Storytelling as marketing: Once upon a time, there was a very very fat man

Apparently “storytelling” is the big new trend in marketing. Ah, I remember when social media was the savior of marketing (I’m young still, so I understand just how facetious that sounds).
But that being said, I think storytelling has legs, but only if you define it very rigorously. Storytelling for marketing isn’t so much “let me tell you the story and that will help us to understand each other and to help you buy my stuff”. Instead it’s finding that passion that originally led you to open this restaurant, fiddle into the night in your garage, or take on crazy loans for a pipe dream that you believed would change the world.
Storytelling is about creating and distilling your company’s essence, its values, ethos, style, people, and showing your audience how you came to be that way. The idea is to connect, to “be cool without trying to be cool”. The kind of coolness that Chrome and Philz have in SF, or Warby in NYC, or Heady Topper up in Vermont. It’s a iron-spined, killer story that makes a customer become an amateur marketer for your company. Becaue your story resonates SO MUCH, they want to become part of the company. Part of the experiment that you started and fiddled with and spent nights on. Part of the journey.


So with that being said, I think it’s important to build skill and familiarity with storytelling, so I’m going to start with a company near and dear to my heart, Weight Watchers.

I used to be a fat kid; back in high school I used to play soccer and run cross-country in the fall, play basketball in the winter, and run track in the spring. So I would eat whatever I wanted, thinking, “Oh, I’m still a growing boy.” And then one day I realized that, in fact, I was a grown boy. I still remember that day: my cross-country coach sat down next to me while I was stretching and asked, “Hey Alex, why are you still fat?”

And he had a point: given how much I was running, the  fact that I was still a little chubby left a little wonderment at the mathematics of the thing: just HOW much am I eating to maintain my weight? So I did what I always do: I researched. I looked into weight loss, into diets, into exercises, and I eventually landed on weightlifting with a high-protein, calorie-restricted diet. I’ve been doing that for 4 years now, losing weight and feeling really good.

Everybody I met at Weight Watchers has a similar story, and that’s just corporate. If you go visit a Weight Watchers location, it’s doubly welcoming. These are people who are inordinately passionate about their fitness, their diet, and their general health and wellbeing, and that spills over into their work.

I think Weight Watchers would be well-served by seeking out these stories among their corporate employees (I know CEO Dave Kirchoff has some first hand experience) and sharing those stories with the world. Weight is always such a sense of shame, but one of the things I learned there is that it shouldn’t be. It’s a community effort, and if you have the courage to say, “I need to lose weight”, you’re unlikely to be ridiculed, as everybody else is dealing with the same issue.



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