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Brad Cochrane :: President :: Brad Cochrane Enterprises

The Five Narratives for Marketers

On July 20th, 1969 Neil Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface and uttered “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Humanity’s dream of going to the moon had at long last come true. Important words indeed but not as momentous as those of President Kennedy nine years earlier, “We chose to go to the moon. Not because it is easy but because it is difficult.” His words were the Core Narrative which is just one of the Five Narratives that were woven into the story of Apollo 11.

1. Core Narrative. Usually spare, to-the-point, aspirational, and robust as well as repeatable to be passed to others with understanding.  “…go to the moon” guides all efforts; NASA, rocket ships, and Tang were just details along the way to Neil Armstrong’s first footstep.

2. Descriptive Narrative. The straightforward top-level description of what your product is, how it works, and its usefulness. The Descriptive Narrative establishes credibility by revealing expert knowledge and understanding in an intelligent way. For instance, the relay system of the Saturn V Rocket, Apollo Command Module, and Lunar Lander that took men to the moon is the how of the what, the Descriptive Narrative of the Core Narrative.

3. Empirical Narrative. The experience that the customer will have, the actions they take, and the reason to care. NASA made a decision early on to open the process of space travel to the public. Live TV coverage, science films for students, and profiles of the astronauts drew the American public into the adventure: we were all going to the moon.

4. Personal Narrative. The narrative of a person, a company, or the product that proves worth with passion, perseverance, and capability. In the terrible days after Apollo 1 exploded on the launch pad with the loss of three astronauts, it became clear that NASA wasn’t giving up. What followed is the personal narrative of an organization shaken to its core but bravely struggling on to ultimate success.

5. Data Narrative.  The hard facts that support claims and the features that make the product special. The characters of this narrative are numbers and facts but a recitation of figures should also have personality. To paraphrase NASA, “At 363 feet, the Saturn V rocket is taller than the Statue of Liberty.”

In any interaction, all five may be told, sometimes just one, but usually a mixture depending on the circumstances. Fully develop all five and use then when needed. Employ the Platinum rule: “Communicate to others the way in which they want to be communicated.” 

What are your Five Narratives and how will you tell them?


Brad Cochrane is a professional communicator who consistently delivers compelling narratives for marketing and business. In a world of competing messages and information overload, Brad puts order to chaos and specializes in helping people; products and businesses find and tell their unique and authentic stories. He believes in the power of words.