Mark Shapiro, former president and CEO, Six Flags, Inc., former executive vice president, programming and production, ESPN, Inc. & Peter Guber

Using Story To Emotionally Transport Customers Into Viral Advocates

Arriving at Six Flags as the new CEO, Mark Shapiro faced a staggering $2 billion debt and a dismal company reputation. Success required a transformative change. After his brush with some of the 30,000 employees, Mark realized that they were wedded to the core strategy of their tasks – “build a huge ride, market it and they will come.” This was a highly capital intensive strategy for a company that didn’t have a lot of capital.

Obviously, Six Flags had habituated their customers to this experience. Mark knew that everyone at Six Flags needed to look at their customers as audiences, not just customers, and evoke visceral emotional responses that they would carry out of the park with them.

To feel and understand this call to action, Mark told his own seminal story of going to parks as a kid and the wondrous sensation he experienced, “like having Disneyland in his back yard.” Mark wanted his employees to venerate the white spaces between the rides. He told Peter Guber, “You can’t just stick up a ride, and call it Batman. You have to tell people the story. Who is Batman? If you can envelop them in a story around the ride, they’ll be that much more immersed in the experience.” Video continuing the story while they waited on lines, themes, costumed attendants, props, music and food all furthered the narrative which gave audiences the story that they told to others.

Mark understood the key to have audiences stay longer, spend more money and tell others of their experience were to move them emotionally by story. Telling their story forward sold the brand to others.



blog-telltowin-linkTo validate the power of telling purposeful stories, Guber includes in this book a remarkably diverse number of ‘voices’ – master tellers with whom he’s shared experiences. They include YouTube founder Chad Hurley, NBA champion Pat Riley, clothing designer Norma Kamali, “Mission to Mars” scientist Gentry Lee, Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, former South African president Nelson Mandela, magician David Copperfield, film director Steven Spielberg, novelist Nora Roberts, rock legend Gene Simmons, and physician and author Deepak Chopra.
After listening to this extraordinary mix of voices, you’ll know how to craft, deliver – and own – a story that is truly compelling, one capable of turning others into viral advocates for your goal.


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