Sticky Messages through Storytelling

Did you hear about the guy who lost over 200 pounds of weight in less than a year? And that he did this by eating only fast food?
In November 1999, an article that appeared in the Men’s Health featured a bizarre story about Jared Foggle. According to the article, Jared Foggle was an overweight student at Indiana University who managed to lose 245 pounds on his “Subway diet” – a diet that consisted of him eating only Subway sandwiches.

When the management at Subway heard about this, they decided to scrap their “7 under 6” campaign (a series of ads which promoted the fact that Subway had 7 sandwiches with under 6 grams of fat) and marketed Jared’s story instead. The result? As soon as ‘Jared the Subway guy’ commercials began running, sales jumped by almost 20%. However, after a few years of Jared’s commercials, Subway began to remove Jared out of their ads. Now, with Jared gone, sales began to go down. Subway decided to bring Jared back.

So, why is it that Jared’s story was such a huge hit? Why was the Jared-story more successful than the “7 under 6” campaign?

The answer lies in the fact that stories are much more persuasive than statistics. Or, as Patricia Fripp (an executive speech coach) put’s it,

People are trained to resist a sales pitch, but no one can resist a good story”.
It’s easy to resist the “7 Under 6” campaign, but Jared’s story is so inspiring that we cannot help but watch it. We get involved in Jared’s story – as humans, we empathize with his problem of being overweight, even though we may not be overweight ourselves; we get involved in the story because we are curious (“Wow! How did he lose so much weight?”); and we get involved because we can “see” the story – that is, even if you haven’t watched the Jared commercials, you can still mentally picture your own version of a ‘before-Subway’ and ‘after-Subway’ Jared.
The ‘7 Under 6’ campaign, on the other hand, is a statistic which informs us, but fails to involve us because it doesn’t inspire us, it doesn’t make us curious, and we can’t picture what 6 grams of would mean for our body.

Now, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t use statistics. Statistics certainly have their place in communication, but they are not as powerful as a well-told story. Nevertheless, in future blog posts, you’ll learn how communication-masters such as Obama and Ronald Reagan use statistics to inspire people, to arouse curiosity and to “create a picture in the listeners’ minds”. In other words, how they use statistics to make their messages memorable.
“Statistics inform us, but stories involve us"
Stories are a powerful form of communication. They’re engaging because they involve us emotionally and they are memorable because we can mentally see the story. To be successful in our communication, we must use stories.

P.S. It's my birthday today! If you like this post, then share it on Facebook as a way of saying Happy Birthday :) Go on, it'll make me happy!