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  • Francisco Mahfuz

E24. Clarify Your Message with Dr. J.J. Peterson from StoryBrand



Below is an AI-generated transcript and therefore it may contain errors.


Francisco Mahfuz 0:00

Hi everyone, Francisco here. Just before we get started, I wanted to share something I'm really excited about. I recently launched the story powers bootcamp, a course that teaches you everything you need to know about how to find craft and tell stories that work. But it's not just an online course, because you get personalised feedback from me for all the practical activities in three hours of life coaching to work through any challenges, or focus on specific projects. So it's like if you bought a cookbook, but the chef came along with it. So go to story powers.com and click on Course, all the information you need will be there. So please check it out. And if you love the show, and would like to support us, you can go to buy me a coffee.com forward slash story powers. I drink about five coffees a day, so any support would be much appreciated. All right on with the show.


Welcome to the story powers podcast, the show about the power of stories that people who tell them and why you should be doing it too. I'm your host, keynote speaker and storytelling coach Francisco first. My guest today is Dr. JJ Peterson. JJ serves as chief of teaching and facilitation of story brands, as well as CO hosting the massively popular building a story brand podcast with Donald Miller. He has a PhD in communication. And prior to joining storebrand he spent 20 years teaching and practising communication in the entertainment industry and higher education. JJ is also the only person who can sincerely say that his life was improved by watching the movie Armageddon. Ladies and gentlemen, Dr. JJ Peterson. JJ, welcome to the show.


JJ Peterson 1:43

Thank you. I don't know if I've ever been introduced with that last line. But I like it. I actually like it.


Francisco Mahfuz 1:50

It's true, isn't it? sadly


JJ Peterson 1:53

true. In fact, even when I was in my Ph. D. programme, I brought up this story and I'll tell it, just take it but I brought the story. And everybody in the room kind of laughed at me. Because it's such a cheesy movie. But what the story behind it is, I remember, I was kind of, you know, I had been doing, I've been teaching I'd actually done a lot of nonprofit work. Overseas doing Community Development and Public Relations and things like that. But I was kind of at this point. In my life where I was a little bit floundering. I was not completely aimless, but I knew I didn't want to do nonprofit PR the rest of my life. And I was kind of trying to figure out like, where what direction do I want to go and I'd done some acting and done some writing before, but it wasn't really like at the top of my list. And I was watching Armageddon. And as you do as much as I would literally by myself in a movie theatre, which I do a lot, I do enjoy that. And I was watching Armageddon, and it got to the end. And spoiler alert for people who haven't seen it. It's over 10 years old, I'm fine spoiling it. But if you know you're watching it, and at the very end, Ben Affleck's character is supposed to stay behind on the asteroid that's about to destroy Earth and blow it up because the nuclear bomb doesn't have a device that can work anyway, it's you know, it's very classic movie. And he's getting ready to stay behind. And at the very last minute, Bruce Willis comes in and like, grabs Ben Affleck and throws him back in the ship and he stays behind to destroy the asteroid and save the world. And in the theatre, people were crying. I mean, there were actual tears at this moment with this Jerry Bruckheimer movie, things are exploding. It's very cheesy writing, very cheesy acting, and people are crying, because Bruce Willis gave his life for the world. And I sat there, and it instantly was like, This is what I want to do. I want to actually explain truth to people, I want to cause people to want to live differently, to explore life in a new way, be challenged about their ideas, and encouraged to be more self sacrificing and make the world a better place. And I genuinely think the best way to do that is through storytelling that, you know, here I was working in nonprofit, and trying to get people to engage with, you know, we were doing AIDS education and building schools in Kenya and health and sanitation. And we were just kind of trying to tell the stories in a good way that inspired people to make the world a better place. But you know, just wasn't connecting and here I'm sitting in this cheesy movie and Bruce Willis is making everybody cry. And I thought I want to do that but with not necessarily in Hollywood, but in the world really help people tell stories in a way that make people want to make the world a better place. And so actually went back and got my masters and started studying story. very particular I studied in my master's degree I studied what was called theology in the arts. So, so study of humanity's understanding of the other of God, and of each other, you know, because in, in the Bible, the Bible says, like Jesus, they asked Jesus, what is the greatest commandment and he says, Love your neighbour and love God, those two things are the same. So essentially, in Christian faith, all theology is about loving the other, and loving each other. And so I wanted to study stories about what people thought about God or the universe, you know, essentially the other, and what it thought about each other. So I studied that for my masters. And then my PhD, was in communication. And specifically, a lot of what I was studying was narrative transportation, and narrative transportation is how to tell a story in a way that helps people transport themselves into the story. Like when you hear somebody say, Oh, I got lost in a book, or you're watching movie and Bruce Willis sacrifices his life and you start crying, that means you're feeling what the movie is feeling, you are transporting yourself into the movie. And I wanted to know how to do that how to tell stories in a way that cause people to transport themselves into the movie. So that was my PhD. So and it all literally started with the movie Armageddon.


