In the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis, this Nordic country of roughly 300,000 was brought to its knees.
With few people and fewer industries, what was Iceland to do?
Well, it took a hard, long look at itself and realized that with virtually no pollution and large swathes of deserted land, Iceland just might be the ultimate nature destination.
And, within a decade, Iceland became “the place to see.”
How did they achieve this enviable position? You guessed it. They told stories. Lots of them.
They told stories about the Northern Lights.
They told stories about their Icelandic traditions (think thermal swimming pools).
Then, they brought in foreign writers, like myself, to see the island’s natural wonders so we could return to our home countries and rave about them. And rave, we did.
More recently, they have enticed North Americans traveling to Europe to “layover” in Iceland at, you’ll love this, no extra charge.
The campaign has been so successful that Iceland started a new airline, called WOW, whose sole purpose is to provide travelers with cheap flights to Europe and no-cost stopovers in Iceland.
The Power of Business Story-Telling
What exactly makes stories so powerful? Three things:
- Stories are easy to remember. Facts about yourself, your products or your ideas have a greater chance of being remembered if they are embedded in a story.
- Stories help create trust. And trust builds relationships.
- Stories increases the value of a product. In a 2009 experiment, two America writers, Rob Walker and Josh Glenn, purchased 100 ordinary items from garage sales and thrift stores. Each item cost approximately $1.29. They then asked volunteers to write a short, fictional story about each item. The items where then placed for sale on eBay with each story attached. The result: Within five months, all of the items were sold for a total of $3,612. The original price of the items was $128. That’s a 2,800% increase resulting from telling a good story.
With success like this, one wonders why more businesses aren’t in the habit of telling their organization’s story. Sadly, it’s because most businesses don’t know what good storytelling is.
Often businesses think that their Mission Statement is a story. Or, the Strategy Document is a story. Or, even the Brand Logo is a story. None of these are stories, at least, not good ones anyway.
Good stories capture attention, resonate with their audience and, magically, have a life of their own.
Be honest: Is your business creating winning stories?