How to Harness Stories in Business

By Jennifer Aaker, Maile Lesica, Barbara McCarthy, Tina Sharkey, Tamsin Smith
2012 | Case No. M354 | Length 19 pgs.
Stories drive almost everything we do, whether it is the motivation for why we raise our children a certain way, or the backstory for choosing one product over another at the grocery store. In ways that logical arguments and data are not, stories are compelling, inspiring, and perhaps, most importantly in a business perspective, persuasive. By understanding the structure of a story—the relationship between the plot arc and protagonist shifted by tension—storytellers can move audiences by enabling them to imagine what they would do (or how they would like to be treated) in such a scenario, as seen in Zappos’ claim to fame for its customer service stories, from sending flowers to a woman who just had foot surgery to hand-delivering shoes to customers. Although the art of storytelling can seem ambiguous and even daunting at times, this case explores how a good business story can be formulated according to the following steps: 1) Set the scene, 2) Pull the audience, 3) Provide the key facts, 4) Lay out the crux of the matter, 5) Deliver the ‘wow’ insight and implications, 6) Reiterate the implications, 7) Repeat 2-6 as necessary to communicate the message.

Learning Objective

This case is designed to showcase how stories – and their power to persuade – can be leveraged by businesses to convey important messages to audiences in a compelling and memorable way. This case establishes a replicable framework and identifies best practices to tell a business story.
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