Conversation Agent - Valeria Maltoni - Let Customers Finish Your Story

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I love your ideas that stories are our way of making meaning together, a way for us to share in common themes. The problem, it seems to me, is that too many people/companies, want use this idea as a way of simulating connection, of manipulating the outcomes. Ideas like "Facts Tell-Stories Sell'" which certainly has some truth to it, leads many to use storytelling as a path to get something they want, which is kind of an inauthentic approach to connection and storytelling.

I think we tell our stories to tell our stories, and if we attempt to use storytelling to force an outcome, we rob ourselves of a critical component of great storytelling, the natural energy of human connection. Storytelling as marketing is usually monochromatic and covert.

If we are to create great customer service connection, it seems better to cultivate environments where people feel safe, where they have a sense of freedom and responsibility, and they have a voice in the thing they are creating or serving. When that happens, the human process of storytelling occurs naturally, without manipulation and without monitor. It is the natural outcome of human beings serving human beings, in a humane fashion.

@David -- good hearing from you! That is why NYC is such a great place. Times Square tells a story, Grand Central another, and so do the museums and streets... I could never sleep if I lived there ;-)

@Karen -- I saw Ratatouille last weekend, what a coincidence. The animated story is filled with details and subplots and emotional triggers. Monsieur Ego was a terrific character to introduce. I loved his last article/review; it was written with such poetry and transport. It plays to the heart and minds of viewers beautifully -- we now all wanted him to be part of things. For us to write with such transport, we need to be in love with our services first... are we?


Great post on the importance of stories and narrative and the role they play in defining engaging customer experiences. Thanks very much.

Robert McKee's comments about stories, structure and meaning do play out in the consumer world as they do in the entertainment world. If people feel that they are part of the story of the product (and/or what it represents), then they will identify with it emotionally and take ownership in it. Once this happens, a company is able to nurture and maintain a kind of customer loyalty that is very difficult to break.

Over the weekend I watched the movie "Ratatouille" (co-incidentallly a Disney/Pixar production). The story was well orchestrated, and in one scene the notorious food critic (Monsieur Ego) is seen sampling the stereotypical "peasant" dish. All of a sudden, his face turns from utter disdain and contempt to one of pure glory. The reason for the change? He identifed the food experience and the product with a dish he relished as a child. The next shot was of him as a child, standing in front of the door at his home (and sniffing the scent of the food) about to come in for dinner. Somehow the experience of eating the "Ratatouille" acted as a trigger to recreate a very positive experience as a child.

If a company can recreate this type of experience with a product or service, then they will win the hearts and minds of customers. In the movie, Monsieur Ego found a place for himself as a character in the Ratatouille story.

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Conversation Agent

  • Since 2006, Conversation Agent focuses on business, technology, digital culture, and human behavior. At Conversation Agent LLC, I help organizations and brands that want to build better experiences tell a new story.


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