"Past a foreboding sewer. Down the street with the cracks you should not step on, lest you break your mother's back. There, lies a place of unexpected sweetness."
Where is this place? It's in the minds of radio listeners who are in the market to buy a new Radio Flyer wagon.
This mellifluous sentiment fills the first 28 words of an award-winning radio commercial for the iconic children's toy. These words, set against a heart-nudging musical score, instantly transport the listener to a place where they feel welcome. A place that looks different to each person invited on the 60-second sonic journey. This commercial tells a story. To hear the whole commercial, click here.
What story does your Maine small business tell in commercials on Portland radio? Or, do you tell a story at all?
Sadly, most local radio commercials spew a list of facts without context or texture. The poor listener becomes inundated by 60-second stream of phone numbers; street addresses: cliches about fast and friendly service; web addresses; and promises of free estimates.
What's missing from these fact-laden commercials is the glue that makes the message stick in the imagination of the listener. This glue is called story. And it's important.
We've Been Communicating With Stories For 20,000 Years
In the most successful advertising, business owners tell stories just like Radio Flyer does. According to an article in The Harvard Business Review, "It’s no surprise. We humans have been communicating through stories for upwards of 20,000 years, back when our flat screens were cave walls."
HBR goes on to explain why storytelling is critical to effective advertising.
"Storytelling evokes a strong neurological response. Neuroeconomist Paul Zak‘s research indicates that our brains produce the stress hormone cortisol during the tense moments in a story, which allows us to focus, while the cute factor of the animals releases oxytocin, the feel-good chemical that promotes connection and empathy. Other neurological research tells us that a happy ending to a story triggers the limbic system, our brain’s reward center, to release dopamine which makes us feel more hopeful and optimistic."
"In one experiment," HBR goes on to say, "After participants watched an emotionally charged movie about a father and son, Zak asked study participants to donate money to a stranger. With both oxytocin and cortisol in play, those who had the higher amounts of oxytocin were much more likely to give money to someone they’d never met."
Can A Good Story Be Told In One Minute?
Telling a story within the confines of 60-second radio commercial may seem daunting. But consider that Ernest Hemingway allegedly once, on a bet created an entire novel consisting of just 6 words: "For sale: baby shoes. Never worn."
Apocryphal or not, this Hemingway story proves it is not the number of words that make the story. It's how the words are used. But, most Maine business owners don't pretend to have the literary prowess of the man who wrote For Whom The Bell Tolls and The Old Man And The Sea. But, I promise you, the ability to tell a story in 160 words can be accomplished by anyone.
There is a website that translates thousands of Chinese short stories from anonymous contributors into English. Each of these stories can be told in one minute or less. Here's a particularly powerful one called Heart Murmurs:
"Every day he listened to the heartbeats respectfully and with the utmost patience. Each one was different. He truly believed that one day he would find that old familiar palpitation. Donating her heart had been his wife's last wish. One day, he listened to the heartbeat of a female patient who had come in for a diagnosis. "You've had a heart operation?" "Yes," she answered. "A transplant?" he asked. She nodded. "Are you having any problems or pain with your new heart?" "No. I just came to tell you that she's doing find and she loves you very much."
Heart murmurs is exactly 99 words. Wow!
Good Stories On Portland Radio
Many commercials heard on Portland radio do, successfully, utilize powerful storytelling to engage their best prospective customers. One of my absolute favorites is from "The Roofa", a Westbrook, Maine roofing company. If you are not from Maine, then I should tell you "Roofa" is how some of us of say "Roofer." Take a listen to The Roofa's story:
Listen to another example of great radio storytelling. This one from The United Way of Greater Portland:
Here's our best advice to Maine small business owners who advertise on Portland radio. Each word of your radio commercial is precious and you will pay around 60 cents for each one. So, make every word count. Science and history prove that storytelling is human's most powerful form of communication. So in your next radio commercial, don't spew facts...tell stories.
Lean more about creating awesome advertising successfully on the radio:
- Satellite Radio: What Maine Small Business Owners Need To Know
- Maine Small Business Owners Grab Qualified Job Candidates By The Ears
- How Maine Small Business Owners Can Get Stuck in People's Heads
- Jingle on Portland Radio Doubles Sales For Maine Business Owner
- The Science of Making Your Maine Small Business Memorable
- Life Lesson For Maine Small Business Owners From The Obituaries
More Free Advice For Maine Small Business Owners
The Radio Flyer commercial mentioned at the beginning of this post was the recipient of the Best of Show award at the 2018 Radio Mercury Awards.
The Radio Mercury Awards, the only competition exclusively devoted to radio, was established in 1992 to encourage and reward the development of effective and creative radio commercials. The annual Radio Mercury Awards competition draws entries from advertising agencies, production houses, radio stations, and educational institutions across the country. Approximately 19,500 commercials have competed for over $3.4 million in prizes. The Radio Creative Fund (RCF), a non-profit corporation funded by the radio industry, governs
the Radio Mercury Awards. The Radio Advertising Bureau produces the Radio Mercury Awards.
To hear all of the 2018 winners, click here.