Marketing is for Dummies, Story is for Everyone

Marketing is for Dummies, Story is for Everyone.



Brand Story

In college, two marketing representatives from a Tahitian juice company came to speak to my class.

In college, two marketing representatives from a Tahitian juice company came to speak to my class.  They shared with us information about a new drink that promised good health, better digestion, and superior antioxidant protection. We were encouraged to become independent distributors of this life-changing juice that was transforming the wellness space and would, in turn, transform our oh-so-troubled college lives.

Selling to our network of friends would be easy if we followed three simple marketing strategies: (1) Scarcity: Lie and say you only have a few bottles left to persuade them to buy now; (2) First-in-Class: Tell them there’s never been anything like this before and that they’ll want to get in on the movement early; and (3) Social Proof: Share with them an inflated number of people whose lives have already been transformed from one simple drink.

I’ll never forget the expression on their faces as they explained why these strategies were guaranteed to work. It was the same expression you see on the faces of those cult members being interviewed by CNN – the one that lets you know they actual believe their own nonsense.

That’s what this entire pitch was to me: nonsense.

Did they think we were dumb? Had they assumed that our friends would not see through such inauthentic marketing ploys? Finally, if this brand was so life-changing, wouldn’t it sell on its own through some foundation of truth?

.     .     .


I passed on the opportunity to become a student distributor of Tahitian juice. Instead, I continued my education in marketing and learned of a better way to sell products.

I still see companies today using many of the same marketing tactics that were presented to me in college. I don’t doubt their effectiveness, but I have come to understand that just like that life-changing juice brand made some money for a few years and then disappeared, these tactics offer the same outcome for the brands that rely on them: short-lived success.


It’s for those unintelligent customers who can’t see through the psychological games.  And that customer, ladies and gentlemen, is dying. She is being replaced by a far-more-intelligent buyer who is persuaded through other means.

The 21st century customer wants to feel connected and understood by the brands she invests in.  She is compelled by messages that speak directly to her and where she is in life. To attract her, your brand has to stop marketing and start storytelling.

“To attract today’s customer, your brand has to stop marketing and start storytelling.”

Putting your customer at the center of your story is the most effective sales strategy a business can have today. It is also the best way to guarantee not just a sale, or a referral, or another sale, but a genuine connection that transcends those independent transactions.

After spending years making the switch for brands like Armani Exchange, The United States Olympic Committee, Heat Free Hair, and Camille Rose Naturals, one thing is clearer than ever to me:

Whether your customers are young or old, male or female, black or white, varied or the same,

Story SELLS and it is for EVERYONE. 


Are you selling with story? Or are you using old school marketing tactics for dummies? Click here to book a FREE 15-minute Discovery Call with me to talk about how you can use story to create a more effective marketing to-do list this week!

Written by: Amber Williams

Master Brand Storyteller & Founder of PunkyFlair

Looking to start telling your brand story?
Get on the list.

How to “Amplify the Pain” in Your Brand Story

How to Amplify the Pain in Your Brand Story



Brand Story

I took a deep breath before swiping my credit card at Neiman’s for a $200 jar of Créme De La Mer.

I was 20 years old with splurges such as this funded solely by AMEX, and not by my own financial merit. That was beside the point. I needed this face cream. I wanted forever flawless skin and this was the answer. Plus, it worked for Max so it would work for me.

.     .     .

Max, or Dr. Huber was an aerospace scientist who suffered a horrific accident – a routine experiment exploded in his face, covering him with severe chemical burns. The depiction of this tragedy – an image of a man in a white lab coat standing across from two mixing pots struggling to make sense of the life-changing explosion that not even the best scientists would have a cosmetic cure for – appeared on the front page of the La Mer website.

Here was someone who did nothing other than his job that day, now having to go out into the world with an unrecognizable profile, a face that would scare those around him, and a promise from the pedigreed medical community that nothing could be done. I imagined what life would be like if my friends no longer associated with me, if I got ugly glares everywhere I went, and how it would feel to miss out on opportunities my entire life because of a wretchedly burned complexion. I felt Max’s pain.

.     .     .

