I’ve noticed that many communications specialists are changing their titles to “storyteller”. The idea of “the advert as 30 second movie” is very compelling, and now and then it really works! I love that RBC guy (also because he trains dragons) and all the commercials with happy endings.
In the drab, sad, ugly world of news media, we all need more puppies and babies and romantic interludes. These days, we get the “good news” fix that we crave from adverts rather than the real world!
Storytelling is about shared, universal narratives – falling in love, feeling embarrassed, winning a prize. The Dad cheering on at sports practice, the Mom cooking a colourful meal – these are powerful heroes because they are familiar to people of every culture, language and age. That’s their power.
If you want to create successful stories you have to tell them out loud and in public. TV, radio, newspaper, LinkedIn, social media groups. Places where people already congregate.
You can’t be pro-storytelling and anti-mass media because these are not stories you will seek out by chance. These mini-movies will rarely be pushed aggressively into your social media feed.
Why? Because you aren’t in fact that neat, pre-defined niche customer that the company told Facebook to target. You probably don’t have a puppy to feed, or a cute baby that needs nappies, and you’re the wrong age demographic for the romantic wedding proposal at a desirable travel destination.
Let’s be honest here – you’re don’t go and hunt down the adverts for banks, cars or retailers for fun. But when that ad on TV catches your eye, when you stop what you are doing and look and listen AGAIN just because it makes you feel good, you are likely to have warmer feelings about the brand. And one day when you are a buyer, you might just choose THAT brand, the brand that makes you feel warm inside.
What IS storytelling?
Stories Have a Protagonist
The advertising story must be told by a relatable character – even if it’s a puppy!
Stories Have Conflict
In fiction writing and storytelling, conflict is the basis of plot. There has to be failure – or the chance of failure – in order to show success.
Stories Have Structure
Stories must have a beginning, middle and end? Well, this still applies to advertising and branding stories.
- Beginning: Introducing the protagonist and the conflict.
- Middle: overcoming obstacles, challenges and objections.
- End: Revealing the solution and the achieving the goal
Stories have Pacing
It’s not enough to merely include the above elements in your work and call the finished result a story, because the most compelling narratives make use of changes in pace to drive the action forward. You can’t just throw in a whole bunch of benefits, you have to build suspense or intrigue.
And you might choose to tell the story backwards, or out of order to improve the pacing.
Why does storytelling work for marketing?
Stories are an efficient way to change our attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.
As social creatures, we all have some level of empathy that allows us to understand how others feel. By showing how our protagonist FEELS, research has proven that viewers have a better understanding of the key points the protagonist makes, and are able to better recall of these points weeks later.
From this two important points emerge:
- The protagonist should be someone who arouses our empathy.
- The story should make us feel rather than think.
When does storytelling work
We know that people are substantially more motivated by an organisation’s transcendent purpose (how it improves lives) than by its transactional purpose (how it sells goods and services). Transcendent purpose is most effectively communicated through stories.
When you want to motivate, persuade, or be remembered, start with a story of human struggle and eventual triumph. It will capture people’s hearts. Good storytelling is inspiration, engagement and education rolled into one!