Academy of Wayward Authors email 42 of 45: Identification & Transportation

I don’t claim to be a fiction writer, but I use narrative because it helps me learn, and I naturally use my experiences to teach others.

I’ve always believed that narrative is superior to other persuasive techniques, and some data supports this claim.

Recently, I’ve been studying the research conducted by Jonathan Cohen on the effectiveness of narratives compared to expository messaging. Most of the studies show that narratives in media are more effective in promoting ideas and message adoption.

Your craft can play a magical role in marketing. As an author, you aim to persuade readers to invest in your fiction regularly. You don’t have to be the best storyteller, just their favorite.

Thousands of great authors struggle financially while mediocre ones thrive. This is the difference between being the best and being someone’s favorite. The favorite will always win.

So, how do we achieve this?

By incorporating identification and transportation in your story and applying the same in your marketing.

Let’s start with some definitions.

Identification occurs when readers see themselves as the characters. They believe they would act the same way, make the same decisions, and share the same beliefs.

Identification is different from a parasocial relationship, where fans create a social connection with a character. Both are powerful tools, but identification is more persuasive.

Transportation is the ability to pull readers into the story, giving them the sensation and feelings of being immersed. It goes beyond world-building.

When identification and transportation are successfully combined, research shows that readers can be influenced to change their beliefs.

If you excel at this in your story, readers will be persuaded. They will believe your story is real, even though they know it’s not. They will think highly of your storytelling compared to others.

What if you applied the ideas of transportation and identification to your marketing? This is essentially what David Ogilvy aimed to do. When his advertisement for Rolls-Royce stated that at sixty miles per hour, the loudest noise in the car is the ticking of the electric clock, he immersed you in a story.

You can imagine yourself in a fancy Rolls, racing down the road, only hearing the clock ticking.

Legend has it that when the engineers at Rolls saw this ad, they ensured the clock didn’t make any noise, either.

This concept is not new in “Tiny Thunder: Irresistible Messaging for an Overwhelmed World” by Susan Rice. She discusses metaphoric storytelling as a way to convey a message.

Let me give you an example.

Drop your audience into the story. Instead of selling a product directly, the ads and blurbs you create serve as on-ramps into the story world. The same applies to your emails. Intentionally use identification and transportation to immerse your readers into your story world at first contact. Let curiosity drive them deeper. While others willingly turn over their messaging to AI, you differentiate and dominate by going in the direction of story.

Can you see it in the emails and content I create?

While reading this season, did you ever feel like a student at an old academy? Walking down the halls from class to class, curious about your next teacher.

Was it me presenting the subject? Or was David Ogilvy, sitting cross-legged and smoking an unfiltered cigarette, giving the lecture?

Did you feel more immersed in previous seasons when I shared my real-life experiences in Las Vegas or stories I had heard from my Dad?

Did you gain insights from the old con men I introduced you to, like Amarillo Slim or the Yellow Kid?

Do you hear the words you read in my voice or your own?

Do you have a more profound experience when I asked you questions?

Take these examples as inspiration to move your reader through identification and transportation into a space where they deepen their relationship with your brand and what it has to offer.

Thank you for your attention,

Joe