Brands: How to Tell a Story from Nothing

February 16, 2018

“It’s not a story thing."

 

It is a story thing. 

 

The term storytelling either has to be re-defined or better understood.

 

Let’s try the latter.  

 

It’s important because storytelling is too often lumped in with fiction.  So when marketing folks say ‘it’s not a story thing’ what they really mean is ‘this is not a wildly creative thing.'

 

There’s a difference.  

 

All stories don’t have to be creative (yes they should be) but all creative can and should be a story. I’ll write another post about why storytelling is the most powerful way to communicate, but let’s assume that’s a (freakin' scientifically proven) fact for this article. 

 

Now you’re thinking of lots of things that don’t have to be stories.  That’s why I’m writing this.   

 

Story is not the subject matter, it’s a methodology.  Not to be confused with it’s ugly cousin, formula.  Once one becomes a master at the methodology he or she can take the craft in any direction and be wildly creative.  Film director Quentin Tarantino made a career knowing precisely how and when to break the conventions. Some of the most popular YouTubers have a strong sense of story mechanics and how to wield them. 


To illustrate my thesis, let’s take the most dry, un-storytellable subject matter possible.  

 

Fictional Marketing Director Sam is asked to make a video about his company’s new mix of cement.  This new mix of cement is only slightly different than the old mix of cement. It drys faster.  

 

“Mike, this is not a story thing."

 

This is a story thing. 

 

HOOK

A punk jumps out of the shrubs to write his girlfriend’s name in the freshly poured sidewalk. 

 

CONTEXT

We establish that a new kind of cement mix is needed. 

 

CONFLICT

*5% of sidewalks have to be re-poured because of various intrusions costing the industry X. 

 

BUILD 

A new cement mix was developed to address the problem. 

 

CLIMAX 

As the punk tries to write his name beside hers, the cement is dry.  

 

RESOLUTION

Call to action. 

 

While there’s some creativity mixed in here, it’s the methodology and structure that supports the narrative. 

 

The only excuse for not storytelling is if your brand, product or service is measurably less interesting than watching cement dry.  And even that.

 

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