Francisco Mahfuz 6:20

I definitely want to get into into the PhD. But just before we do that, for the heathens that don't know, what story brand is, can you just give just a brief summary of what what Sorbian is, and most importantly, think the framework you guys use that is connected to story? Yeah. So


JJ Peterson 6:41

basically, a lot of businesses are so close to their products and their services, that they have a hard time explaining to people what they do in a way that is engaging. And so we help companies use a story framework to clarify their message so that they engage more customers and their business grows. So that's kind of the general piece of it. And we go in and do workshops, or we have online workshops where people can take the course. In fact, I was supposed to be in Berlin in April before COVID happened, and I was going to be working with a company in Berlin. So I'm very sad, I'm going to need to get back there soon. And so the framework is this is that basically, it's built on the idea that every day we are experiencing about 5000 commercial messages a day, right on our phone on when we're walking down the road on TV, that all these commercial messages are coming at us. And most of them are just ignored, people ignore them. And the reason they're ignored is because our brains are designed to really do two things. The first is help us survive and thrive. And so we are always looking for information. That is that contributes to our survival and thriving and and just a very basic example is, if you walk into a coffee shop, most of the times you don't immediately know how many chairs are in that coffee shop. But you know where the cash register is, and you know where the exit is, like almost in any room you're in, you could ask somebody, Where's the exit, and they know where it is immediately. It's because when we walk into a room, our brain starts filtering out information that doesn't contribute to our survival and thriving, but focuses on the main things. So so many advertising. And marketing has nothing to do with their customer survival and thriving, they just kind of throwing information out there. So people tune it out. The other thing the brain is trying to do is basically conserve calories, because our brain is designed to keep us alive. And so the first part of survival and thriving. The second is that anytime you have to think deeply, or, you know, if you're sitting in a room and you're like focusing in a meeting all day, you get exhausted, well, that's because your brain is burning calories, you're actually getting exhausted. And if you burn too many calories, and during like sitting and thinking and then all of a sudden barbarians come over to the Hill to attack you, you're not going to have the brain power to figure out how to live so your brain actually will tune out anything that feels complicated, because it will make you burn too many calories. Right? So our brains are looking all the time for things that can help us survive and thrive. And we're looking for ways to understand things so quickly that we don't have to burn any calories in order to engage with it. And most marketing and branding doesn't do that. Right? It just kind of it gets too complicated uses inside language doesn't contribute to the customer survival and thriving. So the answer that we came up with to basically help people understand how something works, why they need it, and why it makes their life better. Is story story formula because our brains just kind of work naturally. In understand story very well, and stories are used to help us make sense of life. So there is basically all stories have rules. And this goes all the way back to Aristotle. And Plato of there is a formula essentially for writing story. And when you break those rules, people start get, they actually don't experience what we talked about a second ago, narrative transportation, they don't engage in the story, they start thinking about the story and about the words versus like putting themselves in it. So when you break the rules of story, it makes people tune out, they don't understand why they need to pay attention. And they start thinking about other things about the laundry they need to do and about the vacuuming and all the stuff because they're not engaged. So this very simple formula, if you were writing a screenplay, or something like that, there might be 32 Different things you'd have to hit. But for the most basic purpose of four of story, the formula, the story brand formula is there is any story, there's a character, and that character, within the first few minutes of a story, you have to know what that character wants, who they want to become and what they want. And that has to be super, super clear. And then the next thing and that's in any movie, you'll figure it out in the first five minutes. And if the movie doesn't do that, you won't pay attention. Then within a few more minutes after that, the character has to encounter a problem. And the problem has to get in the way of what the customer wants, their daughter got kidnapped, you know, they wanted relationship with their daughter, and then their daughter gets kidnapped, right, immediately something happens that gets in the way of that. And then we know that the hero can't actually solve the problem on their own. So then a guide is introduced into the story, somebody who will help them win the day and figure out how to overcome the problem. So in Star Wars, it's Yoda. It's, you know, Obi Wan Kenobi that helps Luke Skywalker, then the guide gives the, the the hero a plan, the end a plan, there's always in a movie, you always hear the term, what's the plan, or, you know, here's the plan that's in almost every movie, right, and they give the the hero a plan to move forward, then there's a moment that is a call to action that the hero has to either accept or reject, like the action, right, there is a bomb that's about to go off. And they have to choose to either walk away, or go disarm the bomb, there's a moment the hero has to accept or reject a challenge. And then we know the last two pieces are that there are stakes in the story. So the story can end really horribly with failure ever, the bomb could blow up and everybody dies, or that everything goes great, there is great success. And so the bomb is disarmed, nobody dies and the father and daughter are reunited, right. So that those are the elements of story, a character who wants something, who encounters a problem, who meets a guide, who gives them a plan calls them to action. And that we know that there are stakes in the story that can result in failure or success. And what we did is take those and put them on to marketing, essentially, you can put this in any context, if you are standing up and giving a speech, or you are writing an email, you can develop talking points that help you communicate in it by inviting people into a story. So for marketing, in particular, you have to understand your customer is the hero of the story. They're the main character. And you have to be able to articulate what it is that the character wants. So you have to write down and create a talking point of what does that character want, it needs to be very, very clear, so that they don't have to burn any calories. Because oftentimes, I'm working with people on their websites. And they will say, experience, experience a new life. And there's a picture of a mountain on it. And I go to that website, and I have to scroll down three plates, three pages before I figure out what they actually do. They think they're being clear, because maybe they're a life coach or business coach, but I look at it and I go, I have no idea what you do. So you have to articulate what it is that your character wants, then you have to understand what is the problem that gets in the way of your character getting that your customer, right, and you have to talk about your customers problems over and over and over. The only reason why anybody comes to you for help is because you're solving a problem. And then the big story brand shift is that then you have to position yourself as the guide in your customer story. So many marketing pieces, and so many advertising and brands try to position themselves as the hero of the story. And they're not, they are the guide. Because if you position yourself as the hero of a story, and your customer sees themselves as a hero of a story, you are now in competing stories. So you have to invite your customer or join your customer story. So you become the guide, and they're the hero. And then you have to give them a plan, call them to action and then show them what life looks like if they don't buy your product. They're going to continue to experience frustration and then show them what life can be like all the wonderful things that can happen when they do buy. And so that's the most Basic version of the framework. And we go in and work with companies and teach them how to create essentially talking points out of each of those buckets, that they can then put in their marketing to make sure that they're telling the right story and inviting their customer into a beautiful journey.


