Storytelling is a key component of marketing. Yet few marketers seriously study the art and science of constructing stories. On this episode of Marketing Trends, we talked to someone who has.
Clay Hausmann (LinkedIn | Twitter) is the CMO of Aktana, a company that uses AI to provide decision support to life science sales and marketing teams. Clay is also a principal at treatment., a marketing consultancy that uses the methods of screenwriters to help brands build and tell their stories.
In this interview, Clay tells us how marketing is like screenwriting, and how marketers can use tips from screenwriting to tell better stories and be more effective. He also talks about his background, how he got into marketing, the future of marketing AI, and much more.
Clay’s Start in Marketing - (2:10) - Clay majored in broadcast journalism, but found what he liked was not necessarily journalism, but storytelling. That realization eventually led him to marketing.
- He started out doing agency work. He really enjoyed it, but found that as he got promoted more and more, it took him further and further away from the creative work that he loved, so he decided to go in-house.
- How did Clay learn to go corporate after spending more than ten years doing agency work? “I had to go 100% into sponge mode and be as flexible as possible. But that was exciting for me, there were new things for me to learn and be exposed to.”
Best Practices for Storytelling - (13:15) - Clay went into scriptwriting. He spent serious time learning how to write effective scripts.
- He started treatment. both as a way to share some of the ideas he had learned through screenwriting, and as a correction to some things that he thought were misaligned in the traditional agency model.
- “You can’t just prioritize story over everything. You have to think about audience reaction and implications.” - Clay Hausmann
- “How do we drive the bottom line for the consumer and then how do we drive business results from that?” - Ian Faison
- “Narrative language is ultimately what your marketers and your sales people are going to speak. So don’t make them translate a powerpoint deck written in strategy voice into what they’re ultimately going to use at the end of the day.” - Clay Hausmann
- Clay also focused on brevity. As Mark Twain said, “I’m sorry this letter is so long, I didn’t have time to make it shorter.”
- “You have to think in story terms as early in the strategy process as possible, because it forces you to think about the unique and compelling parts of what your brand story is going to be.” - Clay Hausmann
- One key storytelling device is the inciting incident. The event that makes everything else happen. Brands need to weave a good inciting incident into their story.
- “That thing that motivated you to do it in the first place should remain the core of what you’re doing and what you’re making in the future.” - Clay Hausmann
- It is also important to have a “save the cat moment” to make yourself the obvious protagonist.
- Character is key to a good story, and brands need to identify the characters in their story and frequently promote them.
The Future of Marketing AI - (37:35) - The way it’s already being used is with segmentation and microsegmentation, to the point of true personalization.
- We are still grappling with the problem of invasive personalization.
- There will always be a balance of human connection and AI, because there needs to be empathy and human intelligence to combine with machine-generated intelligence.
- There needs to be rigor behind storytelling. Scriptwriting is like blueprinting; It’s a design process.
- Mentioned by Clay: Story by Robert McKee, A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink, Sunspring Script
Story and Brand - (46:00) - “The mission statement is supposed to articulate what a company is supposed to do. It has been vehemently abused over the years to become a very self-serving or groupthink-written sentence that doesn’t achieve what it’s meant to.” - Clay Hausmann
- Instead of a mission statement, Clay uses an “animating idea.” It describes how your customer’s life is better after having used your product.
- The characters in your story should be used throughout your marketing.
- You have to be hyper-critical about whether you really live up to your story. Be honest about it. Your brand loses strength if you don’t live up to what you say.
Pardot Lightning Round - (50:45) - Most fun app: Apple Podcasts - One-day getaway: Tahoe - Favorite Podcast: How I Built This with Guy Raz - Favorite Sports Team: Miami Dolphins - Worst advice: Silicon Valley is a flash in the pan, stay in New York.
- What is Clay most excited about for the future of marketing? Audio, video and other media that will force marketers to use storytelling devices.
- More screenwriters should be brought in-house.
- Best advice for first time CMO: Understand your peers, so you can be a partner to them. Have empathy for what they have to deal with.
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