Business school stories, middle-aged men and why Tesla makes their cars so fast

28 July 2022

Fresh from the EFMD External Relations conference, Ian Hawkings reflects on the power of brand and stories.

Why are Teslas so fast? And I don’t mean technologically what allows them to go so fast, I mean what’s the purpose? They don’t need to go that fast. And it doesn’t really fit with the eco-credentials associated with electric car ownership, does it?

Could it be that they are designed to go that fast as a marketing tool? Could it be that Tesla know that their target market is affluent middle-aged men? Could it be that Tesla know that these men think more with their groin than with their brain and will thus get excited at the idea that their car is so fast - and at the prospect of telling their friends about how much faster their new Tesla is than everyone else's Ferrari or Aston Martin?

Is it (and videos like this) what allows Tesla to have an official marketing budget

That’s what Terrence Barry says. Terrence is the founder of a company called Brand & Story, and he gave an electrifying talk at the recent EFMD Marcom and External Relations conference at Nyenrode Business School in the Netherlands about how companies should do more to harness the power of storytelling to market themselves – and that business schools really need to do this MUCH more than they currently do.

The crux of the presentation was that in order to tell an effective story, you need to know exactly who your customer is, and what turns them on. Hence the story about Teslas and middle-aged men’s groins. According to Terence we all, to a greater or lesser degree, think first with our gut and our groin, before our brain is even allowed to engage. It’s evolution.

And the point for business schools is this: No prospective students get turned on by a school talking about their research, or about their programmes, and much less their faculty (sorry faculty). And yet an enormous amount of website real estate and communications collateral is given over to telling the world about these things.

What will turn prospective students and partners on is effective stories.

The story about the disadvantaged youth with a talent for maths who took an MSc in Data Analytics and now works for Google in Silicon Valley. Or the story about the young girl who wanted to change the world, took an MBA and now runs an NGO dedicated to solving the third-world's sanitation problems. Or the 60 year-old retiree who did a short-course in mentoring and now has his own successful online coaching consultancy...

You can find stories like this if you look hard and long enough – but more often than not, they’re buried under a deluge of press releases on rankings positions, announcements about new courses, and articles devoted to renewed accreditations.
And I’m sorry, these things have never done anything to anyone’s groin.


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