Retailing a story in 6 seconds

Written by Martin Lucas

The world of retail is our focus this week. Doesn’t it feel like there is a sale on every week, and if there isn’t, you know one isn’t very far away so you will wait for the deals before you purchase anything?

It’s the retail industry's self-generated problem. Here’s why: consumerism was fabricated to control the masses. The modern celebrated philosopher Noam Chomsky said as much. He claims:

“They wanted to control our beliefs and attitude. We would become trapped in the essence of life. The press in the 20's talked about trapping people in the consumer parts of life, like fashionable things.”

Whereas this quotes was at the time before consumerism began, an excerpt from the liberal thinker Walter Lippman:

“The public must be put in its place, so that it may exercise its own powers, but no less and perhaps even more, so that each of us may live free of the trampling and the roar of bewildered herd.”

We are nearly a century on from the birth of Consumerism. When you throw in the advancements of technology and products and the beast that is Capitalism, it stands to reason that by continuously chasing the dollar, the metrics and sales, sales, sales, you would generate a loss of value in the eyes of the consumer. Consumers don’t care that much about Black Friday because we know the next sale is always just around the corner. The challenge is how to grab attention when your target market is being hit with endless offers and the best/greatest/easiest deals around.

Voice Tactics

Part of the answer is the voice you project as a company, plus understanding what your specific target market wants, and having a point of view that relates to your products (and thus needs) of your customers. And above all else, combining all of these things to tell stories that grab the consumer’s attention.

In the Digital Age, attention is an extremely short metric; it is measured in microseconds. We see so much data, all day, everyday, that unless something rocks our conscious mind, we will reject it. The stuff we reject does get seen but sidelined, as I explained in Your Perception Is Your Reality. Whereas when it decides to engage with content it happens quicker than a click of the fingers.

We are running some promotion campaigns for our clients and I want to share one of the tactics we’ve used and why. Let’s begin with the WHY. The WHY of any business is about their customers (existing or new) but, as businesses, we can sometimes forget that our customers need to be considered at all times. Here’s why. When busy and under pressure, employees are more likely to go for the quickest and easiest route to resolve the pressure they feel, which results in a loss of thinking time and manifests itself as lower-quality production. If you are designing a marketing campaign or customer message, then you can get easily confused as to which type of customer you’re speaking to or, in most cases, it hasn’t actually been considered in the first place - it’s all guesswork. You can look at most Twitter accounts to get a feel for this; it’s often rushed content.

I use Twitter as a deliberate example because it’s the most confused of the big social platforms when it comes to people using it as they should be. If you spotted lots of ‘I’ type language and you didn’t understand the gains on offer for you as a consumer, then the company is caught in this pressured ‘me, me, me’ type of human behaviour.

Humans are selfish by nature . It’s not a bad thing, it’s just a factor of our evolution and the need to survive and look after ourselves. Where this goes really badly awry is when your role is to look beyond yourself to serving millions of potential viewers. At its heart, the best marketing is storytelling and you can’t tell a story if you are looking inwardly too much; you need to look out at your target market to give yourself the best chance of success.

That is the WHY. Let’s move onto the tactic.


Two things have changed in the world that demonstrate the fast-moving, ever-changing world we live in. One is the invention of emojis, which is an international short code language. Not convinced? Check out this T-shirt for travellers which made the inventor a tonne of money:


Cool right? Stuck in a country and can’t speak the language? Point at T-shirt emoji. Score!

The other innovation was the animated GIF - a six-second video that autoplays and repeats over and over. J’adore a good GIF! Step one is to understand your customers - what appeals to them, how to attract them - and the next step is to ask ‘how can I grab their attention’? Just long enough so the brain registers an interest and sends a signal to the conscious mind to check it out. The GIF has to relate to what you are offering them or they will register interest and then reject moving forward. The second thing to recognise is that you are only dealing with the immediate decision to make someone want to investigate further.

It is not the ultimate decision.

It is not the decision to buy.

It is not the message to change the world.

The science of how we make decisions comes in phases; consider how you weigh up where to go on your summer holiday. You don’t decide immediately; you investigate, research and find a good deal that matches all your preferences. You also feel pressure to get it right because of the judgement of friends or family. You don’t see a social media message about a holiday and then book it within five minutes. This is important to remember, as there is too much overselling on social media and in marketing. It’s because of fear; we fear that if our target market doesn’t know EVERYTHING we do then they may not buy (and yes, the opposite is true, as our brain knows what desperation is and it knows when too much information is a turn-off).

It’s all about how to attract based on the consumer’s needs. GIFs are cool! Here are a few we used in the build up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday for, a high-end men’s fashion label who thrive on the small design details and making their customers feel wearing their fashion makes them cool.


Skull Smoke - Cool is a science. Skulls are cool. A reminder as it is very Elvis Jesus


Detailed shots - ‘Design is in our blood’. A behavioural value we put into their process; in this case, shown through the small details of each design to remind people and create that ‘Am I missing out?’ feeling.


Last orders - A simple strategy that puts a time limit seed in the mind on Cyber Monday (when the sale ended) and linked to having (responsible) fun.

Key takeaway: Focus on the immediate decision you want people to take and you will win much more.

Final tip is to keep your eye on tomorrow, we are launching a new collection for Elvis Jesus this week:

Drop me a line if you want some insights for your own storytelling.