Comedian’s Secrets to Storytelling – With Kevin Rogers
Do you believe that marketing is storytelling? What does comedy have to do with email marketing? Can it teach us something we can use in our email marketing to deepen the connection with our audience? Copy Chief Kevin Rogers blows our minds with his unique formula for sharing your origin story in 60 seconds or less.
Warning: if you're not into having fits of laughter or don't want to hear Kennedy talk about polar bear hunting in Norway while learning one of the most amazing marketing tricks ever, this episode isn't for you.
SOME EPISODE HIGHLIGHTS: (0:09) Want to get more sales from your email marketing? Grab our Click Tricks. (2:44) Did Kevin really see the Rolling Stones perform in a little intimate concert gig? (3:56) Does your origin story matter? (5:13) Is your origin story really about you? (7:44) Make your origin story about the problem you solve. (9:15) Introducing the 60-second Sale Hook. (14:21) The 60-seconds Sales Hook formula in marketing. (16:25) Using different angles in your origin story. (18:47) Where does your origin story fit in your marketing? (22:16) Subject line of the week with Kevin Rogers.
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Does your origin story matter?
Should you share your origin story? Do people even care? Kevin Rogers tells us that our audience cares about our origin story more than we think! Just because we've heard it or shared it a million times, and we now think it's irrelevant, it's far from it! As marketers, we need to share our origin stories, go deep into them, and find different angles and places to tell them (or different parts of them). Marketing is storytelling, so this is crucial!
Is your origin story really about you?
We've all heard that your marketing and copy always have to be about the customer and not about you. So how do you strike this balance between telling your story and making it interesting and relevant to your audience?
When you're writing copy, imagine almost having a two-way conversation with your audience. You hold one side of it and can almost picture your readers nodding along on the other side. Focus on the thoughts they'll have about themselves as they’re reading. If you're sharing things that are relatable, people will inject themselves into the story.
Use a lot of “you” to make your copy about your readers, but there are plenty of ways you can involve your readers while telling your own story and not have people think you're some egocentric jerk who can’t think of anyone else. If the story is done right, no one will think that.
Take the famous sitcom Friends, for example. People laugh at the jokes because they imagine themselves in the situations the characters are experiencing. We laugh because we live vicariously through the characters. And that's what a good origin story is about – this shared feeling is what makes us want to create and tell our own stories. It's the heartbeat of every communication.
Make your origin story about the problem you solve
Kevin explains that in marketing you have to make the origin story relevant to the problem you help people solve. If you’re selling a product, it makes people’s lives better. However, your audience may or may not experience this particular problem as something urgent right now. So part of the job your marketing needs to do is to ramp up that urgency.
By sharing your origin story you can bond with your best prospects and turn away people who might not be a good fit. Especially when it comes to social media ads, you don’t want to attract people who are never going to buy your products or services. So what you want is a well-done, 60-second Hero Journey – one that you can share in one minute or less.
And to create that, you need to make sure your origin story isn't just about you – it needs to relate to the problem you're solving. It's also worth pointing out that if you have multiple businesses and wear multiple hats, you may think you only have one origin story. But that's not necessarily true – you can choose which bits to highlight and hone in to make it relevant to a particular market.
Introducing the 60-second Sales Hook
Thanks to his background as a stand-up comedian, Kevin has created the 60-second Sales Hook – a formula to help you craft your origin story. Kevin adapted a joke formula to create this. And he did it when he realised that as a marketer, you have the same task a comedian has. When a comedian first comes up on stage, the stakes are high because they only have a few minutes to establish their persona. And their first joke is going to set the tone for the rest of the set. So they need to make it relatable and memorable, just like we all need to do with anything we produce in our marketing.
So Kevin picked up on this widely recogniseable formula that stand-up comedians use to establish their persona. He broke it down and realised that with a small tweak to the last element of the formula, you can use it in your marketing. Why the tweak? Because unlike in comedy, in marketing you're not trying to make people laugh – you're trying to help people learn they can trust you to help them solve their problem.
The joke formula in comedy
So here's the joke formula Kevin identified and shared with us:
- And surprise, which is what makes people laugh.
One of Kevin’s favourite opening jokes on a national TV spot is from a comedian named Karen Ronkowski. She opened with this joke where she said that her kids were so bad in Walmart that she pulled a flyswatter off the shelves and smacked them with it. And as soon as she did that, she realised she doesn’t have kids!
