Perfecting the Art of Storytelling

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In the April edition of Marketing magazine there is a feature towards the back that tells Marketers “How to Perfect the Art of Storytelling”. The points offered are noble enough. One cannot argue that if one wanted to tell a story the tips they provide are all sound.

Unfortunately they are totally missing the point.

The true art that Marketers need to master is not how to tell a story per se, but to create stories for other people to tell.

Social media, as my colleague Ray Higgs originally pointed out several years ago (with no recourse to Coca Cola), is the modern equivalent of telling stories round the campfire. But people do not want to hear them from brands, they want to hear from people they know, love, and find interesting.

The art of creating stories that other people want to tell is what makes campaigns go viral.

A blunt form of what we are describing here can be seen in the current TV campaign for Eurostar: “Stories are waiting”. Encouraging people to seek out their own stories by travelling on Eurostar to Paris. It is also the key attraction behind Experiential Marketing. Enabling people to create their own experiences and stories that the brand has facilitated. It has underpinned drinks marketing since long before marketing ever existed as a discipline and it still works just as effectively as ever.

So do not seek to hone your storytelling skills. Seek instead to create the environment and the raw material in which stories can be created and told by your consumers.

The Passive v Interactive Debate

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Business consultant Luke Johnson stated in the April edition of Management Today that the old-fashioned ‘linear’ and ‘one directional’, PowerPoint-based, presentation is now dead. People now expect discussion and interaction. What’s more he then expanded that to say that it is the way of the future for all communication – whether film, TV, advertising, documentary, debate and so on.

Anyone who has watched Match of the Day or Question Time on the BBC will be aware of the fact that random Tweets are shown on-screen from equally random people. The question this interactive proliferation raises, however, is “Who wants this?”

It is true that when watching a film or reading a book one can be moved to the extent of wanting to share ones thoughts with others or with the authors. But that does not mean everyone on the planet – and certainly not on an unsolicited or unassociated basis.

Surely there is a right ‘not to be forced to interact’ as well as a right to offer interaction.

Certainly I would not wish to see inane Tweets on MOTD even when viewing on the HD channel. Viewing on that channel does not mean I have also given permission to receive unsolicited Tweets by dint of the fact that I have paid a TV Licence fee.

If Luke Johnson is correct and interactivity is something that is going to grow in pervasiveness then it suggests that there will be a growing debate about “Passive v Interactive” opt-ins, as there was when direct marketing vis telephone, fax, and email came onto the scene.

It would be good to know what others think about this topic.

Yet More Bad News for the Doomsters

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"New Mortgage Deals Leap by 19%" – headline from today’s Evening Standard. Things are rough. They will not be easy for a while. But the cash injections made into the economy have been unwise. The G20 summit is looking at ways to bring the world out of recession. Too late guys. You have missed the turning point. The recession finished at the end of last year. Whether we have a “double-dip” remains to be seen but for now things are on the mend.

The problem is that the data policymakers use is based on how the economy worked in the late 20th Century.
The official stats do not recognise adequately enough that the UK economy is no longer running on goods and services that were popular in 1975 and that Financial Services is not the be-all and end-all of the UK economy.

And in the digital economy things happen more quickly now.
Sorry but it’s true.

It’s new. It’s different. It’s fundamentally different in fact.

There are a few things you need to think about.

Firstly, banks are strapped for cash – just look at the poor old Dunfermline Building Society. Poor being the operative word. This situation is not going to change for at least a decade and things are shaping-up whereby the regulators are going to make sure that banks can never lend unwisely again (well, not until they work out how to beat the system anyway). So future growth over the next five years at least will be slow and steady – and probably rather bumpy.

Second, the digital revolution. It means everyone is free to do all sorts of things never before possible.
Freedom to experiment. Freedom to be creative. Freedom to co-operate as never before. Freedom to use innovation to grow, not just cheap, unsustainable credit.

Finally, the environment. The climate really does need heeding. But people are willing to listen (well, at least this side of the pond anyway) and willing to act. So anyone involved in recycling should have a reasonably bright future provided they manage the risk that the over-supply of rubbish can bring! And if you can work out what products people want then you can make a killing. But I’m not talking "organic produce" and "sandals instead of shoes". What will be needed in the future are products that are every bit as efficient and effective (and the same price) as their less eco-friendly counterparts but which are better for you and for the environment.

Some companies (like Unilever) have been working on developing such products for many years now.
Others need to catch-up. Just make sure you are not caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Time to invest in windmills I think.