If you stop to think about it, we live our lives as a series of tales. From the beginning of human existence, we have have developed the unique ability to be storytellers, whether it was through cave paintings, the oral tradition of Homer and other epic poets, or the latest episodes of Heroes. We convey our fears, joys, grief, thrills and more through recounting where we've been, what we've seen and how we envision the world. Why?
It's one of the most basic human needs after food, shelter and love - to be heard and to be understood, and ultimately to be able to relate to others.
Everyone's got a story.
Last fall, Ford ran a contest called Mustang Stories, where we encouraged people to submit their own stories about the iconic Ford Mustang in advance of the 2010 Mustang launch. In a photo and 250 words or less, they were encouraged to share their own unique experiences with this iconic brand. The winner, selected by the community by voting on the top 25 stories, would receive a trip to the L.A. Auto Show to see the reveal of the new car, and would walk away with the car as well.
Kory Chesher, who was at the time deployed in Iraq in the U.S. Army, submitted the winning essay and photo:
It started when I was about six years old. I was in the truck with my father and we were at a stoplight. Across the road at the other light was this "car." It drew my attention away from everything else in the world. I asked my dad what it was and he simply said, "Oh, that’s a Mustang." I remember it like it was yesterday. I now know that it was a 1968 black fastback. That was almost 20 years ago. 20 years of love, addiction, obsession. 20 years of longing and desire. Now I’m a soldier in the United States Army deployed to Iraq. I spend my spare time tearing through Mustang magazines that my family and total strangers are kind hearted enough to send to me. Every opportunity I get I’m online poring through forums and pictures; studying every little tidbit of knowledge I can get my hands on; meticulously memorizing seemingly insignificant trivia. Names, dates, specs, colors, paint codes, production numbers, costs, anything, everything. A Mustang of my own wouldn’t quell this life I live; it would supercharge it. The only thing greater than a life loving Mustangs is a life with a Mustang. With a Mustang to call my own I could finally experience the pride and freedom that I have only been watching from afar. It will ignite a passion like nothing I have ever experienced. Mustangs are my one true love. I am ready to go driving now.
Who wouldn't want to give that guy a car?
Just this evening, I was on Twitter, helping a woman with vehicle choices, and unprompted, she shared her own Mustang story:
I love it when people instantaneously share like that! We got into talking about test drives, so I did a return volley and gave her a link to one of my favorite test drive stories - in this case it was the winner of the film version of the Mustang contest that Ford ran through a partnership with Filmaka.
And there on Twitter, separated by about 2,500 miles, we admitted to each other that watching that video brought tears to our eyes. The magic of storytelling and sharing a unique view of the world brought two people closer together for a moment in time. She said that she was going to share the video with her husband; I'd imagine she'll tell others about the experience as well.
Now, the cynics out there will undoubtedly be asking, "Yeah, great. But did this help Ford sell a car?" Maybe. If she got the information she was looking for in the first place and it was backed up by a warm & fuzzy feeling of sharing a moment like that, then maybe it will contribute to the sales process.
But storytelling in and of itself is not about selling; it's about connecting. Connecting with people, whether briefly or repeatedly over time, to make them feel like their time was not wasted and that they mattered enough for you to make an effort on them. If you're effective, they'll want to return the favor. And then you'll have another story to tell.
Everyone's got a story. What's yours?
Photo credit: Ford Motor Company (Flickr)