Jun 072017

How To Use The UNIQUE Test For Better Marketing With Stories

We all know intuitively that marketing with stories can be very effective.

We’ve all seen commercials on television and ads in other media that grab us by our heartstrings and often subsequently influence our purchase decisions.

Since we were children, we’ve yearned to hear stories, whether at bedtime so we could get to sleep, or when we’re wide awake, so we could devour the symbolism and knowledge that stories can convey.

Most good stories, whether for marketing or otherwise, consistently contain several elements that grab our attention and keep us engaged as we make a deep connection with the emotions they convey.

While you could argue that other elements are also important in a good story, here are six that show up consistently and get the job done. I’ve arranged them into what I call the UNIQUE Test, to make the elements easier to remember. Each letter of UNIQUE represents a key element that can make marketing with stories more effective.

Here’s the UNIQUE Test for better marketing with stories. The story should be or should contain the following:


If it’s something we see all the time, we’re likely to ignore it.


On the whole, the story should be something you’d at least make a mental note of, and better yet, something you’d want to share with others.


The storyline must be compelling and keep you engaged until the end.


The story must contain a difficult situation or some challenge to be overcome.


It must not be too clever and subtle, such that a large portion of people won’t understand the message.

Emotion evoking

It must touch the viewer, reader, or listener emotionally – you’ll note in the examples below that in addition to the story itself, the right music is also vital to striking this emotional chord.

The more of the above “boxes you can check,” the more likely your marketing with stories will make a major impact on your audience.

Let’s take a look at a few examples of advertisements and see how they do with the UNIQUE Test.

Note:  If the video is not showing up in your email/RSS feed just below here and in the two examples further down, click here to read the rest of this blog post on the Company Founder blog.

A very clever Mercedes ad

How does this one do on the UNIQUE Test for marketing with stories?

Unique – it’s not too often we see video of a small child sneaking out of the house in the middle of the night with his teddy bear and taking a lengthy trip on foot alone, so it’s definitely unique.

Noteworthy – would this story stick in your mind? Is it something that you’d make a mental note of and probably share with your friends? For me, the answer is definitely yes.

Intriguing – it’s definitely compelling and keeps you engaged until the end, as you watch the child pass through a series of dangerous situations on the way to what turns out to be the police station. It’s not likely you’re turning this one off in the middle.

Quandary – this child certainly overcomes several difficult and dangerous obstacles on his journey in the middle of the night.

Understandable – it’s very understandable, and better yet, you only really understand it toward the end, so it keeps you engaged.

Emotion evoking – it’s quite emotional to see the child finally safe, and the emotion peaks toward the end, right about the time that the police officer is turning the Mercedes key in the ignition, as he delivers the child safely back home, again.

So, this Mercedes ad passes the UNIQUE Test with flying colors!


An Exceptional Thai Ad – You’ll Never Guess For What

How does this ad do on the UNIQUE Test for effectively marketing with stories?

Unique – we don’t often see so many instances of generosity in quick succession, so it is indeed unique.

Noteworthy – a story of someone helping so many people and not looking for anything in return, other than the satisfaction of helping others, is noteworthy and something we’d likely want to share.

Intriguing – as the story continues over time and he keeps helping out the same people, you wonder how it will end, so it is intriguing and keeps you engaged waiting for the conclusion of the story.

Quandary – all of the people he is helping are working to overcome challenges, some bigger than others, so it certainly contains this element.

Understandable – it’s not particularly understandable until the end, but again, that’s an excellent time for the meaning to come through, as it keeps you engaged and seeking to understand the message of the story.

Emotion evoking – it’s very emotional. Watching someone selflessly help so many people, and ultimately, unknowingly, help a child who has been living in the streets, find her way into a school that requires a uniform, is indeed quite emotional.

So how did this commercial do on the UNIQUE Test? I think it checks all the boxes. I’ll bet you had no idea, nor did I, that in the end, this would be an ad for a life insurance company! Is it effective? I’d say so, and further, it’s not a reach to tie quality of life while living, to the importance of having life insurance for the benefit of those about whom you care most. Very well done.


Guinness Empty Chair Ad

How does this ad do on the UNIQUE Test for effectively marketing with stories?

Unique – it’s unusual to see someone pouring a beer and putting it at an empty table day after day, so it is unique.

Noteworthy – this story sticks in our minds. It honors our connection to other humans, whether they are currently with us, or presumably, in this case, away putting their life in danger in some far-off land.

Intriguing – this story is intriguing because as it unfolds, you’re trying to pick up on all potential clues to understand why the bartender keeps putting a full glass of Guinness at an empty table.

Quandary – the difficult situation, as it turns out in this case, is the bartender coping with missing the soldier who ultimately shows up to drink the glass of Guinness. Correctly, or incorrectly, most of us also assume that the soldier has been in challenging, even life-threatening situations, while away and likely longing to be with his loved ones and share a glass of Guinness with them.

Understandable – as with most of these good ads that involve storytelling, it’s not understandable until toward the end of the ad, where it becomes crystal clear.

Emotion evoking – the commercial evokes a great deal of emotion, as it touches upon missing loved ones, as well as upon national pride, and finally, upon the satisfaction of sharing a beer with our friends.

The ad ends with: “The choices we make reveal the true nature of our character,” with the obvious inference being that those with strong character choose Guinness. This ad is quite brilliant and a great example of effectively marketing with stories.

So, there you have it, a few examples of advertisements that pass the UNIQUE Test with flying colors!

While you as an entrepreneur may not have the ad budget of these companies that would allow for ad production of this quality, there is no doubt that you can use your entrepreneurial ingenuity to incorporate stories into your marketing in all forms of media. You will likely need to start small and it may be quite challenging in the beginning, but keep at it!

Use the UNIQUE Test as you perfect your storytelling. Keep learning and improving based on the results you see from marketing with stories, and if you do so, I’m willing to bet that you will see a marked impact on the effectiveness of your marketing and advertising in all forms of media.


Paul Morin




  • Paul Morin

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