Francisco Mahfuz 15:15

There was something that was very surprising to me. When I originally came across Starbucks, I came across I think, as many people do through the book. This was a couple of years ago, and I had been reading a tonne of books on storytelling, because this was the time when I was trying to decide what to focus on as a keynote speaker and ended up being storytelling. In the more I read the story brand I, the more I kept, there's something in the back of my mind that I wasn't paying attention to. And then at some point, I thought, Oh, hold on. This is all about stories. There's elements of story and dissecting a story for the perfect points you need to use and what you shouldn't use. But what it's not. It's storytelling. And this is something for the story guy, which I mean, again, Donald Don is a writer. So movies like this conversation, but I know you guys have a very strong opinion on this. But But why? Everything I've seen from from story brand has been more focused on the message on websites on email marketing, but I don't think I've ever seen you do or suggest that anyone should ever tell a story?


JJ Peterson 16:22

Yeah, well, there's a number of different reasons for that. Is that when you actually get into, so what we're teaching is the most basic elements of story, right? So it's not even about being interesting. It's about communicating clearly. So that when you boiled down to those seven elements, it's all about communicating clearly. So it's not about being interesting. It's not about being clever or cute, which tends to be like, when you actually just tell a bigger story, it's usually for entertainment, it can be for teaching a lesson. But really it the whole concept is about what we're boiling it down to is you need to be clear. And so this is really to focus in clarity and help people understand. Now, if you can take this formula and expand it out to a novel into a movie. Now, once you do that, there are more elements, you have to hit in the story that make it even more interesting, because in a good story, most of what I just explained, is about five minutes at the beginning, five minutes in the middle and five minutes at the end. And in between there are so many ups and downs that keep the audience interesting. Because it's like, there's a lot of success and failure, there's a lot of what we would call internal problem, you know, that a customer has to experience a problem that typically is in marketing as the external problem they have to experience. But movies are really built on the internal problem a customer or a hero has to go through. So that it's just once you get into like actual like, say, writing a movie, writing a novel, or standing up on stage and telling an interesting anecdote about your life. It's a little bit more nuanced. And all of the elements are still there. If you get up on if you get up on stage and start to tell a story about how, you know, today, I like I woke up and I sat on my couch, and I drank my coffee, and then my dog clammed up, and then I turned on the TV. And then you know, and there's it's not interesting, the only reason story becomes interesting is if the customer, the hero encounters a problem within the first about 15 minutes of the story, usually within the first nine. So then what becomes interesting if I'm telling a story, so I woke up and I sit on my couch, and I look out the door and all of a sudden there are paratroopers that are landing in my front yard. Right now. It's like, oh, there's a problem, right? There's something that hooks the the listener. And so when people are just even telling a story or thinking about telling a story, say at a cocktail party or at a dinner party, if your story does not have a good problem that you've experienced, that you have to overcome, then don't tell that story. Because the story is the hook. It's the hook in marketing, because you have to talk about your customers from all the time. But it's really the hook in a story if there is no problem. And it's not an interesting problem. And it's not a problem people can feel it's not a good story.


Francisco Mahfuz 19:22

I heard you say before that. I think the line is said something along the lines of the features of a product or a service of a company, the features are about us or you know this about you. Whereas the benefits are about the clients and that's the confusion that a lot of people make in their marketing.


JJ Peterson 19:41

Because if you just talk about the features of your product or the great things that you do, you are starting to become the hero of the story. You're making the story about you and your product. But if you switch it around and say This feature gives you this it helps you on your journey with this and talk about the benefits more than the features specifically in the early levels of marketing, like on your website, first email, things like that, once you get once you have them hooked, and they're in a little bit deeper, and they want to click on the details on the second page of the of the website or getting the second or third email, now you can go into the features a little bit more, because now they're more interested, and there's a reason for them to pay attention. But on that front end, you have to remember that they're only looking for how to survive and thrive and how to burn a few calories as possible. So if you start going into the features too early without talking about the benefits, now you're causing them to be confused and overwhelmed, and they're gone. They'll check out because their brains are literally designed to do that.


Francisco Mahfuz 20:41

Well, they won't pass what you call it. I've seen don't call it the grunt test. But I think I've seen you call it the Starbucks test. Yeah. Which sounds significantly more devious? Yeah.


JJ Peterson 20:51

Then when we say the Starbucks test is what and I we actually did this primarily so that I could write about it in the book, but but to where what you do have people do is say you you're working on your website, and you've got all the language down, you think you're crystal clear, is you go up to somebody in a very non creepy way. But you go up to somebody, like at a coffee shop at Starbucks and say, Hey, kid, would you mind looking at my website? And I'm just going to ask you three questions. And so you open up your website, the front page, just the top, just the header of your website, don't scroll down or anything, and then have them look at it for three seconds, and then close your laptop and then ask them three questions. What do I do? How would it make your life better? And how do you get it? Those are really, that's what we call passing the grunt test is at being able to answer those three questions. And if they can, after three seconds, answer those three questions, then you're being clear, you're telling a good story. If they can't, then you need to get to the point faster. And you need to be more clear about what you do what you offer.


