Unleashing the power of storytelling

In the ever-evolving landscape of marketing, one strategy has stood the test of time: storytelling. A good story has the power to captivate, inspire, and connect on a deep emotional level, which means that storytelling has become an essential tool in the modern marketer’s arsenal. 

Storytelling is about creating a narrative that resonates with your audience. It is about crafting a compelling story that not only engages, but also evokes emotions and leaves a lasting impression. Take for instance the powerful Nike campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick. By telling the story of a controversial figure who stood up for what he believed in, Nike managed to connect with their audience on a profound level. They tapped into the collective consciousness, sparking conversations and igniting a movement that went far beyond selling shoes.

Visuals play a pivotal role in storytelling, as they have the ability to transport us to different worlds and evoke a range of emotions. The “Share a Coke” campaign by Coca-Cola is a prime example of using visuals to create a memorable story. By personalising their product with individual names and encouraging people to share their stories, Coca-Cola fostered a sense of belonging and nostalgia, making their brand a part of people’s personal narratives. And who can go past a can of coke called “Gavin”? After all – that drink literally “had my name on it”.

Where once social media was digital’s poor cousin, it has now become an indispensable platform for storytelling. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge shows how an online campaign can spread like wildfire, harnessing the power of social media to create a global phenomenon. By inviting people to share their personal stories and experiences, the ALS Association successfully raised awareness and funds for a worthy cause, all through the power of storytelling on social media.

So, how can you create an effective storytelling campaign for your brand? It starts with understanding your target audience. What are their values, aspirations, and pain points? Where they overlap or align to your corporate or brand values, you can really activate a campaign. By tapping into these insights, you can tailor your story to resonate with your audience on a deeper level.

In a survey conducted by Sprout Social, 55% of consumers stated that they are more likely to trust a brand if it tells a compelling story. When brands can convincingly and authentically create stories, there’s a trust bonus that can be unlocked.

With that awareness, now you can focus on creating a unique story that sets your brand apart. What makes your brand special? What is your unique selling proposition? Why do your values matter and why should your customers care? By highlighting these aspects in your storytelling, you can create a narrative that is distinct and memorable.

Finally, choose the right channels to reach your audience. Whether it’s through social media, video marketing, or immersive experiences, select the platforms that align with your brand and have the potential to amplify your story to a wider audience.

By creating narratives that touch hearts and minds, brands have the power to forge lasting connections with their customers. Perhaps more importantly, by embracing the power of storytelling, you can unleash your own creativity, and bring your brand to life in a meaningful way.

About the re:invention series

In this series I am exploring the new ways of using technology, storytelling and an acute interest in humans to imagine the possible futures we can live and work in, purposefully.

MotoCorsa Portland Show Us How to Sell Ducatis

When I sold my last motorbike, I almost cried as its new owner rode into the cold, afternoon sun. Ever since I started riding as a teenager, I had dreamed of owning a Ducati – and here I was, many years on, relinquishing my much-loved Ducati Monster. But once you have owned one Ducati, it’s in your blood.

As a result, I am constantly on the look out for my next (future) bike. Now, this may never eventuate – but most men live under the constant and unyielding delusion that hope springs eternal, and that the old man staring at them in the mirror is some alien imposter. Old Spice got it right – in our mind’s eye, we all look like Isaiah Mustafa. And in my mind, Ducati is the bike that brings that imaginary world to life.

But the marketing of motorcycles is a relatively unadventurous sport. It largely revolves around the big philosophic binaries – sex and death. On the one hand, we know that motorcycling is dangerous, but the experience pushes us closer to the edge of some other form of being. It’s that futurist convergence of man and machine and all the libidinous energy that it can muster. It creates a gravitational pull that draws us in. And motorcycle advertisers play this for all it is worth.

The end result is that what was once James Dean-level thrilling, is now formulaic, with as little as three key narratives played out over and over across any and all brands:

  • The outlaw: you may be have an honest, humble day job, but the moment you throw your leg over your bike, you’ve left that world behind. It’s you, your bike and the open road. And the only thing between you and the future is the aura of danger that emanates from every pore
  • The master blaster: they say that speed kills, but that’s only for novices. What a bike needs is a master – a MotoGP pilot – and under your firm hand, it’s all under control
  • The rear view mirror: motorcycles were part of your youth. But there’s part of your soul that has never changed. And you can recapture that spirit of adventure – in a modern, more comfortable way. [Side note: I’m selling myself in on this narrative alone.]

The visuals for each of these narratives similarly run to a formula. Edgy typography. Short copy. Aggressive, angled photography laced with scantily clad women.

