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How Stories Sell You More Than a Product

"Mom, I know your intentions are good, but your request for me to go to bed invoked the fallacy of faulty appeal to authority."

You may have heard the joke that a little knowledge can create a monster. I used to teach middle schoolers how to see fallacies (errors in logic) in advertisements, comics, and everyday conversations.

As seen in the quote above, I'd often have to warn the parents and apologize to them in advance that their children may start correcting them in monstrous ways.

But I was always amazed how well these seventh graders could see faulty thinking in the mass communication swirling around them, especially commercials and advertisements. Savvy and creative marketers are not really selling products but something far more intangible.


Ask yourself...when you see these ads...what are they really trying to sell you?

Is it an accident that this tanned, rugged model here is without a shirt? I don't think he just forgot to turn around.

What emotions do this rugged cowboy evoke within you?

If I were in high school in the 1950's, I'd sure like to hang with Hornung, better yet...I'd like to be him!

Finally, Nike isn't stupid. Actually, when it comes to marketing, they're brilliant. Their use of Colin Kaepernick as the face for their campaign drove sales up 31%. The controversy only fueled the sales!

Again, as I see it, advertisers use their products (such as the cigarette) or spokespeople (such as Kaepernick) as vehicles to sell intangible things like coolness, confidence, sex appeal, rebellion.

Donald Miller, well-known author of the humorous memoir Blue Like Jazz, is leading a marketing revolution of sorts with his company StoryBrand.

His thesis is simple: invite your customers into a story. (He too knows how powerful stories are.) But instead of making your company the hero, make your customer the hero. Your company is the wise guide. By teaching companies this strategy, he's made his clients lots of money.

I think many of the successful advertising campaigns are already doing this, and Miller is just reverse engineering it for average business owners.

But, I have to ask, shouldn't it matter what type of story you're inviting your customer to be the hero in?


I think every Christian should study apologetics, or how to defend your faith against critics.

Peter writes, "[B]ut in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect..." (1 Peter 3:15).

Studying apologetics has helped me have confidence in relating to those who disagree with me as well as have rest in the knowledge that Christianity is a true and compelling faith.

I highly recommend apologetics ministries like Stand to Reason who are helping Christians all around the world "make a defense to anyone...with gentleness and respect..."


But if we're really going to prepare ourselves to fulfill 1 Peter 3:15, then we need to expand our toolbox with a robust understanding of how stories work. Why?

Today, stories are the prime vehicles that worldviews, or perspectives on the world, are communicating to us. You can be sure that stories pack arguments within their bellies, but the arguments aren't in the form of syllogisms but images and sounds that evoke emotions and ideas.

If you're going to survive and thrive in our modern culture as a Bible-believing Christian, you need to arm yourself with a knowledge of:

  1. how stories work (as seen in movies, TV shows, advertising, even personal narratives);

  2. what a biblical and unbiblical worldview looks like;

  3. how, like Trojan Horses, stories hide worldviews within their bellies to either deliver health or disease.


Stage & Story is excited to help you gain more confidence in your faith in a hostile world. The first step that you can take right now is to watch my 50 min webinar on how to watch movies with a Christian Perspective. The principles can be applied to any type of story and they touch on the three points mentioned above.

Right's free!

1. Click on the image below or go to

2. Click "Register Now."

3. Fill in your info and enjoy!

(If you'd like to download the webinar to slow down or fast forward sections, email me at


Like my middle schoolers, start listening to radio ads and watching tv commercials asking the questions, "What story are they trying to sell me?" Do I want to be a hero in it?


Please encourage someone you know to read this blog, watch this webinar, or subscribe to our mailing list.

May you continue to growing in your faith in and love for Christ.


Dane Bundy is president of Stage & Story and cast chaplain at LifeHouse Theater in Redlands, CA.

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