Francisco Mahfuz 21:54

I wonder which Starbucks test is harder, yours, or the one where you show them the way the barista wrote her name and say, What is my name?


JJ Peterson 22:04

Yes, exactly. I mean, my name seems very simple of just it's literally J period, J period. And the amount of different names that I get back on my cap is ridiculous.


Francisco Mahfuz 22:18

Well, I My name is Francisco and I live in Spain. So that's, that's easy enough. But I expect that if I were in, in America, then that might have been a tad more difficult. And one of the things we didn't we didn't mention, but anyone who's who's a story geek who have picked up on is that the framework you use is a simplified version of the hero's journey. So the one thing I wanted to ask you, because I know you'll know these things is Are you familiar with Christopher Booker's seven basic chords? Right? So is it just a case that you think that the hero's journey or at least the dawn originally thought the hero's journey is by far the most popular? Or do you guys ever use any of the other well known templates like you know, rags to riches or rebirth or anything like that?


JJ Peterson 23:06

Now, and the reason why in our framework is not really built on the hero's journey. It's just that the hero's journey is based on the principles of story, right? So the hero's journey is built on story. And our framework is built on story. So they're all built on just the elements of story that again, borrow from all the way back to Aristotle and Plato, who really started. And, you know, going back to the original thing of what, what I mentioned about why I wanted to get into story is if you go back to Aristotle's Poetics, he dissects drama and comedy. And we only have a little bit of what he's written on comedy, but we have a lot of what he's written on drama, and both the drama and comedy pieces, he's dissecting them to tell you how to tell better stories, because this is the way that you're going to engage humanity and make them better, you're going to teach them lessons. So all of that actually goes all the way back there. So the hero's journey is, it's one it's the most well known, because essentially, what what that did was break down all of the elements of story and go, here's the simple way of explaining it. And we just kind of did the same thing as said, here's all the elements of story, but here's a simple way of explaining it. And, you know, Christopher Booker basically argues that there's only seven stories that have ever been told. And these are the ways you know, so story brand was really built on the principles of likes Christopher Booker, and Blake Snyder. So Blake Snyder wrote, save the cat.


Francisco Mahfuz 24:34

Not not Zack Snyder. Very important.


JJ Peterson 24:37

I'll just say I mean, I am not a fan of his movie. But Luke Snyder wrote a book called Save the cat and it what he basically did was he went back and looked at all of the movies that he had sold, and what they had in common. Oh, my dog, I'm sorry.


Francisco Mahfuz 24:54

All right. Well, you know listen, we all we all have these things. Now. I I'm waiting that any second Now my my three year old who was asleep in her stroller just outside the door of her bedroom, which is where I am now is gonna start banging the door because she absolutely must have some of her toys.


JJ Peterson 25:10

Yeah, exactly. Somebody just walked by, he was literally sleeping, and he just walked back. So, um, so Blake Snyder basically said there is a formula to screenwriting. And then it really has changed the way Hollywood movies are written. If you You hear a lot of times people say, all movies seem the same these days. What's because they are they're all based on Blake Snyder save the cat. And so don really was like he was watching movies and seeing similar things. He read Blake Snyder, he read Christopher Booker, and his concept was, oh, story is formulaic. And that's really kind of what all of these different people Blake Snyder, Christopher Booker, hero's journey, Carter, you know, all of that, like was built on just the idea that story is anyone Dawn stuff. Story is formulaic. And when you understand the formula, you can tell better stories. And you can apply it to really I mean, every area of life. There's a guy named Walter Fisher, who's really considered the father of narrative theory. And he would argue that we are all actually he calls us home Oh, narrative. So we actually are human storytellers, period. And it wasn't actually until Aristotle and Plato and kind of maybe even a little bit again, in the enlightenment, where previously, even if you go back to early named Ancient Near East narratives that were told, or about creation, or different things like that, like there's a lot of arguments, say, in religion of is the seven days of creation in Scripture literal or not, is is, you know,


Francisco Mahfuz 26:52

for a second that I thought you were gonna say, is the seven days of creation, the basis for the story bread. Seven,


JJ Peterson 27:03

you know, there's a lot of arguments like even against science and different things, which I think is ridiculous, in the sense of where people go is the seven days literal or not, and some try to prove that the seven days was literal. And that means that the Bible was true, if we prove the seven days was literal than the Bible is true. People back then did not think of it in those terms of literal or not. Story was truth. Story was to us the way you communicated truth. So whether it was actually seven days or not, doesn't matter would not have mattered back then. Later, kind of like story. And, you know, and story and science kind of began to diverge of where, but the reality is, with story, you can actually in some ways communicate greater truth than fact. So for instance, like if, if you were to say, my daughter is my everything, you know, that is a way of communicating how much you love your daughter, and how much you've given up for your daughter. Right? If you said, my daughter's my everything. Now, is that a literal truth? No, no, no. And 100 years from now, if we wrote down all sudden, we started arguing, you know, well, well, Francisco really did give everything that was his daughter was his only thing he said it right here. Well, what you were doing is you were entering into, you know, allegory and story by saying She's my everything for you. Even if you said my wife is my better half or my partner's my better half. That is not a fact. But it is a greater truth than actual the fact could say you could say this is my partner. That's a fact saying my partner's my better half is a story. In many ways you can create and tell greater truth in story than you even can, in fact, and even going in, going back to the creation analogy, the creation story, if you take it literal, you have to prove like all of these things, if you take it as a story that actually creates greater truth than the literal seven days, that creation story was actually designed to fight against other ancient Near East narratives. With that said, All creation stories before that one said, the world was created out of conflict to God's spot. And then the world was created. This story comes in and says, This was this world was created out of rest and peace. It changes the narrative completely and has nothing to do with seven days. You know, and so it's that kind of thing of where I don't know why I got off on that tangent, maybe the dog barking got me going. Essence but basically, when people begin to study story and understand you first of all, you will see that there is a formula to it, that there is a rules you have to follow. And when you follow those rules, people can actually enter in and engage in a way that sometimes they won't even be able to when it comes to just giving facts split Typically what we're talking about going back to your other question is features versus benefits. Benefits is telling a story features is telling sacks