As a result, there is very little that catches my attention. Sure there may be different bikes, different angles – and even different girls. But we’ve seen it all before.

Or have we.

In support of the release of the new Ducati 1199 Panigale, Portland-based Ducati dealer, MotoCorsa decided to mix it up. They started out with the standard girl-on-a-bike. But then they followed it up with another series. This time, the model, Kylie Shea Lewallen, was gone. And in her place was a series of MotoCorsa workshop blokes, striking the same poses with the same great motorbikes.

Brilliant. Fun. And just check out the calves on the guy in heels. Check out the full photoshoot comparison at ashphaltandrubber.com – but be warned, there can be some things that cannot be unseen.




Five Must-Read Posts from Last Week

What is creativity? How do we link it to business – and how do we make a business OUT of that creative impulse? These are all questions that link the five must-read posts from last week. And interestingly, at least for me, the answer is not what you’d expect.

  1. When Google decided to shut down its Reader product, it sent shockwaves through its community of influencers. So when it came time to launch Evernote competitor, Keep, Om Malik decided it may not be worth the investment. Great article reminding us all that a “Free” product always comes with a cost.
  2. Do you feel that you have the tools, skills and capability to be innovative at work? Do you have permission? If you answered “no”, Glenn Llopis says you are not alone.
  3. There is no doubt that both internal and external forces are bringing CIOs and CMOs together. But how do we recalibrate our businesses? Dion Hinchcliffe looks at the new reality.
  4. Jonathan Crossfield takes a deep dive into marketing statistics and infographics. What does he find? Confusion.
  5. When Bill Bernbach resigned from Grey Advertising to start DDB, he not only left behind a legacy (and created a new one). He left a letter exhorting his colleagues to creative greatness. Read his blistering resignation/challenge at Neil Perkin’s blog.

Rethinking Branding through Radical Innovation

A.A.AYou know what it’s like – the brief hits your desk and you know it’s going to hurt you. The client wants impact. Results. Creativity to burn. It needs to be original, classy and out of left field – but you also need to bring this baby in on budget. And quickly. This is a competitive pitch and there are three other agencies lining up against you.

If I was you, I’d read the brief and jot down my first ideas on a post-it note, then file it away in my notepad. Then I’d talk to the team.

Rethinking innovation

But Umair Haque, economist and Director of the Havas Media Labs, suggests that we need to rethink everything we do. A proponent of “radical innovation”, Haque’s approach is to question the foundations of our actions – in short – to question how we innovate (and therefore what it means for us, our clients and our businesses).

Take for example, Haque’s well-known Smart Growth Manifesto where he turns notions of innovation on their heads:

  1. Outcomes, not income
  2. Connections, not transactions
  3. People, not product
  4. Creativity, not productivity

In some ways this seems obvious, but operationalising such innovation requires broader and deeper business thinking. If you focus not on income but on other measurements (such as outcomes) – then this means inventing new metrics as part of the process. How do we measure sustainability for example? What about happiness or wellbeing? The same with focusing on creativity over productivity – or the other two pillars.

This is not to say that such efforts should not be taken. Quite the opposite. You see, embracing such approaches will FORCE you to think and work through the consequences. In the short term, this will lead you to find equivalences – you will create and manage outcomes but find linkages to income. You will focus on people and their ideas, inspiration and energies, yet match it to their productivity and so on. But this journey will not be undertaken UNLESS you take the first step.

Rethinking branding

But how do we apply this thinking to the problems and challenges of branding? This recent post from Umair Haque on Twitter’s Ten Rules for Radical Innovation provides some pointers.

  1. Ideals beat strategies: What is the core problem that your brand is trying address. How is it making the world better in its small niche? Concentrate on the idea and let the strategy come.
  2. Open beats closed: Find the points of interdependence – between brands and their consumers, employees and their customers, executives and their teams. Share and tell the stories that emerge.
  3. Connection beats transaction: The underlying currency of this new way of thinking is TRUST. Build transactions into your branding by facilitating a sense of trust. Do this as a precursor to transactions. Do it without expectation.
  4. Simplicity beats complexity: Your customers want to do business with you. Don’t make it difficult for them. Design your offerings around the experience that your customers can share with others. Make sure that your communications are clear.
  5. Neighbourhoods beat networks: Most brands haven’t figured out that there are real people behind the avatars that flash across a Twitterstream. The network is nice but remembering that we are tribal – and above all – local – means that you have to think, act and behave as if everyone knows where you live. Really. Think of the consequences and revisit your brief.

