So, what does storytelling require, anyway? Part 4

Storytelling for Success

Here at stately Studer Manor, we dig conflict. Not in the sense that we like arguing about who exactly forgot to put the soap in the dishwasher, Someone Who Shall Remain Nameless, but in the literary sense. Without conflict? No narrative. Without narrative? No story. Just…stuff happening.

Having discussed the other three of the four main classical Western narrative conflicts — protagonist vs. society , protagonist vs. antagonist , and protagonist vs. self — it’s time to tackle:

Protagonist vs. Nature, ie: Captain Ahab Overly Invested In His Job And Hung Up On A Whale Which Is Totally Normal And Not At All Weird, Dude, But No I Don’t Want Your Number, Into The Wild, The Old Man And The Sea, Me Just Trying To BBQ Out Here Where Do All These Mosquitoes Even Come From?  Continue reading

So, let’s talk about content.

Storytelling for Success

Content marketing. You’ve seen the phrase around. I know you have. Unless you’re a hermit living in one of those astonishing caves in Cappadocia. In which case, welcome to the internet and thanks for stopping by my blog! Here is a link to the most important stuff online.

For the rest of us, especially those of us involved in any sort of writing or marketing or general internettery, the term is well nigh ubiquitous. But I’ve noticed a lot of folks aren’t exactly sure what it means. So let’s clear that up, mm?  Continue reading

So, how about marketing done right?

Storytelling for Success

I’ve talked a lot on this blog about the facepalm-worthy fails of the marketing world. The late night television ads that assume folks are too dumb to operate hammers. The stuff so sexist or racist you wonder how it ever made it to print. Even the things that are just…meh.

Here’s how German home improvement biz Hornbach does it right.


This ad is not only good at giving you warm fuzzies, it works on a whole host of levels. Strong use of color? Check. Excellent narrative? Check. Tapping in to the way we’ve all felt like outsiders? Super check. This aging goth is going to be smiling all day. Who knew DIY was so heart-warming?

Watch it a couple of times. Analyze it. Then see what you can take away for your own marketing.

(Tip of the hat to Fast Company for tweeting the link.)

So, you talk about tropes a lot, Steph

Storytelling for Success

Yep, I do. And I play pretty fast and loose with the term, too. But there’s a method to my madness. Won’t you join me as I saunter down the trope-y garden path?

But before we begin: A warning. Stay on that path. If you stray, you may end up lost in the dark wood, and stumble across a place called TV Tropes. And it will devour all your free time. In a glorious self-referential display, TV Tropes even has a page about how TV Tropes will ruin everything for you. I’m not kidding. That site is a massive time sink (but also excellent and useful for analyzing storytelling). So. Beware, abandon all hope, etc.

Back to tropes. What are they? Strictly speaking, they’re figurative language — similes, metaphors, figures of speech, that sort of thing. But like a lot of terms, the word has mutated over time and now means rhetorical or literary devices, the techniques that are the basic building blocks of storytelling. Like Legos. You can use the same blocks (knights and princesses) to build a spaceship (Star Wars) or a castle (King Arthur). Continue reading

So, what does storytelling require, anyway? Part 3

Storytelling for Success

We’re back again. Together. You and me, ol’ buddy ol’ pal. Here to check out those classical Western storytelling tropes and how they can make your marketing awesome. We’ve already covered the protagonist vs. society and the protagonist vs. antagonist, so today, we’re going to take a look at…

Protagonist vs. Self, ie: Crippling Self-Doubt, Tony Stark’s Default State, Gregor Samsa’s Bad Day, Me Trying Not To Eat A Whole Tin Of Smoked Oysters On Crackers With Hot Sauce Don’t Judge Me They Are Delicious.  Continue reading

So, here’s Thought Experiment #5

Time for a Thought Experiment

There’s always time for lateral thinking.

One of the great and abiding tragedies of the modern world is the cancellation of a show called Firefly. This brilliant study in character and world building, helmed by Avengers director Joss Whedon, lasted a paltry eleven episodes, though fourteen were filmed.

Y’all, it was good. So good. “Best BBQ you’ve ever had washed down with an icy cold beer” kind of good.

One of the best things about the show was how it took genre expectations and tweaked them. Sure, there were spaceships and far-flung worlds and a galactic empire. But it wasn’t Science Fiction. At its heart, it was a Western.

Which brings me to my thought experiment: What genre is your business? And should you subvert it?

To return to the imaginary flower shop we’ve discussed, it would be easy to define them as a Romance (in the modern, not classical sense). But could they twist that around, set themselves apart from the competition? What about a Science Fiction approach? Easy enough to establish with imagery. Beakers. Clipboards. Very Serious People in Very Serious Lab Coats. All of that would stand out against a background of pastels and petals.

Why would I ask this?

Because you, buddy, should start thinking about intelligently subverting expectations.

Give it a think. See what occurs to you.

So, here’s Thought Experiment #4

Time for a Thought Experiment

There’s always time for lateral thinking.

Storytelling is my obsession and my life, sure, but not all stories need to be on the list of the longest novels in the English language. Ernest Hemingway famously was issued a challenge to tell a story in just six words. Here’s his reply:

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

Heartbreaking, mm? All that pathos crammed into six words. Extraordinary economy.

And that’s exactly what you need in social media storytelling. Can you do it for your brand? Let’s say, for example, you have flower shop.

“You’re in trouble. We can help.”

That’s a little too easy, isn’t it? Plays to negative stereotypes about how men and women interact. Can we do better?

“Rainy days need color. Send flowers.”

That’s a little better. Reminds folks to use your service for Just Because, not just Special Events. But maybe we can do better than that.

“She’s wondering. Answer her with flowers.”

There we go. Nice. Concise. Worth the price.

Why would I ask this?

Because you, buddy, should start thinking about making your message fit the medium.

Give it a shot. See what you get.

So, can you tell me more about this brand-as-character idea?

Storytelling for Success

I got an email from one of you lovelies asking for a little detour. He wanted me to circle back around to an earlier concept and flesh it out. So let’s get crackin’.

Storytelling is fundamental to how the human brain understands the world — especially fundamental to how we remember information. And why would you spend money and time on marketing material, traditional or social, that’s hard to remember? There’s a reason we teach kids the alphabet with a little song that has a narrative. This happens then this happens then that. Monty Python got in on the action with their Oliver Cromwell song, which rumor has it John Cleese wrote to help one of his kiddos study for history class.

But it doesn’t take musical genius (or silly walks) to make something stick. Continue reading

So, this is extra-crispy levels of creepy.

Storytelling for Success

I don’t usually blog two days in a row, but for poor Comcast, I’ve made an exception.

Slip on over to Fast Company and read about the most terrible bit of storytelling since Spiderman 3 hit us with that dance sequence.

When someone wants to cancel a contract or service, yes, by all means, ask if there’s anything you can do to help change their mind.

Once. Not for twenty minutes.

This is a serious case of narrative fail. Customer service reps have to be able to understand the customer’s desires, interpret mood and motivation. They have to tell the right story in response. Social intelligence, just as we discussed before.

I’m inclined to think this will go viral, especially since the recording is so easily shared via Soundcloud. But if nothing else, said recording certainly is instructive.

So, storytelling is going to be in demand for ever?

Storytelling for Success

Hey, remember when I told you this?

Screen shot 2014-07-09 at 10.30.13 AM

I’m still not kidding. And the big brains at Inc. agree with me.

Check this out. Inc. staff writer Graham Winfrey has a great article, complete with sexy infographic, on the skills that employers will need from employees in 2020 — and all ten of ’em have connections to that storytelling impulse nestled deep and cozy in the human brain.  Continue reading