Francisco Mahfuz 30:08

on to that digression, which I think is an interesting one. And I don't want to go to find in that direction. But But one thing that I find very entertaining from the outside of this discussion, because I don't have a faith background like you do, but it is how the people that take these things to literally, I mean, they're clearly wrong not only because you know what I believe, I don't believe but because if you look into it, you'll find that their stories are formulaic in so all religious stories, and you know, someone, someone looked at ancient religions and go, I think they didn't call it the hero's journey. But I said, I think there's a, you know, there's, there's something happening here, where there are these elements of, you know, the son of this entity, Beatty died. And now he comes back to life, I like this, I'm gonna use this one. And, and they all follow the same formula. So, you know, the, the joke many people make is, you know, The Lion King and the Bible are all just ripoffs of some ancient story. And, and I have a friend, I've actually interviewed him on the podcast, and he used to be a priest, and he used to study theology in the Vatican. And then we got into some Bible arguments. And he said, Well, I don't think that the Bible is the nature of truth. I was like, what you mean, are those things like, oh, that's inside? That view? is way more nuanced? It's like, well, what do they mean by that? Clearly, this is not what it you know, what says on the page is not exactly what they understand. So the people that read it, and try to take it as the virtual truth, but don't understand the history of it in an actually or not even in in accordance with how the official versions are, which is, which is interesting, from a story point of view, maybe it's just to say that the power of that story has overtaken the ability of the people that in theory, have more authority over it to say, well, well, that's not really what we mean. Well, no, the story has taken a life of its own.


JJ Peterson 31:57

Yeah, is that that's where, again, story has so much power. And that's where, like Walter Fisher would say, we're home on narratives, we're actually not like factual beings. And you know, especially even now you see this, you know, I don't wanna go too into it. But with COVID around the world, that conspiracies that people are believing right now about things is just ridiculous. They're buying into a story that has a villain more than, you know, then the idea that following doctor's orders, right? This seems too simple, especially because a lot of doctors are really coming at it with here's fact, right? Going, here's what you should do. And here are the facts. And they keep thinking, the more we communicate facts, the more people are going to listen, versus if actually those doctors and those political leaders, were able to frame what's going on in a good story. People would engage more and probably pay attention more than we may be over this crisis.


Francisco Mahfuz 32:53

And it doesn't, it doesn't help the the people that are on the side of science, that the villains have such great names, because one of the names I kept getting is that it's all the fault of kill gates, Bill Gates, Bill Gates, is the villain. He engineered this whole thing. So maybe they can buy tick tock cheaper, I don't know.


JJ Peterson 33:14

But that's a story, right? That's what's crazy. And people go, Oh, it's crazy that people would believe that it's not true people, because it's a good story. Yeah. And not everybody, obviously. Right. Like, that's not everybody. But like, in particular, let's go. Now, another little side tangent, is what Aristotle and Plato argued is that when it comes to drama, you actually want to with drama, you want to you engage the elite with drama. And the way that you do that is because drama is based in status, your ability to gain or lose status. So every almost every good drama deals with people of petition. So it's like doctors, lawyers, police officers, presidents, right, and they have this position, and then somebody comes in and takes the power away from them. And then the entire movie is about them gaining control. Again, it's this up and down. thing with drama. And so anytime people are longing for status, or have status, then you want to use drama to impact up and down create drama. If you want to engage the masses and kind of keep them in and help them on the level that they're at. You actually use comedy. Comedy is aimed at the masses and helping the masses change their mind. And so you're talking about, like, you know, it movies or TV shows are about, you know, friends who are in their 40s and single or garbageman, or like, they're just the masses, they're the mass of story. And so, I would actually argue in this timeframe that if we wanted to actually change the way people thought about, say specifically COVID And we wanted to engage the masses. We need to stop using facts and we need to stop using drama and we actually want to We experiment with comedy and story. And I was very, very curious if this is nobody's doing this. So there's no way to test it. But I'd be very curious, again, all the way back to Aristotle and Plato, they said, if you want to change the masses, you use comedy. If you want to change the elite, you use drama. And we're using drama, and we're using facts to try to change the masses, and it's not working.


