If You Want to Reach a Millennial…Lead With the Story
This has been a tough learning curve for me. Like so many other leadership and motivational speakers, I have stood before many audiences and said, “The longest 15” trip in the world is from our heads to our hearts.” I believed it. That’s why I said it. After all, it had always been true in my experience. In my world, the facts (or mind) led. Then, it went south to the emotions (or heart).
But, I don’t believe that anymore…especially when it comes to communicating with Millennials. These younger people aren’t wired the way their parents were. As a matter of fact, many don’t want the data, facts, or truth until they first see the purpose, benefits, and meaning.
Frankly, I believe they actually have something here. As the old saying goes, “If you want them to build a boat…begin by creating a love for the sea.”
So, here is a different (but I believe, far more effective) way to get between the ears of our younger cohorts: Lead with the story.
In other words, touch their hearts before you share the facts. After all, when one is emotionally and philosophically bought-in, he will naturally want the facts, details, and data that confirm what he has grown to believe.
I call this the G.B.E. I coined this phrase many years ago when I was teaching college-level advertising and marketing. My point was that no advertiser is going to sell a lot of product until he touches the audience’s hearts. Once you touch their heart and give them goose bumps, they are much more likely to listen to your message.
I frequently illustrate this concept when I speak to audiences with my McDonald’s story. It goes like this:
I didn’t see the McDonalds’ TV commercial this past Christmas, but something I bet you didn’t see was some middle-aged guy in a white lab coat standing there holding a hamburger and saying, “Hi. I’m from McDonald’s and we want you to eat more of our hamburgers. They taste great. Never mind the triple-bypass. Remember, we make a profit on every burger sold. Eat more of our hamburgers.”
No you didn’t see that. But a TV commercial the hamburger company might do might go like this: We open in a beautiful living room festively decorated for Christmas. The fireplace is glowing and right next to it is a wonderfully decorated Christmas tree. On the other side of the fireplace is a big, green, overstuffed chair. Right between the green, overstuffed chair and the fireplace is a little, round table. And standing in front of the little, round table is Tyler. Tyler is four years old and he’s laying out cookies on the table. About that time, Tyler’s big brother comes through the living room dribbling his basketball. He looks at his little brother and says, ‘Tyler, what are you doing?’
Tyler looks back and says, ‘I’m putting cookies out for Santa Claus…he’s coming tonight, don’t you know?’
With that big brother laughs and says, ‘Tyler that’s crazy! There’s no such person as Santa Claus!’ And, with that, he dribbles his basketball out of the living room…leaving the crushed, broken shell of a little brother.
Next scene: Tyler’s lying in bed, crying, ‘No Santa? There’s got to be a Santa…I know what I’ll do! I’ll go downstairs and check. If my cookies are gone—that proves that Santa is real!’
So Tyler leaves his bed with his teddy bear and his blanket in his hands. He goes downstairs into the dark living room. But the fireplace is still glowing. As he reaches the big, green, overstuffed chair, Tyler’s little feet glue to the floor. He gets his courage up and walks around the chair to his little, round table…and both cookies are still there. His brother is right—there’s no such person as Santa. So Tyler turns to go back to bed. But just as his foot reaches the first stair, a big white-gloved hand drops down on Tyler’s little set of shoulders. And, the voice from the hand says, ‘Tyler, I’m sorry I’m late…but I really do like your cookies…Merry Christmas!’
Only then does the McDonald’s logo come onto the screen. And only for the purpose of reminding us that this is the company that has brought us this tender, heart-touching moment.
This is one of the reasons why McDonalds is the most successful restaurant chain in the history of the world…they know how to tell the story and touch hearts.
So here’s my question: If you have a message that deserves to be communicated, doesn’t it behoove you to learn how to communicate it effectively? And, these days, the best way to do it is to start with a story. Give them goose bumps. Touch their hearts.