Ready for work? resolution 5 - make sure your stories are stories : footnotes on marketing, media and people
Yes you are about to start week 2 of the new working year. all the resolutions I suggested last week are valid but in reality the excitement has gone and the reality of the long year ahead is sinking in. But among all the "2016 trends" phallacies you have been reading one is true. Storytelling matters.
Just as it always has.
Ogilvy knew that. Bernbach knew that. My old companies founder King McCann certainly knew that ( "truth well told" beyond the jokes is a magic formula for developing stories ). But please do me a favour ...
Make 2016 the year you actually think about what a story really is.
Over the holidays I had the good fortune to catch up with three ladies I went to library school with and a couple of old mates from my ten years working at Parramatta Public Library in Sydney back in my twenties. Yes I am qualified librarian who mostly worked in public libraries doing children’s story telling work for near 12 years before I got into advertising. Some ask me “ wow how did you cope with that change ?” to which I answer “ what change?”. Libraries and advertising agencies are actually very similar places. And they are at least in theory all about stories.
Both those librarian reunion lunches inevitably led to discussions of stories read and shared and suggested. Just like the marketing trend for “personalization” ( not a trend , it has always been there ) when you work in public libraries you actually do a lot of personal marketing. People come in looking for a book and you would be amazed how many want a recommendation : “ I have an assignment on Egypt ? can you tell me where to find the right answer ?”, “ I read Harry Potter, who writes books like that?”, “ I read a book once about a guy in a war hospital who falls for the nurse .. have you got that ?” ( try Hemingway for the answer ). Very unique requests for very unique service. Hmmm sounds like what the marketing press writes about as an ideal. But like all good retailers librarians know that service is everything.
But in truth you also get a lot of time to kill, and access to a lot of books. So you read a lot. I once spent near two years at a small suburban branch library with hours to kill everyday. I was 19. The other person I worked with was lovely chain smoking woman about my mums age. She just told me that all that spare time was actually time I should use … to read stories. All kinds of stories. So I did 2,3,4 books a week during work hours. Zane Grey to Barbara Cartland to Hemingway to Asimov. Best education you could have.
I like stories. Of all kinds. My best Christmas present was a relatively new dissection of the Iliad. That and my daughter buying me a John Wayne collection. Great stories. they have a beginning and an end. Their is a : protagonist, a threat, a challenge, a struggle, a reward. That is a story.
The problem with all the fashionable discussion of "storytelling" in most of the marketing comms media today is it is not storytelling. It is an announcement. A justification. Maybe a fact.
I remember in my library school days reading all about the "seven story structures". The theory that in all history, across all cultures there are only a limited number of stories. everything else is just an adaption. Walt Disney got that. all his stories , all his brands stories are the same. But they tell you a story that engages, enriches, satisfies.
So here is the thing. when you are talking about your brand story, or creating promotional or product stories check that you have that really basic structure : protagonist, a threat, a challenge, a struggle, a reward.
and have a great year.
As an ex-librarian Dave loves to leave references for further reading. Here are a selection of articles and posts you might find of interest.