Of course, when you’re talking Pixar and Disney, it shouldn’t be all that unexpected. They have an almost-flawless record of knocking storytelling out of the park. And really effective storytelling often taps into the same core emotions and drives as really great selling. So much so that I created an entire Story Selling Master Class on how to effectively use stories in marketing and selling.
But I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself.
Last weekend, we had family pizza-and-a-movie time, and we decided to re-watch Inside Out.
All was going well. We were enjoying the movie. Engrossed in the story. Rooting for the protagonist.
And then… It hit me.
In the final turn of the movie, the moment where all mysteries are solved and the solution is revealed…
An incredibly powerful selling principle.
Now, if you haven’t watched Inside Out in the two years it’s been out, and you really don’t want a spoiler, maybe you skip this essay. Or, read it later, after you’ve watched the movie.
But because it’s not new by any measure, I’m going to go ahead and give the necessary spoilers to reveal this lesson. And besides, most Pixar movies are still pretty dang good after you know the ending. That’s why they get watched over and over and over and over again.
The setup, then the reveal…
So, as a quick refresher, the storytelling mechanism of Inside Out is that we get to see inside the brain of Riley, the quasi-protagonist (that will make sense in a moment).
And inside Riley’s brain are five characters, representing her primary emotions: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust.
I called Riley the quasi-protagonist before because her Joy emotion is really the character we follow closest throughout the story.
And as Riley is growing up (she’s 11 for most of the story), she has a number of core memories that make up her personality. From the beginning of the movie, all of those core memories are tied to the Joy emotion.
Throughout, there’s a push and pull. The mopey Sadness keeps somehow touching the core memories (they look like big marbles) and adding a layer of sadness to the memory. This is tied to Riley’s external experience as her family relocates from their native Minnesota to San Francisco.
All sorts of wild stuff happens (don’t need a complete synopsis here), and we continue to see Joy trying to protect the core memories from Sadness.
Until, eventually, it’s revealed that many of the joyful memories happened immediately after moments of sadness.
That is, the profound experiences of joy that became lasting, core memories only felt so powerful because they juxtaposed the previous moments of sadness.
This culminates in a moment where Joy is looking at a joyful core memory. She swipes it (like a smart phone) to rewind the “video” of the memory. When she gets far enough back in time, in the video, the memory is of a moment of sadness. Fast-forward, and it becomes joy again.
It’s the yin and yang of the experience, the negative and positive, that created the richness to make it a core memory that defined Riley’s personality.
And in a quick montage, we see that all the new memories Riley is making capture a mix of the core emotions: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust.
It’s in the richness and complexity of sometimes-conflicting emotions that her new personality develops.
There are some amazing storytelling principles at work here, including externalizing the internal journey of The Hero’s Two Journeys.
But that’s not where I saw the selling secret, hiding in plain sight.
Here’s how to use the Inside Out revelation to make more sales…
The novice mistake in selling parallels the experience of Joy (the emotion) throughout Inside Out.
Joy’s battle, throughout the movie, is to keep Sadness away from the core memories.
She thinks that if Sadness gets into the core memories, Riley’s personality will be lost.
Outside of Riley’s mind, we see this reflected as Riley tries to wear a happy mask, even as she faces the incredible loss of having moved away from her old life into a great unknown.
Riley can’t take it. She breaks. She loses Joy and Sadness. She’s left with Fear, Anger, and Disgust.
Because you can’t just live in Joy and the positive all the time. Even if it is a juvenile urge to want to do so.
It’s only in the complexities of emotion (including some big negatives) that the true beauty of Joy is revealed.
It’s only when you have the contrasting dark and light, negative and positive that the brilliance of the light and positive are made evident.
Likewise, in selling, negatives can be a powerful setup for positives.
You have a problem. Here’s why it should agitate you. Here’s why it’s been so hard to find a solution — why other attempts to solve it have been invalid.
Those are all negative. Those, done well, can provoke some pretty nasty feelings.
And yet, they form the perfect setup for the positive to come…
Here’s what an ideal solution looks like, and I have it for you. Here’s what I ask of you to get it.
Problem — Agitate — Invalidate — Solve — Ask. My PAISA formula.
This isn’t all benefits, rainbows, and unicorns.
And for the novice copywriter who’d prefer to write only about joyful things, it can get pretty uncomfortable.
But the reality is that you’re selling to human beings. And human beings are complex things. With swirling mixes of positive and negative emotions that all contribute to their state, their personality, and their decisions — including whether or not to buy your offer.
If you only speak to part of that humanity, they won’t feel understood.
And if they don’t feel understood, they won’t buy.
That’s why it’s so important to capture the entire mix of emotion that leads to the purchase in your copy and selling messages.
You can’t run to Joy, and ignore Sadness.
It’s only in embracing that complexity of emotion surrounding your prospect that you really connect, and can create big selling breakthroughs.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
PS: At the risk of beating a dead horse, The Story Selling Master Class was once $497+. And worth 100X that, when applied. Story is probably the most powerful skill set you can apply to selling — as long as you do it right. That’s what I teach you. Now, you can get access to it for just $37, as part of the BTMSinsiders All-Access Pass. Click here for details and to get started.