It’s a great joke, and in only a few seconds she tells so much about herself (that's the identity element of the joke). We know she's annoyed by children, and she's willing to beat them (that's the struggle). The discovery is the flyswatter, and at the end, you have the surprise, which is that she isn't beating her own kids!
Plus, when it comes to identity, she talks about going to Walmart, and just from that fact you're getting a lot of information about the type of person she is. In a few seconds, she also manages to identify with and relate to the mums or parents in the audience. Setting the joke in Walmart also adds specificity. We imagine what the store looks like, for example, and this drives the story and makes it three-dimensional. This works in comedy and in marketing copy too!
The 60-second Sales Hook formula in marketing
Obviously in marketing, we’re not trying to get people to laugh – that’s not the goal. The goal is to build trust. So to use the joke formula in our marketing, we change the last part from surprise to result. What is the result that you have helped other people achieve through your discovery?
The formula for marketing is:
Once you know these four elements of your business, you can write a story on the spot. Kevin’s story, for example, is that he’s a former stand-up comedian who turned copywriter (identity). For years, he struggled with sharing his story in a way that was relevant to people (struggle). Then he discovered how he could take a joke formula and change the last element of it and turn it into a hook formula (discovery). And he has since grown his business by 50% (result).
All you have to do now is to add a call to action. So for Kevin, it's something along the lines of: “To see this joke formula that I turned into a marketing formula, click the link below, and I’ll give you my free book”. So that’s super quick. And it's pretty cool, right?
Kevin also pointed out that once you know about this formula, you'll start seeing it everywhere – from TV commercials to ad campaigns. It's a proven, go-to formula – try it out!
Using different angles of your origin story
As mentioned earlier, if you have more than one business, you can also use your origin story in different ways. If Kevin had a business around health, for example, he'd share that he’s a father and a husband from St. Petersburg, Florida (identity). And that a few years ago, he developed a blood infection that almost killed him, so he had open-heart surgery to have his valve replaced (struggle).
Note how the specificity around his identity allows you to tap into what’s subconsciously relevant to your audience. The fact that Kevin is a comedian-turned-copywriter is interesting to the marketing crowd. But if you’re talking about health and survival, then you can drop that fact because other things, like mentioning that Kevin is a husband and a father have a lot more connotations. That straight away tells you Kevin wants to see his children grow up, get married, and have their own children one day.
Another tip is to always pre-empty the questions your audience may be asking in their heads. So if you mention a movie, share the title. If you’re talking about your girlfriend, give her a name.
Going back to Kevin's story, the discovery is that the surgeons saved his life, but the medicine they prescribed was killing him all over again. Eventually, he discovered a way he could naturally fix those same problems without prescription medication. And on it goes. So you can use this formula for different things, and it's fun!
Where does your origin story fit in your marketing?
According to Kevin, the best place to use an origin story is when you first invite somebody into your world with a free download or a lead magnet offer. You want congruence from the beginning. So don’t think that because you said something on one page you can’t say it again – you absolutely can because these people just met you!
You don't want to make something up just to get a click – you want to build trust. And people want to know they’re in the right place. For example, you can use your origin story in your pitch for your free download, and then on the Thank You page, you can have a short video where you tell the full story. You can tweak it slightly, make it longer, and add details that are relevant to the sale along the way.
This is a useful framework that is best used if you have 60 seconds or less to tell someone who you are, why they should care, and why they should want what you have. So use it to grab their attention on the landing page or in an ad – it’s a quick summary to grab their attention and hook them in, and then you can unpack the story later. You can even build the story up over time (for example, over several emails in your welcome sequence) so your audience feels like they’re going somewhere with you, and that relationship deepens.
In other words, build trust through congruence. Reassure people they're in the right place, and when you know they're interested (because they're clicking), tell them more and further that relationship. And don't forget you can do this with imagery too – the images you share can support your words.
Subject line of the week with Kevin Rogers
One of Kevin's top-performing subject lines is “The night I quit comedy.” Why did this work? Because curiosity is really high here – it's hard to look away from a subject line like that. Whether people know about Kevin's background in comedy or not, in these 5 words they learn a lot. It's interesting, and it makes people want to know what happened.
Plus, Kevin had a lot of fun with the story and later layered lots of lessons in there about knowing when something is over, choosing a new direction, and having the courage to go after it. And remember to start the story in the middle of the action because it’s the most intriguing place.
Useful Episode Resources
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