August 20, 2014

Storytelling I: What’s the Story?

Nowadays, marketing and communication cannot get around the following topic: storytelling. There’s no need to go through shelves of books on literature. Simply follow our blog and check out the different aspects of storytelling to deepen your understanding on the topic.

Storytelling for business

Storytelling: why stories matter.

Storytelling is profoundly human (c) fotalia

There are two aspects, which make storytelling so compelling for companies. For one, stories are deeply rooted in human culture. Everybody knows stories, everyone tells stories. The most popular stories are told over and over again – throughout generations.  But more importantly for marketeers: stories convey and release emotions – why and how, we’ll explain in one of the next posts.

Storytelling has nothing to do with superstition. It works – we’ll provide the reason for why it works in another chapter – and is becoming increasingly important. So much so that companies, which are placing more emphasis on direct marketing and social media, cannot avoid storytelling any longer. Due to this development, brand and business communication is rapidly changing from monologue to dialogue.

Whoever wishes to tell a story that works and evokes emotions will most likely ask himself the following questions: “What is a story?” and “What is my story?”.

What is a story?

Traditionally, a story consists of a protagonist (not necessarily the ‘hero’, since there can also be the ‘heroine’ or the ‘anti-hero’) and a conflict. As the literary scholar, Christoph Booker points out, these fundamental elements of storytelling can appear as seven basic plots in Western literature:

His archetypes of storytelling are:

  • Overcoming the Monster (e.g. Perseus, Beowulf, James Bond)
  • Rags to Riches (e.g. Cinderella, Aladdin, Jane Eyre)
  • The Quest (e.g. The Wizard of Oz, The Lord of the Rings)
  • Voyage and Return (e.g. Odyssey, Alice in Wonderland, Orpheus)
  • Comedy (e.g. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado About Nothing)
  • Tragedy (e.g. MacBeth, Romeo and Juliet)
  • Rebirth (e.g. Sleeping Beauty, The Frog Prince, Beauty & the Beast)

A tragedy that Aristotle’s “Comedy” was lost

By far the most significant form of storytelling is the ‘tragedy’. Aristotle based his theories on ‘tragedy’ upon the antic dramas of the time – but Hollywood still makes use of his many principles. It would be interesting to see whether Aristotle’s ‘theory of comedy’ would also still work today. Sadly, we’ll never find out, because the text was lost. But at least this inspired Umberto Eco to write “Name of the Rose”.

The classic, five-act tragedy begins with the exposition of characters (Act 1). It continues with the introduction of conflict (Act 2), which has its climax in Act 3. In the fourth act there is an apparent solution, whilst in Act 5 the conflict is resolved (denouement), if necessary by a ‘catastrophe’.

structure of classical Greek drama

structure of classical Greek drama

Finding, telling and living the story

It is crucial for companies to find their own story – the foundation of any storytelling. Once you’ve found it, it is the job of the PR and every employee to share the story with others, again and again. Via products, services and daily customer contact – online as well as offline. Integrity (authenticity) is the key, in order to remain consistent and authentic, and to live out the story.

What is your company’s (business) story? Have you ever bought a product, because the story of the brand convinced you – then storytelling worked. Why it works, we would like to explain in the next blogpost.

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All our storytelling articles (published so far):

Storytelling I: What’s the Story?
Storytelling II: Why it Works
Storytelling III: Where Does One Begin?
Storytelling IV: Best Practices Google Nexus
Storytelling V: Storytelling With Style

Storytelling Best Practices:

Google Nexus
LEGO

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