It is already 30 years since my friend Walter Werzowa and his friends from Edelweiss thundered the hit into the charts. Bring me Edelweiss thundered the hit into the charts. This production sold over three million copies and - as legend has it - was built according to the instructions in the book. The Manual - How to make a number 1 hit built.
Painting by numbers for composers, so to speak. - How do you write a number 1 for sure?
How does a bestseller come into being?
The literary critic Jörg Magenau has dealt with it intensively and written a book entitled Bestseller written. In it, he looks at works of the most diverse genres and levels and probes the question: "Are there ingredients that promise book success?"
Why do we read?
Jörg Magenau writes: "Reading is an escape, but it is an escape into a related reality and into the idea that a life could also be completely different than always just the way it is at the moment. To read is to flee, to return transformed. Dreaming is also allowed. Therein lies the subversive power of books."
Therein lies the gigantic power of story. That's why story is so powerful in sales. In the sale of ideas, concepts, visions. In the sale of products. One way or another: we always buy what we want to be.
Granted: A bestseller is what it is, a best seller. You have to buy the book, reading it is not compulsory. Seen in this light, I suspect the best-selling book of all time, The Bible, is known to fewer people in terms of content in relation to the number of buyers than Fifty Shades of Grey...
We all have something to sell all the time. We present, pitch, offer - goods, concepts, ourselves and our potential. We want to win others over to something. We are sellers in continuous operation. We want to be best sellers and produce bestsellers. The best way is to play it safe.
Is there a safe number?
Do they exist?
Of course not.
Just think of all the films that have been made by great artists with huge budgets under the best creative conditions that make you want to throw your legs over your head. Why? Have they suddenly forgotten? No, of course not. But things often succeed and fail for the same reasons.
Multiple Oscar®-winningscreenwriter giant William Goldman(Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, All the President's men, Princess Bride, Marathon Man, Misery, Absolute Power, Chaplin , ...) put it succinctly: "Nobody knows anything."
Fortunately, that's not entirely true.
We know a little. Actually, we know everything.
Success - regardless of quality - is what touches people.
This applies to books, films, ideas, communication. This touch is quality-neutral and highly personal. There is no wrong feeling, and therefore there is no arguing about taste.
Successful is what touches.
Many years ago, my friend Stefan Würnitzer directed a spectacular music video for Paula Abdul. This work launched the then practically unknown Viennese's career as one of the most sought-after music video directors in the USA. Rumours persist to this day as to whether George Lucas actually directed the video. The additional interesting aspect: this video was voted the best and also the worst video of the year in the same year. What actually touches people is quality-neutral and highly personal.
What is successful is what is relevant.
Interest is good, attention is important. But that alone only generates echo.
It still needs relevance. Relevance creates resonance. Resonance creates common vibration, consonance and effect. Echo fades, resonance spreads. The flight into related reality ...
What we do creates echo, our attitude creates resonance. Story is about our attitude. Story is about why we do something. Action is necessary, attitude is relevant.
That's why I advise everyone thinking about communication campaigns to ask: "What would we do if we built a movement around the value of our brand?" This is the first step to becoming a bestseller. Movements are built on hope, hope is relevant. Therefore: Hands off story-telling and all power to story-sharing.
The only story that interests everyone.
But what is a really relevant story for people? There is a very clear answer to that. Strictly speaking, there is only one story that interests people.
Assuming I stalk into the bookshop of my heart, there is one book that I am guaranteed to buy as soon as I see it. And without reading the blurb first. The title alone is enough.
It is this:
By the way, there's a book like that for you too:
We have all read this book under different titles in different genres. It's the stories that really touch. Our favourite books, our favourite songs, our favourite films. Theatre evenings that moved us.
Story is attitude.
There are a few simple truths that I consider eternally valid and have therefore not only written behind my ears. John Steinbeck said: "If a story is not about the hearer he will not listen. A great & interesting story is about everyone or it will not last." Relevance & resonance.
Howard Luck Gossage translated this thought into the simplified world of advertising: "Nobody reads ads. People read what interests them. Sometimes it's an ad."
A successful brand story can therefore never be about the brand, but only about its audience. About the common values, about the common longing, about the common attitude. We are like-minded, we resonate in unison. We share a common history. We take refuge together in the related reality.
As introductory reading, I always like to recommend to all those who want to put this insight into practice in a positive way the wonderful little book by the great author Steven Pressfield, which has the programmatic title: Nobody wants to read your shit. Please read it two or three times and then bring a bestseller into the world, in whatever form. A concept, a presentation, a campaign, a love letter, a novel, a screenplay, a movement ...
Be a best seller.
Bestsellers exist in all areas of life and for all group and market sizes. In the end, it's never about Business2Business or Business2Customer. It's always about people to people.
Story is a question of attitude and an indispensable necessity for successful communication. It doesn't matter whether you are a global corporation, an SME or an EPU - every person, every brand, every company has a story and stands for something, even if it's nothing. Without a story, you are left with only one issue, one way or another: the price.
That's why I always remind us all of the words my grandmother, old Story Dudette, put at the end of her story telling us about her rich edelweiss haul on the Watzmann: "No Story. No Glory."
P.S.: By the way: the links to Amazon are meant as a service to sniff around and in case you want to feed your Kindle right away. Every bookseller is happy about a purchase and gets every book in no time at all - sometimes the hand is turned around two or three times ... The reward for this: there is always a lot to discover during a visit to the bookshop ...