The wolf and the lasagne

What's the special sauce that makes the impact?

The boy who cried 'Wolf!'

Today I did the rounds of tables in my favourite Italian restaurant and for some extra impact asked guests a question. Some of them wanted a free mention, so Hi Cam, Dee and Lyssa.


I asked the people at each table, ‘Can you tell me the story of the boy who cried wolf?’ That’s all I asked. I gave no clues.

100% could.

Then I snap-quizzed them on
* the size of their car tyres,
* the price of petrol,
* today’s news headlines and,
* the price of a loaf of bread.

Those results ran at about only 3%.


So how could they remember a story told by Aesop around 2670 years ago but had no idea about the price of petrol – a daily commodity, or bread – a daily necessity. Why do you think?

One fellow, an electrical engineer told the Aesop story really well but could not recall one bit of data from this morning’s team briefing on safety, sourced energy or capacity, all of which someone thought were crucial to his role as a supervisor. Why couldn’t he remember something from five hours before? If there’s a blackout tonight, ask yourself the question again.


The owner of the restaurant – quite a character – wanted to know what I was doing and when I told him I was ‘researching’ this article, he told me I should write an article telling the government how to support small business. He always says that. It’s his pet gripe.

I asked, ‘What are you belly-aching about today?’


‘People don’t understand when they come here they get premium food but if I charge them what I should, they will go to the supermarket and buy poison just because it’s cheap. I make everything by hand. I make six hundred litres of tomato sauce a day, nothing from a can. I make all my own pasta – twenty-five varieties, nine desserts, eleven flavours of gelato, thirteen different cakes and desserts, fifteen types of continental cookies, seven pizza styles, and fourteen salads – all fresh every day. No thickeners, no preservatives no, Nitrogen, no CO2. All today’s quality.’

I said, ‘Blah blah blah blah. You’re boring as bat manure. I’ve heard this all before. Tell me a story.’


‘OK, this lady’s got a kid with allergies and she says, “I’m not buying your lasagne. It’s too expensive. I get it cheaper at the supermarket.” So I told her that’s why her kid has allergies. Every single ingredient in my lasagne is hand-made and sourced fresh every day and I gave her some slices for free. I spelled out that supermarket food is full of preservatives and fillers to make it last while it is transported from one state to a storage warehouse and then distributed to the other states and then sits on supermarket shelves for ten days. By the time she poisons her kid with it it’s 7 weeks old. She comes back two days later and says she’s never eaten anything so good, the kid was fine after eating it and so she buys some more. She’s bought lasagne every week since. That was 6 years ago.’


That’s a story with villains, victims, heroes, pathos, a problem, a solution, choices and a happily-ever-after conclusion. He didn’t have to write it or memorise it. It was in his heart. It got into has impact.


So, without looking back, tell me how many litres of tomato sauce the owner makes, how many varieties of gelato, how many types of cookies and how many pastas.
Can’t remember, right?
Don’t care, right?


And now without looking back, tell me how long the customer has been coming back, how often she buys lasagne, what is wrong with her kid and how fresh is the lasagne.
You got this mostly right, right?


Now reflect on the question I asked earlier. How come the people could tell the ‘Boy who cried Wolf’ story and not the price of petrol even though they had driven past five petrol stations blaring the price on billboards.


Stories stick for all kinds of brain-function-reasons but data flies past like a blow-fly and if it lands it’s only for a second or two. There are about seventeen people in the world who can catch a blowfly but for the other seven billion of us, our brains aren’t designed for data.

Our brains are designed for impact, impressions, feelings, emotions, beliefs, values, memories, senses and reactions. So why would you try to communicate with facts, data, figures, charts and lists – blowflies?

Tell stories.

If you want to know how to get on top of your stories, to collect them, to tell them,use them in your marketing, send me this email

And I welcome new subscribers to my blog by sending you a gift of my e-book, Live well and finish well — 9 deep and meaningful lessons I learned while presenting pre-school television. Get it here.

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