Marketing · · 3 min read

What is your American Idol story?

I watch more American Idol than you may expect for a man in his 30s.

Mallory got me into it when we started dating and just like live sports, there's something special about knowing you're tuning into something live with the rest of the world.

It's cozy, OK???

And not only do I enjoy the show for its talent and entertainment, but I love thinking about the business and marketing machine that is American Idol.

As the season progresses and the judges whittle down the field to a top 20 or so, you start to notice that the show invests a LOT of time and effort into constructing vignettes (pre-recorded segments) about the contestants.

And every vignette focuses on the unique, emotional, even troubled part of their past. They want us to see ourselves in these singers – the parts of ourselves that struggle, get discounted, or have made mistakes.

The whole idea is to show that regardless of your background, challenges, or mistakes, you can overcome and reach absolute heights as an American Idol!

This contestant overcame a terrible diagnosis.

This contestant survived a drunk driving incident and gave up alcohol.

This contestant grew up in a small town and just felt different from everyone else.

And as the contestant goes deeper and deeper into the competition, you can feel the producers turn those stories up to an 11. They REALLY dig into those mistakes and challenges.

The cynical part of me sees this as putting singers in a box and even over-dramatizing their story for the purposes of marketing and entertainment.

But then I started to see this type of storytelling all over the creator world too.

I'm from Columbus, Ohio, so I've been following Lewis Howes for a while. I've literally watched the story on his About page change over the years to emphasize a couple of key moments in his development:

"Growing up in the small town of Delaware, Ohio, I overcame feeling dumb, feeling lonely, and being bullied for being in special needs classes by dedicating myself to becoming the best athlete I could be.”

In recent years, he's started leaning into the story of his dad's accident and how that impacted his life and journey as a creator.

Another great example comes from Tiffany "The Budgetnista" Aliche:

Tiffany's story focuses on her start working at a daycare, a financial scam that left her in terrible debt, and how she overcame that debt.

What I've come to realize and appreciate more and more is the power of storytelling. Storytelling is how we connect to people. It's how we see ourselves in others.

...and as a self-obsessed species and culture, we NEED to see ourselves in your story to care.

So it got me thinking...

What is my American Idol story?

What are the most relatable, pivotal moments in my creator journey that I can use as signposts to show people that I've been on their path and can help show them the way?

What are the human aspects of my story that emphasize the struggle more than the victory?

People aspire to victory...but we understand and empathize with the struggle.

Yet, we tend to emphasize our accomplishments almost like a resume on our About page. And that may be great for social proof and showing that you're an impressive person with a lot to teach...

But do we want to learn from you?

While we may aspire to your same success, we want to know that you understand OUR path to get there.

We want to see ourselves in your story. And if you're just showcasing your accolades...we may not be able to identify with that.

So now it's your turn...

What is your American Idol story?

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