H2H Marketing

Stories vs Case Studies? The Top Difference is the Focus

stories vs case studies - woman in pink dress reading a book

Stories vs Case Studies? The Top Difference is the Focus – In a 2008 article, Ardath Albee writes about the difference between case studies and customer stories.

According to her the difference between stories vs case studies is in both perspective and emotional impact:

A case study gets into the nitty gritty details and the measurement of successful outcomes, which is fine and well and has its place. But what about the emotional impact? Regardless of the complexity of purchase, there’s always a degree of emotion involved.

Those who play a more granular comparison game, like Ben Olivieri in his LinkedIn post about customer stories and case studies, would argue that it’s very easy to recognise a case study from a story:

Each [case study] contains the key ingredients:

(1) A recognizable customer name

(2) A quantifiable metric

(3) A reference to the product or company

If you look at the majority of today’s case studies, these are generally structured in three main areas:

  1. The problem
  2. The challenge
  3. The solution

They also often include a testimonial from the client, who is always very happy about the final result.

If you are a fan of TED Talks or Simon Sinek or both, then you most likely have already watched the famous video ‘How great leaders inspire action‘.

By now you know that everything starts with a Why:

people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

What is the why of a case study then?

According to Ed Shelley from ChartMogul in this article on Crazyegg.com, this is why we do case studies:

To demonstrate the business value of our product with a concrete example
To show that high-value customers trust our product
To build hype and FOMO around our product (“These guys are using it… why aren’t we?”)
To act as a form of social proof, and inspire confidence in the buyer

By now you might have guessed where I am going with this, but first let me say one thing.

There is nothing wrong with case studies. You should keep creating them as long as you are clear that the focus is on yourself, your company, products or services.

Stories vs Case Studies: the Difference is in the Focus

A story instead, whether successful or not, flips the script and focuses on the other person, the one that most likely paid you to do the job, the person that co-created with you her experience through your products or services.

A story will go beyond the numbers or any quantifiable metric and will tell why a person, one day, decided to launch a business.

It will tell why a human being, one day, decided to connect with you and co-create something together.

Whether the final result is good or not, a story will tell about the experience that that person had with you and your company.

In the end, it will still be about you and your company, but the focus or perspective will be extremely different and will make all the difference in the world.

It’s up to you to decide between stories vs case studies but as a member of the H2H, Human-to-Human marketing movement, you already know where your focus should be.


Pasquale Mellone

Pasquale is Founder at Increasily.com, a H2H marketing agency based in Dublin, Ireland, and owner at print-on-demand ecommerce Mintycase.com. Pasquale has worked in Digital Marketing and Account Management since 2004. He currently lives in Dublin with his wife, stepdaughter and cat.