Fact selling vs story selling – – Carnegie Mellon research results

Carnegie Mellon did a fascinating study on the power of story telling vs hard core statistics in your marketing.

You may think you know the results, but I bet you would never guess the results and the implications for marketing.

The results surprised me too.

The first test they ran involved a sales letter promoting a non-profit.

The people involved received 2 versions of the sales letter.

One version told a heart wrenching story about a girl that lived in the 3rd world country…

…the other shared the facts on what dismal living conditions the people lived in, the numbers of them without fresh water, without food, etc.

Then they measured how much each of the test groups donated to each letter.

The letter sold 118% more with the story based letter.

So despite what you may think about people who just want the facts, real life shows a very different outcome.

But it gets even more interesting…

Then they tested an approach that used BOTH story and facts in the same letter.

‘Logic’ would say that using both story and facts in the same letter would appeal to the analytical buyers and more emotional buyers all at once.

You’d think it would improve results…

But it did the opposite.

It did sell more than the pure facts approach (25.4% increase), but it sold 39.9% less than the pure story approach.

So story definitely sells far better than the facts based approach.

It gets better…

They then tested a theory that ‘priming’ the different groups would impact sales ad well.

One group they primed by having them do mathematical calculations before being presented with the analytical approach.

The other was primed with more emotional hot buttons and their reactions to emotional hot buttons… Prepped with the emotional words before seeing the emotional words.

Those primed with analytical exercises before the analytical letter bought 12% LESS than the mixed emotions/facts letter.

Those primed with emotional exercises bought basically the same as without the priming (actually 1.7% less).

The lesson?

Sales and marketing campaigns based on emotional stories will outperform anything else.

This works in business to business. This works in business to consumer

Having a great signature story in your marketing campaigns will improve your results…

…I guarantee it.

The first Story Selling Coaching program started up this week.

You can still join, get the recordings, and be fired up to join the rest of us next Tuesday.

If one great story could improve the sales in the Carnegie Mellon study by 118%…

…imagine what it can do for you this holiday season… The busiest shopping season of the year.

You are guaranteed 2 campaigns written in the 6 week program… Each of them could add some serious sales to your business.


Hope you join us… Guaranteed results.

To your story selling success.


PS: As I was wrapping this article up, I realized this was all facts… with a little bit of story mixed in. Which, according to the study is not a good thing.

So I will end with a quick story. I have written extensively about Kinjo Sushi in Calgary. The fact that they are thriving in an industry that has regular business failures.

The fact that they sell out the seats in their restaurant 5-9 TIMES a day.

Yes, 100% sold out over 5 times a day.

They fill the seats – feed them – entertain them – send them on their way… quickly. The fact that the owner of this place used a great story to build his last empire of 35 franchises.

The fact that they have NEVER done advertising before… every single one of their clients come to them as a result of word of mouth.

Why? It’s cold, dead, fish… right?

Well – they have a secret weapon… Peter Kinjo. Peter gets this. He knows that peopel buy when they are entertained and they are given a great story to share with others. And they do!

They tell their friends about the wacky guy and the big knife.
The free sushi they got.
The free chocolate they got.
The incredible service.

That’s all it takes… a great story for your customers to share.

Get your signature story tuned now – there is no better time!


  1. As a Copywriter and creative writer I know the power and universal appeal a good story has
    when it comes to selling online. One of my very best Sales Pages used story-based copy to
    draw readers in using action/drama type sales copy. It received a tremendous response.
    You may have seen Guard Alaska Bear Spray being sold using the story-based sales page titled. “FROM THE JAWS OF DEATH”
    Story based copy outsells competitors 10 to 1 – and has done so for hundreds of years.

  2. Thanks Stephen. I completely agree – great story makes the difference most small businesses crave. As far as I am concerned, EVERY entrepreneur has a great story to tell.

    Once they find it – their marketing shines with personality.

    The challenge is always helping them find and use it.

    Thanks for your input. Troy

  3. I think I found more about the study at

    ‘ What implications does Small’s paper hold for charitable organizations? “It’s all about putting together a simple, emotionally compelling message,” Small says. “The best way to do that is in the form of a picture or a story, something that purely engages the emotional system. The mistake that many charities make is trying to appeal both to emotion and to reason. They assume this would be more effective than appealing to only one or the other, but it isn’t.”‘

    Here is the original paper as best as I can determine:

    Figure 3 is the ‘core take away’ that is used above.
    ‘When donating to charitable causes, people do not value lives consistently. Money is often concentrated on a single victim even though more people would be helped, if resources were dispersed or spent protecting future victims. We examine the impact of deliberating about donation decisions on generosity. In a series of field experiments, we show that teaching or priming people to recognize the discrepancy in giving toward identifiable and statistical victims has perverse effects: individuals give less to identifiable victims but do not increase giving to statistical victims, resulting in an overall reduction in caring and giving. Thus, it appears that, when thinking deliberatively, people discount sympathy towards identifiable victims but fail to generate sympathy toward statistical victims.’

    It appears the reason is sad people react more then neutral people. (and stories affect peoples emotions) – https://www.antolin-davies.com/theses/kandrack.pdf

  4. Here is another variation on the theme of ‘story over stats’. I consider a lot of social networking/social media to be story telling. Even though I and many others still learning how best to communicate (and trust that vulnerability is good) post more stats then stories. Of course, I see stats as representing many many stories, and try to use them as story telling outlines rather then end facts when actually presenting to others.




  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Debra Templar, Hunter Geophysics. Hunter Geophysics said: @DebraTemplar , wow: https://tinyurl.com/2794wlu – fascinating! […]

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