There are another five rules that Haque shares in his article – but I will leave these to your imagination.

Returning to the brief

In many ways we operate in an echo chamber. We all read the same blogs, websites, forums and magazines. We watch the same TEDtalks and download the same iPhone apps. How do we then, out-innovate when it comes to our clients?

Chances are that your three competitors will be entering their own creative brainstorming space in the same mindset as your own team. Your best chance at out-thinking your competition is to question the foundations of your own work. Rethink thinking. Rethink creativity. Rethink strategy.

Oh, and just as you go to start work on your response to the brief, take out that original post-it note and read what you wrote. That’s your gut instinct. Sometimes you’ve got to just go with that too.

Holiday Card – From Idea to Finished Product

When I worked in an agency I was always amazed at how much time it would take to put together the year end holiday greeting card. We would have illustrators, designers and programmers poring over the details in the last minute rush before holidays. Hundreds of hours would be racked up. But the end result was, perhaps, the best advertisement for our work – internally and externally. Internally it would remind the Board of what we were capable of and externally it would show what COULD be possible if creativity could be unleashed.

Unfortunately, most corporate holiday cards don’t take this approach. Too many appear like a tick in the box – something to be done and sent. It’s a shame, because they really do provide a great vehicle for your own branded story.

Here’s a nice video showing how the folks from MindCastle Studios turned some sketches into a holiday gift card. It steps you through the various key points of creative production – and shows just how good photography can transform your branding. And the video builds a fantastic story that highlights not just capabilities, but personality and approach. We could all learn a little something on that front!

our creative process/. 01 from Casey Warren | MIND CASTLE on Vimeo.

Creativity, Education and Revolution

Years ago I taught Postmodern Studies at the University of Western Sydney. It covered a whole lot of basic theory – but also focused on creativity as a discipline. We got a great deal of push-back from the students who felt that the course was not practical enough and not focused on helping them get a job. Yet despite these protestations, many found the course difficult, challenging – and a lot of work. It was. It was meant to be. It wasn’t about training – it was about education. It was designed to enable students to LEARN.

A couple of years later I was working at IBM and hiring a large number of new graduates into my team. I was looking for spark, creativity, imagination and problem solving. I had plenty of jobs open and a willingness to train an eager employee. But I found it hard. Hard to find people who didn’t need to be spoon fed. Hard to find people willing to work hard and learn fast. Hard to find people who could step beyond TALKING and get to the hard task of DOING.

You see, the systems of education were not conducive to the type of employee that I needed. And the user pays system seemed to have bred a sense of entitlement rather than a curiosity for learning. Many graduates find the transition from study to work very confronting – there are professional responsibilities, rock-hard deadlines and a raft of rules, restrictions and expectations that are sometimes unspoken. What we need is to look again at our education systems and think about the type of citizenry we want and NEED into 2050. We need to prepare AND challenge our students, teachers and the systems within which they operate. And we need to do it now. We need what Denise Caron calls an Education Revolution.

Education Revolution

View more documents from Denise Caron.

What Motivates You?

Earlier this week I spent some time talking to a recruitment agent. It wasn’t for a new job – I was providing a reference for a friend who used to work for me. It was an interesting conversation – not the run of the mill kind of discussion, but one which delved deeper … into motivation, needs and how they manifest for us in the workplace. It made me think about success – about why some people achieve things that others don’t or can’t.

Whenever I have been in charge of teams, I instinctively seek out those who have the type of energy that I can work with. I am attracted to those who have  intrinsic motivation – a sense of drive – and tend to make a hiring decision based on the way that people walk into a room.

In this video, Dan Pink, talks about autonomy, mastery and purpose – and how they combine in an individual – and what this means for those of us who manage, direct or energise teams as part of our daily work. Sure there are times where we can take the standard managerial approach – offering rewards for good performance and disincentives for poor performance, but Dan Pink suggests a need to adjust our management styles according to the type of work being performed.

Mark McGuiness also points out, that while the carrot and stick approach works for simple working arrangements, when it comes to complex problem solving and challenging or creative industries, we need to think outside the box:

… the rules are mystifying, the solution, if it exists, is surprising and not obvious – [for this kind of problem] those ‘If… then’ rewards, the things around which we have build so many of our businesses, DON’T WORK!

This is not a feeling… this is not a philosophy… this is a FACT!

There is a double edged sword here, of course. We all like to be paid handsomely for the work that we do – but few of us are willing to prioritise our desire for autonomy, our mastery and skill and our sense of purpose above income. Or am I wrong?

What’s your motivation for doing what you do? And what would you change if you could?