This blog comes from a webinar given through the CMA by Three Whiskey's Creative Director, Tim Bax.
When it comes to brands, stories are essential. They convey a strong, relatable image and give customers compelling reason to engage with you. Without a story, you have no clear identity. That’s why understanding, and telling, a story is such an important component of any marketing or ad efforts.
Up until the mid-70s, a large percentage of Hollywood films lost money. Cinemas began to close in ever-increasing numbers and the popularity of the ‘movie’ experience began to wane. But, since then, the art of storytelling has largely been mastered, and ‘bad content’ has gone. Movie makers and streaming services invest millions in the now finely-honed art of storytelling, because they’ve learnt how universally important it is as a means to connect with people.
Movie makers and streaming services invest millions in the now finely-honed art of storytelling, because they’ve learnt how universally important it is as a means to connect with people.
If progress has been made, a lot of it has to do with Joseph Campbell, an Anthropologist who, in 1942, published a book called ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces’. For this book, Campbell travelled the world listening to as many stories as he could and collecting them. He found that, despite the vastly different places where he found these stories, they all had certain elements in common.
Campbell called this ‘the Monomyth’ – the common heroic narrative where the protagonist sets out, has transformative adventures and returns home. The formula exemplified the stories that humanity needs and shares.
In the shadow of this, and other, works, movie executives caught on to what made stories so compelling. Seminars (such as the one run by influential ‘story consultant’ Robert Mckee, for more than 50,000 film execs) propagated this knowledge on a large scale. From this shift, blockbusters like Star Wars and Indiana Jones were born. They played on the central idea of a transformative odyssey, and ended up reviving cinema’s battered reputation.
It’s easy to define and understand the protagonist in iconic movies like these, but how do we define the character of a brand?
At Three Whiskey, we use archetypes. These are brand ‘templates’ such as ‘the guy next door’, ‘the rebel’ or ‘the warrior’. As well as these basic characters, there are also basic ‘plots’ – 7, according to Christopher Booker’s seminal book on the subject. These can include ‘rags to riches’ or ‘the quest’, and help to further define the character and motivations of the brands. Their journey.
Lastly, there are ‘themes’, such as ‘the desire for justice’, or ‘the pursuit of pleasure’. Just like in a blockbusting movie, combined, these separate elements create a compelling narrative that works well.
The entire story should be overarching, but there should also be smaller arcs within that are all consistent with the main.
The entire story should be overarching, but there should also be smaller arcs within that are all consistent with the main. Email campaign, social media, for example, should all fit with the ideals and direction of the main story because, if not, consumers can begin to mistrust brands and the spell breaks. The messaging, as a whole, needs to fit with the overarching story being told.
One of the most effective stories ever written, and a great example of the power of words, is commonly attributed to Hemingway and is only 6 words long:
‘For sale: Baby shoes, never worn’.
A story doesn’t have to be a grand, overcomplicated odyssey to capture the attention of an audience, or a thrilling mystery. It just needs to be a strong narrative that connects with people in the ways they want to be connected with, and in a way that they instinctively respond to.
Photo by James Pond on Unsplash