Tell Me a Story

Working in marketing for the geospatial and wider scientific and technology industries can be exasperating.

In every walk of life, certain fundamental laws and rules will hold true. The evidence supporting these principles can be objective such as in the case of a mathematical proof which builds upon the axioms of the subject and through the application of inference and deductive reasoning, creates a statement that always holds to be correct.


Or it can be a subjective truth, such as knowing that starting an open and honest discussion about the pluses and minuses of religion over the soup at a dinner party will inevitably lead to someone falling out with someone else before the cheese is served.

These 'truths' are very different but neither is less true than the other.

I have derived huge pleasure and solace from listening to a piece of music that the composer has used to tell me an honest and compelling story. The development of the story allows me to understand how I am feeling at that moment. That truth can’t be explained through objective reasoning - it is simply true for me.

Sadly, the majority of those working to market the geospatial and scientific industries, are completely deaf to the power of storytelling.

On the evidence of most of the marketing output, the industry is wedded to the idea of providing objective, list-based scientific explanations as to why their staggeringly scientifically complex hardware, software, data, services, expertise or whatever else it is they need to sell is perfect for customers and better than the competition.

No telling stories, no evoking of emotion; objective dull truths only here please.

And it is exasperating.

Marketing has some fundamental rules that have been shown to hold true over time.

Take the simplest marketing rule there is; no one will buy from you because of what it is you do, they will only buy from you because of what it is you can do for them.

That is as true as when Henry Ford released his eponymous Model-T and allowed a burgeoning American middle class to have the freedom of travel that previously only the rich enjoyed (Tesla has certainly learnt the lessons of past marketing masters) as it is today when Apple releases a new phone, that does all of the things every other phone can do except make the, often middle aged owner feel cool and trendy.

Successful companies tell stories about what their offerings will do for their customers.

They create conversations and explain how purchasing from them will make their lives easier, more productive or just better.

It is impossible to start a conversation with a list of what something does.

That’s a lecture and how many students love a lecture?!

Geospatial and technical marketing is, on the whole business to business (B2B) although this is rapidly changing as mapping, space and high-tech becomes more and more a consumer product, but that doesn’t mean that prospective customers are faceless corporations.

There is someone, a person sitting in their office wondering how they can choose a supplier who will make their working day simpler or make them more productive and hence more valuable within their own organisation.

Why wouldn’t you play marketing music that talks to that person, that tells them you understand how they are feeling because you’re listening to them. Not lecturing at them?

Marketing geospatial and scientific products and services has to change, it must start telling stories that move people to action not bore them to tears.

That's why I started a marketing agency.

Written by Alistair Maclenan, founder of Quarry One Eleven