.

From stakeholder interviews, mockups and prototypes, customer journey…

…to minimum viable product, split testing and usability studies.

It was all there 150 years ago in the field of direct marketing… lost along the road to big brand creativity and code based computer design.

And at the heart of both traditional copywriting and modern experience design is story.

Storyboarding and the Customer Sales Journey

Story wraps every nuance of experience into the full spectrum of a customer’s journey.

In fact, the ‘hero’s journey’ of ancient mythology (as used in contemporary fiction and Hollywood movies) can be applied to customer journey mapping and persona development for deeply powerful and holistic experience design.

Hero’s journey?

Yes, you know…


As a quick side-by-side comparison of the idea:

[column width=”1/2″ first=”yes”]

Hero’s Journey (the Story plot)

  1. Call to adventure
  2. Initiation and trials
  3. World of the Quest
  4. Achieving the Goal
  5. Return home victorious
[/column] [column width=”1/2″]

Customer Journey (the Buying Process)

  1. Pain / frustration / gap / need
  2. Inspired motivation (sees your ad?)
  3. Considers resolution (buy or abandon?)
  4. Customer satisfaction (need fulfilled)
  5. Net Promoter Score (loyalty and referrals)
[/column] The book ‘Storytelling for User Experience: Crafting Stories for Better Design‘ explicitly details and connects storytelling with UX.

“This book looks across the full spectrum of user experience design to discover when and how to use stories to improve our products.”

Required reading for anyone with a keen interest in experience design.

Check out slides 18 to 27 for Yoshinori Wakizaka’s notes and examples adapted from the book, demonstrating the stages of the hero’s journey.

Stories, represented as storyboards, link our facts and ideas with our audience’s experiences and emotions; their imagination fills in the spaces we create, providing a far more engaging, memorable and persuasive experience. – Ben Crothers in Storyboarding UX – An Introduction

Brand message is no longer the thing that sells. Experience sells. If the intangible pleasure, emotion or meaning we seek can be made tangible through the use of story and narrative techniques, we will build more compelling product experiences. – Cindy Chastain in Better User Experience through Storytelling

I look forward to sharing much more on using story for experience design.

Remember this: Facts tell. Stories sell.