July 7, 2006

the narrative gaps

I want the world.jpg

In case you were wondering, I took down the Hughtrain banner off the sidebar because it's all about marketing theory.

I find marketing theory increasingly dull. I'm sure a lot of other people do, too.

Anyway, my favorite marketing insight isn't even in the Hughtrain. My favorite marketing insight is this:

If people like buying your product, it's because its story helps fill in the narrative gaps in their own lives.

Human beings need to tell stories. Historically, it's the quickest way we have for transmitting useful information to other members of our species. Stories are not just nice things to have, they are essential survival tools.

And yes, the stories we tell ourselves are just as important than the stories we tell other people.

Ergo, marketing is not about selling. Marketing is figuring out where your product stands in relation to personal narrative.

So where does your product fit into other people's narrative? How does telling your story become a survival tool for other people? If you don't know, you have a marketing problem.

Narrative gaps. It's all about the narrative gaps.

Posted by hugh macleod at July 7, 2006 9:31 PM | TrackBack
Comments

Hugh, I'm curious to know what narrative gap you think Stormhoek typically fills. Why do people like buying Stormhoek?

Posted by: Dave at July 7, 2006 11:51 PM

You hit it on the mark again. While the hughtrain makes a lot of sense, it essentially boils down to the quote above. Life is just that simple isn't it?

Posted by: Dat Nguyen at July 7, 2006 11:56 PM

I'm not sure if you agree Hugh, but it strikes me that the same brand can fill those gaping narrative gaps in different ways for different people.

Posted by: John Dodds at July 7, 2006 11:59 PM

I'm fairly sure the dancing girls' union will take issue with that request.

Posted by: Corey King at July 8, 2006 12:29 AM

using the phrase "narrative gap" doesn't seem to fill mine

,-)

Posted by: Jeff Schmidt at July 8, 2006 2:34 AM

And then there are products which make people discover narrative gaps which they previously didn't even realize existed. Ipod for example.

Posted by: Gaurav at July 8, 2006 2:54 AM

I love how even though you find marketing theory so dull, you can't help but tack on some more marketing theory in the same post! It's a good thing too because that's what I come here for =D

I agree the Hughtrain is okay but it's no How To Be Creative or Sex and Cash theory. You may be all sick of your theories and onto the next thing, but I still enjoy reading them.

You might not like it, but the Hughtrain is one of your greatest hits - perhaps it's hard to top yourself, but it's still relevant. Rock stars still have to play their greatest hits decades later so people will come to their shows. =)

I just finished reading Seth Godin's books and reading your archives. It's all good but I still like your take better than Godin's because of the cartoons and that great hopeful cynicism that I can't get enough of. I still can't believe you're not plugging a book. Even though I can download all the cartoons for free I still want to buy the book. Thanks for the English Cut, too. That's good stuff.

I'm shooting for "blogging success story" myself, in my own way. Thanks for inspiring me to try it.

Posted by: Danielle at July 8, 2006 2:59 AM

First of all, anytime any blogger starts talking about marketing theory, my mouse perks up. Then again I need to get a life.

Second, this quote "Ergo, marketing is not about selling. Marketing is figuring out where your product stands in relation to personal narrative.", sounds like a new way of saying 'positioning and branding works'.

I know I'm about to sound like a smartass, and I'll apologize in advance because that's not my intention, but I don't see any marketing insight here. I see a new way of describing old ideas.

Especially when you add this quote: "So where does your product fit into other people's narrative? How does telling your story become a survival tool for other people? If you don't know, you have a marketing problem.".

That REALLY sounds like 'if you don't know the position that your product owns in the prospect's mind, then you have a marketing problem'.

Again, Al Ries was saying that 25 years ago. How does your idea of the 'narrative gaps' differ from Ries' concept of positioning?

Posted by: Mack Collier at July 8, 2006 3:32 AM

this is getting a bit too abstract for me... Care to illustrate with a few examples, Hugh?

Posted by: Jeff at July 8, 2006 3:46 AM

I agree with Danielle, the cartoons would be way more fun to read than that god awful Cluetrain book.

Posted by: Andy at July 8, 2006 5:15 AM

Not sure if I agree with you, Mack. Stories behave differently than objects.

But hey, if the metaphor works for you, then go for it.

Thanks for all the ther feedback, Everybody.

Posted by: hugh macleod at July 8, 2006 11:50 AM

One more thing: I know there some worth in thinking about marketing, coming up with whatever conclusions I can, then writing it all down on a blog. Good for traffic etc.

But more and more, I'd rather spend that energy selling more wine...

Posted by: hugh macleod at July 8, 2006 12:24 PM

It's all about the narrative gaps.


How true. Not only in marketing.
I really enjoy reading your site, your comics are great :)

Posted by: Jo at July 8, 2006 3:16 PM

Theory is great and all, but it really is all about dancing girls. And selling a lot of wine has a way of attacting them. That and a jet.

So yeah, selling more wine 4tw.

Posted by: Josh at July 8, 2006 7:16 PM

"Not sure if I agree with you, Mack. Stories behave differently than objects."

Sure. And stories invoke emotions. And we position products in our minds, because they tap into some emotion(s) that we carry and can relate to.

Now if your purpose was to 'create a better metaphor', then yeah, I could definitely see where 'narrative gap' would work better for some than 'positioning'.

Still sounds to me that we are saying the same thing, in two different ways. But hey, that's not always a bad thing.