Francisco Mahfuz 35:23

Well, I'm from Brazil. And there's a lot of, I think, unintentional comedy happening there. Because, because the President was a complete Nutter has said that he wouldn't, he didn't think it existed. And then if it existed, he wouldn't catch it. And if he kept caught it, he wouldn't be worried about it. Because because of his, his past as an athlete. In recently, when I kid you, not a doctor, came out on TV and said it, he's a governor of a state in Brazil. And he said, one of the one of the therapies that we're gonna make available to the population is ozone treatment. And this is going to be done through a rectal injection. And people were like, and then you had him with the, with the person doing the sign language next to him. And I mean, you can imagine that that wasn't, didn't come across as very reassuring. And, like, yes, it is real. I mean, someone blended there, to make science look terrible that no one could possibly listen to a doctor, it starts


JJ Peterson 36:29

to make me boil a little bit. That's what's really interesting to me again. So now, let's go full circle here, right? If something like Armageddon, which is a very cheesy movie, that has the ability to impact people, and move people's soul, literally to make them cry. And what Aristotle and Plato would argue is ultimately, that should if people engage, experience narrative transportation, and enter into that story, then they actually should change their mind and their actions. That is when people have the higher level of narrative transportation you experience, the more likely you are to change your mind and your actions. So if a simple movie like Armageddon that is about explosions, and you know, goofy writing and goofy acting, and everything can change people's mind, then really, the power of story is, is so compelling that in the wrong hands, it can actually do a lot of damage. And people are willing to write off these people who are telling crazy stories as just being crazy. But in reality, some of them are actually not, they're pretty evil, because they're actually using the power of story, to further lies and to further propaganda into to basically be used for selfish reasons, right. And that's part of why like, my whole journey is about teaching people how story works, and why story works. And ideally, ultimately giving the microphone to the good people, right? It's really like trying to say, Hey, this is what how the world works, right? This other world works. Those of you who are making the world a better place and challenging people to be better people, you need to know how to tell good stories, because if you're don't, you are going to lose out to the people who do and they may not have as good of a heart as you really like that's really what has driven me in this is that the people who I believe have great stories to tell and are doing great things in the world. They need to know how to tell stories better, because we are home on narrative. We think in terms of story, we make sense of life in terms of story. And if you don't know how to do that, the people who do will run you over.


Francisco Mahfuz 38:42

Yeah, I hear that. And the phrase that comes up in my mind is just imagine if, say, a president, who was very good at putting together a compelling but completely false narrative regarding power. I mean, I mean, the consequences could be kind of drastic, but but let's not imagine that.


JJ Peterson 39:03

Making that up out of nowhere. Yeah.


Francisco Mahfuz 39:06

Just before it because you mentioned narrative transportation, I really want to go there. But you were talking about drama and comedy, and what where they're suited suitable. And I just want to bring that back to a very concrete point about about marketing, which I believe I've heard you mentioned somewhere else, which is who should not use comedy? Yes, in their mind.


JJ Peterson 39:28

So anybody who has an elite brand, or an what we would call even an aspirational brand should not use comedy you because it will diminish your brand. So specifically, you will never see BMW, or Chanel use comedy. They're not going to do that. And if they did, it would lower their brand because it makes it available and approachable to the masses. So a lot of times brands will look on online on YouTube, they'll see these viral videos that are hilarious, and they'll go oh, we should get a viral video. A that's a whole nother thing. But if you want to do comedy, if you're aimed at the masses and want to reach everybody, then comedy, you can use both drama and comedy to do that. If you're aiming at the elite or an aspirational brand, if you're selling yachts or you're selling watches, or even just selling your bank, or insurance really well, insurance might be a little different. But a bank or something like that, you don't want to make your bank funny, unless you're really targeting like just the everyday worker, because it will diminish your brand.


Francisco Mahfuz 40:33

Yeah, I think I don't think of banks as particularly funny. Although the line Are you kidding me? His crops up regularly, when dealing with them,


JJ Peterson 40:43

you don't want somebody who's handling your money to be like, falling over themselves and, and getting hit with a pie in the face, you know, you don't want it, there's more at stake there. There's more status that can be won or lost. So you need them to be serious. And if a bank started being funny, they would lose business.


Francisco Mahfuz 41:02

Right? So this is where this is where we're gonna lose whoever we haven't lost with all of the aggressions we had before. So narrative transportation, or wonder to know is, what was your the only initial hypothesis of your of your PhD? And what did you find? Or what are proven or disproven?


JJ Peterson 41:20

Yeah, well, basically, the whole dissertation was about story brand. So essentially, people have people have studied narrative marketing, but they've not really ever said, here's how to do it in a formulaic way, which is what story brand does. So I was trying to look and explain here's why this works. And this is why well, actually, this hypothesis was doesn't work. And so I did a study of people who had gone through it before and after and seeing if their companies grew, if their marketing was easier to create, if they aligned their team members kind of asked all these things, like, basically, does it work? And the reality was it it said, Yes, it works, like people I'm sure


Francisco Mahfuz 42:04

I'm sure to do. You'd be in a bit of a pickle. If I don't, I think I think I'm going to change the premise of my thesis. I'm not liking where this is happening.


JJ Peterson 42:15

Completely. It was, I mean, totally. And that's the thing. It's anecdotally we had known, like people had told us it worked, but there had never been a study. So I did a study to say that people who implement this does it work? And the answer to that was yes. And then the second really piece of it was then so kind of why does it work a little bit. And that's where the narrative transportation comes in. So what narrative transportation argues is that there are actually again, rules that you have to follow in order to help people experience narrative transportation. And when you break those rules, then people stopped paying attention. And there's reasons why. And there's actually like a 15 point scale that is used in studying kind of how narrative transportation works. But two of the biggest things that are rules is that a story has to have fidelity and coherency. So that has to kind of go in an order that it has to follow, kind of, it can't, it has to follow a logical order. And that order has to stick together. And if you break that, in the middle of a movie or a book, people will stop entering into because they can't, their brain is not built to understand how that works. So you really have to, and so fidelity and coherency. And what story brand does is make sure that you follow those rules that you actually if you tell a story that it has fidelity and coherency there's a number of other things like even in telling a story, like for instance, if you like you're doing a YouTube video or commercial, and then all of a sudden, like somebody in the middle of it goes and buy an iPhone, like they step out of the story for a second and like, make the story about the product versus the story. People will stop experiencing narrative transportation. So that's one of the things but really, from the dissertation, what my kind of whole understanding was, or the whole kind of research was, does story brand work? And it was the answer was yes. And then why is this important to academia and marketing is because for the first time really, people said how to experience fidelity and coherency in marketing, based on following the rules, here's the rules you need to do this will help you achieve those. When you achieve those people will experience narrative transportation. And then the research shows that when people experience narrative transportation, their higher levels of mind change and action change. So the greater the transportation, the greater mind shift and the greater action shift. And there's some research that even shows that went that that narrative transportation can be experienced in as little as an Instagram post or a tweet even now, the level is not as high but as like a movie or a book, but you still can experience that in as small as you know. 360 The characters.


