How much more valuable is a business that people “love” compared to one that they “just like?” Intuitively, being loved tends to be worth a lot more than just being liked. Love, or the more academic term: “affinity,” is an intangible asset that generates customer loyalty, engagement, and share-ability. When we’re building our own businesses, we can ask what we’re doing to make people love what we offer. The secret to moving from like to love is in the connection our clients feel to the stories we tell.
Businesses based around storytelling franchises (rather than “movies” or “media”) excel based on an intangible sort of operating leverage. Because it doesn’t actually “cost more” to make someone “love your content more”, but the “value of this love” is substantial, companies like Disney benefit from enormous “returns to marginal affinity”. And the more opportunities to exploit this love – and the better you are at doing so – the greater the leverage. Today, Disney leads on both.
Let’s unpack the business school language and make this applicable. “Storytelling franchises” are businesses that focus on their intellectual property (ex. Lion King) versus just the act of making and distributing product (ex. a physical movie theater showing Lion King). Stories offer leverage because when people are willing to share them with others and engage deeper with the material, it breeds loyalty. The theater is just a room that shows movies, while a brand with a story not only brings multiple people to multiple theaters, it can be re-released in new mediums, changed into live-action, be performed “on ice,” have merchandise, etc. Stories are truly at the epicenter of any brand’s power.
When we know whatever it is that makes our story resonate, we can focus on it. If we deliver it clearly, it won’t figuratively cost any more to deliver it well than it would deliver it poorly. Literally, the better the story the better the returns. What Ball calls the “returns to marginal affinity” refers to how every additional sharing of the story creates engagement and increases loyalty, which doesn’t cost us anything once we’ve unleashed it into the world. Once a good story is out in the world, it can create a gravitational pull that keeps people in its orbit.
When businesses talk about client referrals from the people that really love them, this is an example of a higher return on marginal affinity. It doesn’t cost any more for a happy client to go out and tell a friend the story of what made them happy. How smart is it to invest in really happy clients? Very. This is Ball’s final point – the better we get at capitalizing on (let’s not say “exploiting” here), the more successful we can become. Our story can draw more and more people into our gravitational field.
Read Ball‘s full post – it’s exceptional. For our own businesses, here are a few things to remember:
- Have a story.
- Make it shareable.
- Make it engaging.
- Create loyalty.
- Do it again and again, over and over.
If we do it really well, who knows – we might even build a magic kingdom. That’s the power of stories people love.