Posted by: Mack Collier at July 8, 2006 7:17 PM

Again Mack, not sure if I agree. I don't think we're saying the same thing at all ;-)

Posted by: hugh macleod at July 8, 2006 8:33 PM

The same story can make a unique or different story to different people - language and tone rarely put the finger on things in the way the creator of those words intended - but maybe close.

My ten cents is that language alone cannot sum up the story; it can only add to it. The only thing that 'is the story' is an individuals inner experience. Think how memory plays when you smell something familiar or that recalls a special time. The experience is far richer than anything "marketing" can deliver.

Posted by: James Thomson at July 8, 2006 9:04 PM

"Positioning" and "Narrative Gaps" don't seem the same to me at all... wouldn't positioning be the way in which we perceive/see/think about A Thing (company, product, etc.)? Could you not have clear, accurate positioning (this thing really *is* fast, etc.) without filling a narrative gap? (who says "fast" has any meaning for me?)

And I agree with John Dodds... the same *thing* could fill different narrative gaps, and thus might be positioned differently (with or without any explicit attempt to "position" the thing) for different people.

Yeah, what John and Hugh said ; )

Posted by: Kathy Sierra at July 8, 2006 11:02 PM

"Again Mack, not sure if I agree. I don't think we're saying the same thing at all ;-)"

Then what exactly are you saying?

Posted by: Mack Collier at July 9, 2006 3:46 AM

"Why" is more interesting to me than "What", Mack.

Posted by: hugh macleod at July 9, 2006 8:37 AM

re: blogging success story.

I posted a post 2 days ago called "I am not a fashion designer". Yesterday I got a call for a freelance design job via that post. Hot damn, it works!

btw, theory schmeory if you've got to go sell wine. It's supposed to be about having a good time and making lots of money so if you don't feel it don't force it.

rock, as you say, on.

Posted by: Danielle at July 9, 2006 1:06 PM

""Why" is more interesting to me than "What", Mack."

Gotcha. I think you've answered my question.

Posted by: Mack Collier at July 9, 2006 3:29 PM

Why do I feel like I need to take a bong hit to appreciate all of this? Marketing needs real. None of this feels real to me.

Sorry.

Posted by: David Armano at July 9, 2006 4:05 PM

Yes David, the irony of having this discussion in the comments of a blog post that began, "I find marketing theory increasingly dull" was not lost on me, either.

It's Mack's fault! ;-)

PS: Small world: I came across you for the first time last night, listening to the ATS podcast! Rock on.

Posted by: hugh macleod at July 9, 2006 4:17 PM

I toldja, boring marketing talk fascinates me ;)

BTW you need to stop spending so much time trying to make money for your clients and signing prints Hugh, David's one of the fastest rising bloggers out there, his blog Logic + Emotion is amazing.

Posted by: Mack Collier at July 9, 2006 5:03 PM

I agree with you, after all stories were quite efficient in marketing the religion (no matter which one it is).

Posted by: Balaji at July 11, 2006 10:33 AM

Hello, it's very good site too: tramadol vs tylenol http://tramadol.firm-cinema.in/

Posted by: tramadol at July 26, 2006 8:46 PM

Very good reading. Peace until next time.
WaltDe

Posted by: WaltDe at September 1, 2006 2:01 AM

i wanna to know something abut why difeent peoples behave different
i m the mba student in riet jaipur plz tell me more information

Posted by: akhil goyal at September 12, 2006 12:23 PM

tramadol addiction tramadol addiction

Posted by: tramadol addiction at October 23, 2006 4:27 PM

tramadol hydrochloride tramadol hydrochloride

Posted by: tramadol hydrochloride at October 23, 2006 5:53 PM

Circumstances alter cases. Rebecca.

Posted by: Rebecca at October 27, 2006 7:04 PM

Buon luogo, congratulazioni, il mio amico!

Posted by: Pompini at October 30, 2006 7:10 PM

Buon luogo piacevole senza qualsiasi cosa dispari, ben progettata!

Posted by: Virgilio at October 30, 2006 7:12 PM

Hi! taihc
It's but it good site: http://tramadol.firm.in
whck cheap tramadol

Posted by: sbppgbb at November 20, 2006 5:28 PM

I can't be bothered with anything these days, but such is life. I don't care. So it goes. More or less nothing seems worth thinking about. I've just been hanging out waiting for something to happen, but that's how it is.

Posted by: Sten85978 at January 6, 2007 10:00 PM

I haven't been up to anything today. I can't be bothered with anything recently. Nothing seems worth thinking about. I haven't gotten anything done recently, but oh well. Not much noteworthy going on worth mentioning.

Posted by: Sten57017 at January 8, 2007 8:14 AM

I can't be bothered with anything these days, but such is life. I don't care. So it goes. More or less nothing seems worth thinking about. I've just been hanging out waiting for something to happen, but that's how it is.

Posted by: Sten8594 at January 9, 2007 6:17 PM

My life's been pretty dull recently. Shrug. My mind is like a void. I haven't gotten anything done lately. I can't be bothered with anything recently.

Posted by: Sten4755 at January 10, 2007 7:12 AM

I haven't been up to anything today. I can't be bothered with anything recently. Nothing seems worth thinking about. I haven't gotten anything done recently, but oh well. Not much noteworthy going on worth mentioning.

Posted by: Sten85765 at February 10, 2007 1:56 PM

This is really fresh idea of the design of the site! I seldom met such in Internet. I will visit your website again. Good Work dude!

Posted by: Buy Evista at April 22, 2007 12:02 PM