Advertising copywriter Brian Eden got so tired of brands demanding he “Tell us your story,” that he created a Tumblr lampooning the prolific and often confusing catchphrase.
“Tell Us Your Story” takes screenshots of brands asking for users’ stories on Twitter and compiles them into a blog with captions pointing out how ridiculous it is for consumers to be asked to tell stories about mundane experiences, like using nasal spray or filing a tax return.
The idea for the Tumblr came to Eden when he was drinking a Dr Pepper and noticed that the can asked for his story. “I was drinking a soda, and the can blindly said, ‘Tell us your story at drpeppertuition.com,’ and it seemed really funny to me,” Eden says. “What story were they looking for? My life story, or my soda story? As an advertising writer, I started seeing this trend everywhere and it occurred to me that it was getting a little silly. All these products wanting to know my story about their products, and I don’t have a Dr Pepper story to share. My story is I bought it and I drank it.”
Eden believes the catchphrase has become overused because brands are trying too hard to create user-generated content without giving enough thought to the types of user-generated content that is brand-appropriate.
“There’s been so much written in the industry about how we need to be generating conversations on social media, and the most immediate answer for that is to ask consumers to tell us what they think by telling us a story,” Eden says. “We want to know if they’ve had any great experiences with our product. Sometimes with a category like travel people actually do have stories, and that’s great. But with a product like disinfectant wipes, it’s like, what story do you think anyone has about this?”
But the story question can work in a brand’s favor if it carefully considers the phrasing of the question so that the call to action fits the brand’s message. “There have actually been a lot of brand tweets I can’t put on the blog because they are targeted enough questions that encourage customers to tell a specific story,” Eden says. “Putting some parameters on the question actually seems to help produce stories that someone would actually want to tell and want to hear. The humor lies in the ones that are open ended about products that are low engagement.”
Users can submit their own “Tell us your story” fails at TellUsYourStoryBlog@gmail.com.