Once Upon a Time . . .

A few days ago, I cleaned out my car and found something surprising. Wedged between the passenger seat and console was a Warby Parker glasses case that should have been in the house. I opened it to see if it held an old pair of glasses that should be put away or a new pair of sunglasses that someone might need.

I didn’t find any glasses.

Instead, lying neatly at the bottom of the case was a white cleaning cloth. It was covered with words that drew my attention. “Warby Parker in 100 Words,” the blue headline read. And then the single paragraph began. “Once upon a time …”

I don’t know about you, but I find the words “once upon a time” irresistible. I had to read it.

That’s probably not surprising. As a species, we’re hardwired to love stories. At least that’s what Carmine Gallo, author of “Five Stars: The Communication Secrets to Get From Good to Great,” tells us in this month’s cover story from Knowledge@Wharton. 

He points out that those who know how to communicate well have a competitive advantage over others who don’t. It makes sense. Would you rather be in a meeting with a presenter clicking through an endless PowerPoint presentation or at a TED Talk with no bullet points in sight?

Many of us associate stories with novels, movies or television programs — activities that are fun and sometimes thought-provoking. But stories certainly have their place in the business world.

A blog post on Enchanting Marketing tells businesses to ask the following questions to help them craft their story: Which problem do you solve? Which insight sparked the start (or pivoting) of your business? What are you doing now to fix the problem? What’s your mission?

The Warby Parker story tucked into its product case answers all of those questions. I can tell you what sparked the company, what problem it solves and what it values. All in 100 words.

I promise I’m not a Warby Parker cheerleader, but I think it’s interesting that Greg Wright in this month’s profile on Wright Global Graphics talks about the rise of omnichannel retail and points to Warby Parker as a business that’s handling the dynamics of both online and brick-and-mortar stores well. 

Coming back to communication, there’s another important benefit to appealing to emotion — stories move people to action. Sometimes a story encourages consumers to buy your product. Sometimes consumers share your story with others because they love it or because they learned something they didn’t know. Or sometimes your employees may be encouraged or inspired by stories that transform business strategies into something relatable.

So, settle in and figure out your equivalent to “once upon a time …” I promise people will read it, listen to it and pass it on. May you live happily ever after

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