Storytelling and brands.
Storytelling continues to be a buzzword in marketing. But what does it mean to you? PR people have always been storytellers, it’s a the heart of what we do. We create or take information and craft it into compelling stories that make people think or behave differently, that’s why copywriting is still at the core of a PRO’s skill set, along with all the new aspects of technology that keep us on our toes. Creating a narrative is an art too, and according to Christopher Booker’s seminal work, there are only seven basic plots and every story is either one or a combination of them. They are:
A character goes on a journey to achieve a goal that may be difficult to achieve. They must overcome obstacles before they can emerge triumphant. Think Watership Down, Indiana Jones and Lord of The Rings.
Comedies make us smile, laugh out loud, sometimes make light of dark situations and often end in the resolution of a big old mess (think The Hangover). Will feature humorous characters and a happy ending. Examples: Meet the Fokkers, Twelfth Night, Bridget Jone’s Diary, Mr Bean.
Macbeth is the perfect example of this plot in which the main character’s own poor decisions or actions bring about their downfall. The further the character has to fall the greater the drama. Romeo and Juliet, Falling Down and Anna Karenina fit here.
During the course of the story, an important event forces the main character to change their ways, often making them a better person. Examples include Sleeping Beauty, A Christmas Carol and Beauty and the Beast.
Overcoming the Monster
The hero must defeat a hostile force, person or creature (often evil) which threatens the hero or their homeland. James Bond, Star Wars, Alien, Jaws, Frankenstein, King Kong and Jurassic Park all fit this mould.
Rags to Riches
Money doesn’t have to feature into this plot. A ‘poor’ (emotionally, physically, spiritually) protagonist acquires things such as power, wealth, and a mate, before losing it all then getting it back as they grow as a person. David Copperfield, Cinderella, Trading Places are all classic examples.
Voyage and Return
The hero travels on a (deliberate or unplanned) journey to a different (often magical or unreal) land, but there will be a task or challenge for the hero (or heroine) to conquer before they can return. When they return they will have learned valuable life lessons, and been on a voyage of self-discovery as well as a physical journey leading to fresh insights and often major changes to the way they live their life. Castaway, Alice in Wonderland and Finding Nemo are all examples of this plot.
Storytelling and brands – how to use story plots for yourself, your clients or your brand.
Think about creating a story for your product or service using the different plots and see what different ideas it gives you.
Think about BRAND X – the book or movie. Use each plot as a lens. Ask participants if Brand X e.g. Microsoft, Volvo, adidas or X made a movie or told a story, what would it be? Write down a summary of the plot, the starring cast, the location, the soundtrack and the strapline for the trailer.
- Can you use one of the plots on the following cards to change the story up?
- What happens when you change the genre?
- What does it say about the brand or product?
- What ideas do you have now?
We run storytelling courses for teams in-house working with actors, directors and stage professionals to help bring your brand stories to life. Sign up below to download our free storytelling pack and use the cards in your creative workshops or by yourself to generate new and fresh perspectives and ideas. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.