Is your story f***ing great?

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Frame capture from Michael Dubin's Dollar Shave Club videoMark Levine knew manufacturing. Michael Dubin knew how to tell a story. Now, 2 million people wake up each morning and drag the pair’s razors across their beards.

The Dollar Shave Club didn’t steal market share from Gillette because its razors are superior. They’re doing it because of their story.

Levine and Dubin met at a holiday party and their small talk turned to the ridiculous cost of razor blades. Levine could source low-cost material. Dubin, a journalist-turned-marketer and amateur comedian, could tell a story.

Dubin scraped together $5,000 to create a video so off the wall it was destined to go viral. If Monty Python did a video on market disruption, it would look something like this: renegades breaking the rules, having fun in the process, and filling a need consumers were only dimly aware they had (reasonably priced blades; delivered so you won’t have to remember to buy them).

Something’s happening here

“Powerful forces are afoot,” said Dean McBeth, strategist for the CP+B advertising agency. “Use culture as your ally.”  In the case of Dollar Shave, they tapped into the growing counter-corporate culture. Quiver did the same when they staged “anti-robot / pro-human” protests at South By Southwest to promote their app that helps singles find dates through personal networks instead of impersonal matchmaking services.

The common thread here is the story you tell about your product or service. The story has become as important as the product or service itself. “The product IS the message IS the media,” McBeth said during a presentation for Denver Startup Week in October 2015.

How and where you tell that story, then, is crucial. “Ignore the shiny new things,” McBeth said. It’s not about what platform you use, but about whether your story is tight and compelling.

“Make love to the communities that run the Internet — the influencers in your space,” he said. About 10 percent of the Internet citizenry are creators and connectors who influence the other 90 percent. Find ways to loop them into your story so that they burnish their street cred by amplifying it.

It’s killer when you have the wits to create a video like Dubin’s. But even if your story is a few notches less entertaining, you can make it work better for you by knowing the tribes that will resonate with it, the cultural phenomena that will elevate it, and the influencers who will elaborate on it.

Steve is sole proprietor of Connected Communication, LLC, a consultancy that helps organizations develop integrated PR, communication, and marketing programs. His particular expertise is in the health industry, including insurance, health delivery systems, and digital health. Steve also is professor of public relations and journalism at Metro State University of Denver.

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