Beyond the buzzword

Storytelling isn’t new – Cavemen, Jesus and Shakespeare were all big advocates!

So why is the word currently banded around in marketing so much? Brands know understand that the shift from interruptive advertising to publishing branded content that audiences actually seek out is the future. And since the dawn of time audiences crave stories!

But what should a good story include? Is it as simple as beginning, middle and end?

This month I went to Bath Spa University and gave a presentation to undergraduate screenwriters on the power of storytelling in marketing. They were surprised that many of the principles of dramatic storytelling that they’re studying in film, translate seamlessly to the world of marketing.

Here are 3 of useful storytelling tips brands should consider when they’re thinking about working with a video production agency.

Tip 1 – What is the quest?

Stories only really begin when the audience understands the goal. When someone wants something to happen, to change. Then we can get onboard. Can you even incorporate this WANT into the title of your story? The title of FINDING NEMO tells us everything we need to know before we even meet the fish! Speaking of fish… the goal can also be the hook. So be clear about it. Be singular. Where are we going with this video?


Tip 2 – Don’t skip the conflict!

Understandably brands can be cautious about ‘the dark side’ of storytelling.  As highlighted in ‘Viral Video – The Science of Sharing’ – some of the most shared branded content takes the form of Personal Triumph Stories – people overcoming adversaries and obstacles, often against the odds, to achieve their goal. Your story doesn’t need a traditional ‘bad guy’ antagonist but it should involve some struggle and strife. This creates a dramatic question that your story should go on to answer. What problem is being overcome? What happens if this doesn’t work? What are the emotional stakes? Take your audience on a journey. Don’t make it too easy and they’ll are more likely to engage and stay the course to the end


Tip 3 – Define your brand’s role in the story?

Of course it would be great to assume that you are the Hero. But actually that’s not your role. Brands and products should play the helper, the enabler, the Obi Wan (your product could even be the light saber!).

Another important question to ask is… do we have permission to tell this story? If the story doesn’t directly involve your product or service then how is this story relevant to your brand? It could be that your story expresses and reflects one of your core brand values. Fantastic! But do check that you’re not forcing an emotional connection that isn’t authentic. Audiences can get cynical and feel they’ve been manipulated into feeling something when they discover the people behind the story are flogging bathroom tiles.