Twelve years and 6,000 more experiments later, Max perfected his own healing solution – one that would smooth his scars over and allow him to re-enter society normally. It would fuel the beginning of a luxury skincare brand that attached a justifiably high price tag to this “miracle broth” in a jar – a $200 jar I had convinced myself that I needed.

I’m an Image Caption ready-to-use.

Photo: Project Vanity

Story sold me.

La Mer didn’t tout its difficult-to-extract ingredients, its slow harvesting process, or even the celebrities who used the products. Instead, they amplified the physical and emotional pain of a scientist who desperately needed a skincare solution. Max’s transformative story remained the lead narrative with La Mer for years and helped position the brand as a premier leader in the luxury skincare market. To this day, I’m convinced that the empathy I felt from this story of tragedy and triumph is what ultimately led my purchase decision.

“It’s not enough to highlight features and benefits in your marketing. In today’s crowded marketplace, you have to do more.”

Who’s your Max?

It’s not enough to highlight features and benefits in your marketing.  In today’s crowded marketplace, you have to do more. That includes uncovering your customers’ pain points and amplifying them. Visualize them in your communications. Bring them to focus in your messaging and describe what life would be like without a solution. Without your solution. The only thing then left to do is heal the wound. That’s where brand, products and services enter. Story first. Sell second.

Written by: Amber Williams

Master Brand Storyteller & Founder of PunkyFlair

Want to take your brand to the next level?
Get on the list.

Harnessing The Power of Connection to Build an Iconic American Brand

Harnessing the Power of Connection to Build an Iconic American Brand


AUGUST, 2017

Brand Story

In 2010, I did something I thought I’d never do – abandon all control and ride on a motorcycle.

That summer, I was completing my graduate residency at one of the top advertising agencies in the world — FCB. As a brand planner, my job was to get inside the minds of my clients’ consumers (and their competitors) and craft strategies to help move their brands forward. I took an unspoken oath to be authentic, to represent the true voice of the customer, and to strategize in a way that kept brands good on their promises. When I was assigned to the Volkswagen account, I immediately immersed myself into global driving cultures — specifically for cult brands like VW. I needed to understand why and how people could have such strong emotional connections to their vehicles.

One day on my lunch, I walked along Erie Street until I reached the corner of Michigan Avenue where the Harley Davidson store was located. It doesn’t get any more “cult-ish” than Harley, I thought. I stood and stared for a few minutes before a middle-aged man with roughly trimmed facial hair and an American flag bandana very poignantly asked me:

“You ride?”

I’m guessing my baby blue cropped pants, white silk blouse, four-inch heels and oversized tote didn’t necessarily scream “Harley Girl.” His question was warranted. Before reservations of my life ending on a Chicago city street could settle in, I answered him:

“No, but I’d like to try.”

I’m an Image Caption ready-to-use.

Photograph by Lorem Ipsum via Unsplash

He tossed me his helmet and granted my wish. Within seconds, I felt the indescribable thrill of what Harley riders coveted so much: the journey.   It didn’t take me long to figure out what Harley Davidson’s key selling point was or why its customers had such strong emotional connections to the brand. It was that feeling. It was the same feeling that made me abandon all good sense, a recollection of the amount of minutes I had left on my lunch, and even my own safety. I cared about none of it. In the 15 minutes of our ride, I understood more about branding and marketing than any class could have ever taught me.

“Great marketing is all about connecting two stories together: that of the brand and that of the customer.”

Because Harley did this — connected the stories of their riders to the ideals of the brand — they became more than just a motorcycle company; they became one of the most iconic American brands of our time. Today, I still count myself as fortunate to have experienced this connection, if only for 15 minutes.

Written by: Amber Williams

Master Brand Storyteller & Founder of PunkyFlair

Want to take your brand to the next level?
Get on the list.

Build Your Brand Story to Sell in 4 Easy StepsFREE DOWNLOAD + WORKSHEET

Ready to Build Your Brand Story to Sell?

Drop your name and email below to get a copy of my FREE e-book where you'll learn the 4 key questions every brand must answer to SELL LIKE CRAZY and STAND OUT from the crowd!

Your e-book is on its way to your inbox!