So, I have a new hero. And so should you.

 

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If you’ve been playing along at home, you know that lateral thinking is sort of my thing. Why? Dozens of reasons. Because it leads to creative solutions. Because mental play strengthens thinking skills. Because it can introduce new life into existing narratives…

Because sometimes, it’s hilarious.

Don’t believe me? I have a wonderful new example. Let us go then, you and I, when the evening is spread out against the sky, to the fine and ancient city of Manchester in the northwest of England.

But first, a quick heads up. This story is slightly off-color. And deeply immature. Which is exactly why it made me laugh.   Continue reading

So, here’s Thought Experiment #12

Time for a Thought Experiment

There’s always time for lateral thinking.

In previous Thought Experiments, I’ve asked you about everything from coffee to evil. But as a card-carrying nerd (No, really — I have a S.H.I.E.L.D Agent ID I got from the Marvel Experience, and if that isn’t a nerd card I don’t know what is), I think it’s time we got down to the good stuff.

Comic books.

Oh, comics. How I love you. From the goofiness of the Golden Age to the grittier-than-thou late 80s and 90s, that four-color art form warms my heart. Cliche monthly titles or sprawling graphic novels that challenge the form. Sophisticated storytelling like Neil Gaiman’s epic Sandman. Insightful coming-of-age work like Ted Naifeh’s Courtney Crumrin. Inspiring brilliance like Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Captain Marvel. And I can’t forget artists and inkers…

I’m going to stop before I start babbling.

Comics are having a serious pop culture moment, and they owe a lot of that success to the idea of the superhero. There are all sorts of other stories, of course, but when we think of comic books, we think of fluttering capes and quips made under pressure and feats of superhuman coolness.

So here’s the experiment: If your brand was a superhero, who would s/he be? What sort of costume, powers, and backstory would set him or her apart from the others? Maybe your brand is a driven anti-hero detective. Or a conflicted beacon of righteousness. Or a compassionate, regal visitor to the world of men.

Why would I ask this?

Because you, buddy, ought to be thinking about what makes your brand unique.

Go ahead. Give it a think. See what you get.

So, what do you do when you really screw up?

 

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In my last couple of pieces, I’ve pointed out some examples of what not to do. Like, ever. Under any circumstances. There was a key and creepy difference between these two examples, though.

Both started out as honest, if incredibly short-sighted, mistakes. But one screw up was followed by a sincere apology. The other? Not so much.

It might be instructive to talk about how to say you’re sorry. Like all forms of communication, that’s storytelling. And because it deals with emotions and disappointment, it’s important that it be respectful storytelling.   Continue reading

So you wanna set the mood, baby? Part 3

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Have you done something different with your hair? It looks nice. Touchable. And that color really brings out your eyes. Here, let me top off your drink, darlin’. Time to talk about mood again.

Mood happens. Whether you are conscious of it or not. So it makes sense to be aware of it, mm? So you don’t, say, write a really chipper blog post about cremation, or melancholy web copy for a party planner. And we establish mood with setting, diction, and now tone.

Setting was pretty straightforward, diction a little less so, and tone is the most elusive. We’ve sort of been building up to the biggie.

“But Steph,” you say, because you are a smart little tomato, “Isn’t tone the same thing as mood?” Kinda. But no. But yeah. But not really.   Continue reading

So you wanna set the mood, baby?

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Working at home = distractions. ‘S just a fact. Laundry or housekeeping if you’re feeling virtuous. Junk food and daytime TV if you’re not. And if you don’t live alone? Someone else’s robot sweeper or reality show gets added to the mix.

Enter RainyMood. With over 800 thousand shares and likes and pins, this site clearly fills a need. For me, it blocks out Matlock. But folks use it while reading, for sleeping, and for discovering new music with the swanky “add cool tunes to your rain-drenched experience” option.

There’s Coffitivity, too. For when you want to be in a coffee shop but don’t want to wear pants.   Continue reading

So, what’s all this about character types?

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There are a lot of different ways to talk about the characters that make storytelling work. You can get your Jung on and talk about archetypes. You can go theatrical and delve into the masked roles from commedia dell’arte, which involves amazing masks and will make you hungry (No? Just me? I can’t be the only person who gets hungry just reading Italian). But today I’d like to look at characters through the lens of change: Do they or don’t they?

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So, should my biz blog?

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Oh, you fabulous little crumpet. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! A blog is wholly yours, a place where your branding can be polished as shiny as a new dime.

Blogging is a brilliant way to improve your SEO. Blogging is a brilliant way to establish your expertise. Blogging is an extra-crunchy brilliant way of connecting with your customers. Don’t believe me? Check out this infographic from the fine folks over at Social Media Today. Starting with this statistic:

61% of US consumers have made a purchase based on a blog post.  Continue reading

So, here’s Thought Experiment #7

Time for a Thought Experiment

There’s always time for lateral thinking.

If you’ve been paying attention to Content Marketing World 2014, you know they got one hell of a keynote speaker: Kevin Spacey. Yeah, the Kevin Spacey. Keyser Söze himself.

(Note from 2018: Wow, did this keynote speaker choice not age well.)

But that got me thinking about one of my favorite storytelling techniques — the plot twist. Oh ye gods, I love a good plot twist. If I don’t see it coming, if like the finest stage magician you distract me with sleight of hand and then spring the surprise on me with a flourish? I am all sorts of into it.

What sort of plot twists can work in your advertising? And how can you make them work on social media? 140 characters isn’t a lot of room, so you’ll have to be clever. But it can be done.

Why would I ask this?

Because you, buddy, should start thinking about how to play with and delight your audience.

Give it a think. See what your inner magician can pull off.