Francisco Mahfuz 45:01

It's interesting because I think that someone who's familiar with story brand, you can look at a website and you can, you can see that there is a narrative in there. But for anyone that that is not familiar with what you guys are trying to do, they will just say, oh, yeah, no, I get what these guys do. It's a pretty good website. And yeah, it's pretty straightforward. I guess I think the last thing on most people's minds would be, Oh, hold on. There's a story here. But then again, maybe maybe we are just story dumb, because we watch Pixar movies. And until someone points it out to you that every Pixar movie is the hero's journey, you don't get it seems that even though the structure is kind of staring us in the face, we just don't I mean, I guess if it's well done, you don't see the seams in the story.


JJ Peterson 45:46

Yes. And the only time we really pay attention to story is when it's bad, right? Because it takes us out of the story. But that goes back to the stuff that like Walter Fisher argued, which is that we are homing narrative, which means that we actually already experience in our life story we view our life through story. So when a movie or a book tells a good story, what it really is doing is just reflecting back to us our everyday experiences. And so that's when when you tell a bad story, you're actually breaking the everyday experiences. Now, not all of us are going to experience disarming a bomb, you know, like that kind of thing. But we all are experiencing. So the hero might go to disarm a bomb, but internally, so externally, they're they're disarming a bomb. But internally, they are feeling that they're ill equipped, and they're underprepared. And maybe their dad didn't believe in them, right? We all feel those things. ill equipped, underprepared. And maybe our dad didn't believe in us. And so even a story about somebody disarming a bomb actually comes back to our everyday experiences. And movie doesn't do that, when it doesn't actually connect with our everyday experiences, then we we tune out, because we just go oh, that's just an external problem they're dealing with and all of us can't really relate to a bomb. That's not our everyday so I'm out. Um, hold on a sec. I know you said you're gonna edit. But my dog just grabbed my licence and is not added. That's okay, we're back. Yeah, but,


Francisco Mahfuz 47:24

I mean, who knows? Maybe maybe, maybe the dog was just going out to get groceries.


JJ Peterson 47:28

He went, he literally grabbed my debit card, my licence.


Francisco Mahfuz 47:31

I mean, he's had he's had enough of this. He wants to go out and his and those other pusher buttons. Yeah. Right. So as we come to sort of the end of the time, we have one of the things I wanted to get your talking about is something I've heard you say, with regards to how you're taking some of these lessons from story into real life. And there's a couple of things I've heard you say, not as I've heard an episode of your story brand, where you guys talked about mission statements, but but using that for the family. And I also heard you say something that I thought was very interesting about how you know the value of guides in your own life. And also that the difference between heroes and villains and how they handled their, their personal pain. So so just wanted to let you go off on a bit for that before we're done.


JJ Peterson 48:19

There's a lot there, there's a lot of different thing. Let me let me go with the hero and villain part because I think that's the thing that's actually impacted me personally, the most insane. And this all comes from, I mean, it comes from story and borrowing from all of the things but Don, Donald Miller was really the one who introduced me to this, and I'm trying to get him to write a book about it in particular. But the idea is that in story, there are really four primary characters, hero, villain, victim and guide, those are the four main and the reason those four exist is because, again, they're a reflection of our real life. They are who we see around us, but they're also who we see in us. And so at any given point, we have the ability to play in our own story, our own life, one of those four roles, hero, victim villain guy. Now, what's interesting is that the two main ones that everybody thinks about his hero and the villain, and the interesting thing about them is both typically, in a story have an experience of a backstory of pain. And typically they're similar. They experienced the loss of somebody in their, in their past or something like that they lost their wife. The difference is, the hero works to redeem the pain and help other world people get better and the world get better because of the pain they've experienced. And the villain tries to revenge the pain and cause other people the same pain they are feeling. And in fact, we see like in villains a scar on their face as a symbol of their previous pain, right? of their previous rejection. I was rejected, therefore, I'm going to cause other people pain and reject them, right. And so in our own life, we have that ability that we have to recognise that even heroes experience problems, they experience low points. And in those low points, we have the ability to do one of two things, redeem that pain and use it for good, or revenge the pain and cause more pain for others. And every day, I played both of those roles in the same day, often, you know, but that and so those are something to just be aware of. Another interesting thing is when it comes to the victim, there are no good stories about people who are just victims. Now, there are real victims in life, that that have things but but how things happen to them, you know, people who are sold into sex slave trafficking, or they got in a car accident, or they were given diagnosed with cancer, right, bad things happen. But the good stories are about the transformation, and the people who redeem that pain and become heroes, right, or revenge, the pain become villains. But people who play the victim are people who stay in that position of defeat, and no good stories are ever written about victims. And so same kind of thing. I every day, something can happen to me, and I have to choose whether I'm going to be a victim, villain or hero, right? Because the victim just sits there. And it takes it doesn't do anything about it, complains about it, and ultimately takes energy from bowls. In a good movie, the villain, the victim takes energy from both the villain and the hero. So in reality, if you were looking at your life from the outside, and you continue to play the victim, all you are is an energy sucker and the story isn't about you. The story is about other people, and they're writing good stories, and you're just sitting there. And so those are the three kind of primary and then the really the highest level is guide. Once the hero actually achieves their their goal, and they have accomplished and they have transformed themselves, then they become the guide, and they help other heroes. And they help other people on their journey. They're used their empathy, which is their ability to be like the hero. So they can empathise with the hero. And then they have authority. And those are two characteristics of of a guide, empathy and authority. So they connect with the hero, and they say I understand your pain, I get it, and then authority. But I've also conquered this, and I've moved forward. And here's how I'm going to help you. So that's really every single day, I have the ability to choose one of those four roles to play, hero, victim, villain or guide. And I think that when we're aware of that, we can choose the way we live our story, even in the midst of pain in the midst of hardship, that you know, even again, during this kind of COVID time, and where in America, and specifically where I'm at in Tennessee, we're still on lockdown. And I can choose to be the victim of that. And there are moments that I do. But no good stories are written about a victim. And I can choose to cause other people pain because I'm experiencing pain, or I can actually step into the hero role and redeem what's going on, help myself and then ultimately become the guide and help other people in that journey as well.


