Storytelling is out, enter Storydoing

Doing instead of saying is proven to be an effective strategy

As the founder of Southwest Airlines, Herb Kelleher did something no other person in the airline industry could do—grew an airline from nothing to more than 3500 flights a day, and turning a profit every single year. How? A fanatical dedication to thinking and doing things differently.

Organisations that “do things” are said to be more successful than companies that merely “talk”. Now there is proof. As a consumer, we already knew this was true, now your professional alter ego can be persuaded as well.

The world has changed dramatically. Bob Garfield and Doug Levy recently wrote a book about it. According to their conclusions, we have entered what they call “the Relationship Era”. A world in which companies no longer hide behind well-chosen visuals and creative one-liners that — at best — stick. Companies have to do things, more than just saying.

Bob Garfield & Doug Levy -

Annualised share price growth of Storytelling vs. Storydoing companies

Co:Collective, the US alternative agency model has formed a network of expert partners to jointly offer “Storydoing”. Doing things instead of storytelling, or put differently — saying things. On their website they summarized the main results of a study they recently conducted. They looked at storytelling and storydoing companies — talkers and doers. Their conclusions are remarkable: storydoing companies have a bigger impact—despite spending less on paid media. No less than 42 companies were reviewed in 7 sectors. Doers outperformed tellers in any possible aspect: financial growth, social media engagement, sentiment, even when it comes to their stock value. Despite spending on average 170% less on media.

Walk the talk

Today, organisations have to switch gears — or better yet — rethink everything. Completely. Consumers expect to be clients again. More than ever they expect to be treated as if they were the only client, they expect personal products, cheaper prices, better quality, a friendly service, instant support, … Demanding? Indeed. But we have ourselves to blame. We have spoiled consumers with more for less. First because they asked for it, next because there was no way back. Should companies wish to survive, they have to proof their value once again. Despite all the demands clients have, they mainly want to feel value (for money). That is exactly what marketing departments should focus on. It is their job to answer the question —like it always has been their job! — “How do we create added value for our clients?”.

Creating value is harder than ever. Value is an asset that proofs itself over time and — thank you financial crisis —long term investments are more the exception than the rule, projects are considered costs. Nevertheless, creating added value in a digital world should be easier than ever before: users share everything they have on social media, leave a data trail with every interaction, tech startups are gaining traction with potential clients and are willing to share that data in search of a business model and validating ideas & concepts no longer costs an arm and a leg—now lean is trendier than ever.

Although social media have made it possible for direct relationships between brands and people, according to recent findings of The House of Marketing marketers don’t feel all that comfortable with this “new” way of communicating. New tech startups are created at the speed of light and most of them disappear even faster. Brands don’t know whether to embrace this new generation or ignore it somewhat longer. Collecting data is a key asset in many companies, yet most of those companies have problems interpreting. Millions of records of data — big data — now what? For most advertisers small data is already a big enough. To conclude, our organisations aren’t organised to make lean progress, let alone experiment.

“Doing Things”

Rob Kelleher was a challenger. When he entered the market, and he still is. Although Southwest is a top 3 player in a crowded market, Mr. Kelleher never lost his challenger mindset: doing things. Different from the others. He was the first to introduce a frequent miles program, pioneered senior discounts on inbound flights and incorporated wifi on his planes long before competitors started considering wifi on theirs.

- Rob Kelleher, Founder Southwest Airlines -

We need Kellehers in all companies. Challengers that are ready to do things, to disrupt their market. But Mr. Kelleher could never have done it alone. We’re not discussing a great management team, we’re discussing culture.

Shared responsibility

All this complexity makes value creation no longer the job of one single department, marketing. Not one business unit today can be accounted for value creation. Not as a single unit. Bain & Company pointed out that 80% of companies agree to offer superior services, whilst only 8% of their clients tend to agree. Living proof of the troubles companies face when dealing with customer-centricity. However, an important prerequisite for value creation. Organisations are organised vertically, focused on partial responsibilities, whereas customer experiences are horizontal, touching the whole of the company. As a customer you withdraw money from an ATM one day, the other day you use your desktop interface to make a payment to check your cash balance another day on your mobile. A horizontal experiences with 3 different touchpoints. At least 3 different business units are responsible for those 3 touchpoints. Only a small number of organisations offer consistent experiences, unique and sufficient per touchpoint and at the same time complementary across touchpoints.

Involvement in- and outside company walls

We need new forms of collaboration. Organisations have to learn to better collaborate together to unlock the internal potential of expertise and creativity. But also outside company walls it is harder than ever to find answers with one service provider. Every specific domain knows its pappenheimers, the majority of which are young entrepreneurs today. They don’t like big organisational structures. We need to involve those small entrepreneurial entities. And there are many of them, all small algile mini-entities.

Not to forget our main and most important stakeholder: the end user, our client. Co-creation, crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, growfunding… are becoming mainstream. Time to use client-involvement not merely as an excuse in a campaign, but to make it the center of our activities.

For companies —once again — a new reality to (learn to) deal with all those different parties in order to create value again. But it will be worthwhile, Storydoing companies are rewarded as you could read…

True North is a marketing innovation hub helping companies of today mark tomorrow. If you enjoyed reading this article, feel free to tweet about it or follow us.

Founder of @TrueNorthBe. We help design & deliver strategies to support the success of retail brands like Veritas, e5, Bristol, Lunch Garden, IKEA or Game Mania

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