Storytelling or... Is there really an option?

We love good communication. There are so many agencies out there doing amazing stuff. This text is about the other ones.

In an earlier article Robin said in Swedish that “Platt påklistrat innehåll fungerar inte längre”, it literally translates to “Flat, glued-on-top content doesn’t work anymore”.

Here, we’ll try to elaborate on that and how storytelling comes into play. And why it is basically the only way forward. Give it a couple of minutes to read and let us know what you think.

Flat glued-on-top content

What the hell is that?

It is the standard commercial advertising agency way to go about things, for example selling socks.

If a company wants to sell more socks, they brief their current agency or let new agencies pitch their creative ideas.

Only time you’re allowed to wear socks in bed, is when you’re out camping. OK?

Only time you’re allowed to wear socks in bed, is when you’re out camping. OK?

The winning idea is something like making a big public installation where people can nail their old socks to a wall in exchange for a new, nice pair. This hopefully converts some people into liking the product and buying their socks the next time the holes comes out after picking them up from the dryer.

This is flat glued-on-top content. Because it is not rooted deep in the company. It is a very isolated, local and hard to scale solution. Impossible to make content out of it that attracts an audience.

But wait! That can be solved too. Just make sure you print a big #smellmyoldsocks on the wall and encourage people to Instagram themselves hammering their foot smelling used garments up on the fantastic colorful and perfectly art directed wooden installation.

Tadaaa - digital integration! Amazing. For that strategy we charge you…. well you know. And the agency will probably collect some awards for their amazing case film next year.

This is of course a very simplified and kind of mean example, but this is very often, unfortunately the reality.

So why is this happening?

The answer is never as simple. It’s a mixture of:

  • Bad briefing

  • Most agencies can’t spend time on creative ideas if they are not getting paid for it

  • An easy (short term one off) sell is more likely to win over a hard sell (long term partnership), even if the hard to sell solution is better

Most of all, I think it’s the last one.

This solution requires nothing from the client, except paying that invoice and bringing a few boxes of socks. It’s easy to say yes to. There’s no internal policy that’s challenged, there are no stakeholders to convince, there is nothing that can create bad will because it is too controversial.

It will sell some socks, but no one will really care.

So what is the storytelling approach doing different?

Before the big reveal, let’s take a look and define what storytelling means in this context. It is a term used widely and it’s the goto buzzword of our day and age. It is often confused with telling a story, which is part of it but not the whole truth.

Storytelling is the sum of the emotional impact you make on your audience. It includes everything from the tactile feel of your envelopes to your logo to the content you make to the text you use to present it to the people who works with you to the way your voice mail message sounds. And not to forget - everything you DO NOT say or do.

Stories, on the other hand, are dramaturgically organized pieces of information transcoded into a narrative format that the human brain can decode and store using emotions. They are part of your brand storytelling.

Ok, so that was maybe the most theoretical definition ever. But it serves its purpose. Now let’s get back to selling socks.

Selling socks using storytelling

To start breaking this challenge down into smaller pieces, we need to know more. Learn about the organization. Something we do in our process (which is based on Park Howell’s - The Story Circle, which is a fantastic way to break this daunting task down and chew it bit by bit) is to define the brand storytelling elements:

  1. Backstory (where have you been, where are you now, where do you want to go?

  2. Hero (Also known as the customer)

  3. Stakes (What is important to the hero, what happens if it fails?)

  4. Disruption (What is changing in the current environment - how do we make our offer relevant?)

  5. Antagonists (What and who stands in the way of it?)

  6. Mentor (How do your brand guide the customer through this?)

  7. Journey (Describe the path they are wandering on. What are the obstacles to pass?)

  8. Victory (How do the customer define success?)

  9. Moral (Where the customers brand values connect with your own?)

  10. Ritual (How will the customer interact with your offering, now and in the future?)

Hammering nails into walls? Not so much. Not yet. It all has to make sense.

This is of course a longer process. It can’t be presented as an idea to compete with other ideas since it’s being developed together with the client, the actual people doing the actual work. It has to be true and interesting, which means we have to dig deep to find the true core that the storytelling should be based upon.

If this quest is successful, everyone working at the client company will feel “of course.” when they hear about it, which then makes them ambassadors from day one. If unsuccessful, their instinct will say no and we get back to work.

Now - let’s start building a base for the storytelling to anchor into. When the groundwork is laid out, you can start comparing your channels with it:

  • What does the website look like? Does it trigger emotions? Film? Language?

  • What do the social channels look like? Do they trigger emotions? Film? Language?

  • What stories are available to charge the brand with real emotions?

Designers? Interesting people? Interesting manufacturing? New, previously unknown materials? The quest for making ultra violet socks, only visible to dogs?

It takes more time. It is a much harder sale, but it will never be glued-on-top. Life will be so much easier in the long run.

It will be from the core and out. It will make sense to the audience because it is real. And true. Making the whole effect over time so much larger.

Clarify your storytelling.

Amplify your impact.

Simplify your life.

Go out there and own it. We are here to support you if or when you need it.

ThoughtsRobin Danehav