Francisco Mahfuz 52:56

And not to take such a beautiful statement and bring it back to, to, to the things that give us hard cold cash on a day to day basis. But those key points you touched on are, are very much the ones that everyone providing a product or services need to touch on as well, right. So you need to show that you understand what your customers problems are. And then that's the empathy. And then you need to show that you have authority to help them out of that bind.


JJ Peterson 53:24

And that's from a from a marketing perspective, that's actually all you should ever talk about yourself. If you are playing the guide in the story, which we would recommend never play the hero. If you play the hero, you're gonna lose, because you're now in a competing story against your customer. But when you play the guide, then you're helping the customer win the day and they enter into the journey, they need to know why they need to why they need to trust you to move them forward in their story. And the two way easy. Two ways you do that is empathy and authority. How you know i We are like you we understand your pain. You know, when somebody says just like you I used to be a salesperson, that's just empathy, or I'm a mother who really struggles as well, empathy. But authority then is but I have actually figured out a way to move forward and I've helped hundreds of other people do the same thing. And authority together positions you as a guide and your customer story.


Francisco Mahfuz 54:15

Perfect. I'm going to put on the on the show notes links to storebrand.com. And and I think everybody who hasn't read building Starbound should. But you just want to mention briefly because you guys have new stuff out, right? A new book and a new


JJ Peterson 54:28

project. Yeah. So new book is called Marketing Made Simple, which so building a story brand really goes into all of the principles of story and really helps you understand how to create clear messaging. And then the book that Don and I just wrote is called Marketing made simple and takes those and gives you very practical ways to put it on your website, email, lead generators, one liners, all of that stuff. So it just kind of is I would say a story brand. Point 2.0. You know, it's kind of here's how story works. Here's how to use it so they go really well together. And then we've also launched a new platform called Business made simple University BMS EU. And that has our messaging course in it, but it really helps all it. It helps companies in all areas communication strategy, mission statement, we're just putting in a course on negotiation, we have one on proposals. So it's basically all yours. And it's all really based in story. So it's how do you story in all of these areas, give a speech, do social media, create a proposal, create a mission statement, and you can go find that at business Made Simple. Business mates, actually, it's just BMS, you.


Francisco Mahfuz 55:37

And if I understand, if I understand correctly, for maybe about 10 seconds, your book was out selling Michelle Obama's,


JJ Peterson 55:45

it was yes, just for a very short period. But we outsold Michelle Obama. And we were we did make the Wall Street Journal bestseller lists, but did not did not make New York Times. So


Francisco Mahfuz 55:58

you know, and I guess that, obviously, with all that's going on, there is there's a lot I think the natural inclination for a lot of people would be saying, well, this is not the time to be looking to stuff like this. But but one of the things that you don't focus on a lot is his sales funnels and email marketing and the importance of that. And I mean, that's if you don't have that now. Yeah, then you're pretty much screwed.


JJ Peterson 56:19

Yeah, because this is the best in this. I really do think this is the best time to get all of that stuff in order, because so many of us can't see our customers face to face right now. And we don't know what the future looks like for that. You know, we could be different waves, but and so get your website in order, get your email list growing, send the right words to people tell the right story. And once you build that sales funnel, that sales funnels right now really equals survival.


Francisco Mahfuz 56:44

JJ, thank you very much for your time, sir. And I hope that I hope that you wrong, and it's not this endless waves and don't have time to sort out our email funnels. Get back. But yeah, thank you very much, sir. I think this is amazing and packed with a lot of geekiness. And we're digressions, but plenty on story, and storytelling. So So once again, thank you very much for your time.


JJ Peterson 57:11

Thanks for having me.


Francisco Mahfuz 57:12

All right, everybody. Thanks for tuning in. Take care of yourselves. And until next time.


I hope you enjoyed the show. And if you did, I'd love for you to subscribe and leave us a review or a rating on the Apple podcasts app. It's very easy. You open the app and find the show and scroll down a little and when you see the stars tab. I'd really appreciate it and it does help other people find us. And if you'd like to get in touch or find out more about what I do, reach out to me on LinkedIn or visit my website story powers.com



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