In a recent post, I noted that the term ‘storytelling’ is being applied to more and more types of content, not all of them proper stories. On top of that, there’s often an over-emphasis on the channels and media used for storytelling at the expense of the stories themselves. But all that begs the question: what does make a good story?
This post draws on academic research into political storytelling, and other sources, to argue that the most effective commercial stories share seven closely related characteristics: drama, familiarity, simplicity, immersion, relatability, agency and trust in the teller. (Discussion continues below infographic.)
Stories need dramatic development and emotional dynamics. Taking out the ‘bad bits’ damages trust.
At the very broadest level, drama is the spark that animates all creative forms of advertising and marketing. First, you have to take the features of a product and ‘turn them outwards’ by expressing them as benefits. Then you need to dramatise those benefits in a compelling and convincing way.
Just as drama turns a benefit into a creative concept, so it turns a neutral sequence of events into a story. A story needs conflict and resolution; tension and release; mystery and revelation. There should be losses and gains, setbacks and comebacks, peaks and troughs. And, above all, a story should be about people: their dreams and desires; loves and hates; problems and passions.
If your story is a work of fiction, it should be relatively easy to create drama. If it’s factual, you may have to dig around, or use poetic licence, to give it the drama it lacks. Or your story may have too much drama, so that you’re tempted to tone it down to show the characters in the best possible light.
A brand telling its own story will usually prefer to dwell on its successes rather than its setbacks. Even in the age of social engagement, few brands are interested in proving their authenticity by admitting mistakes unless they absolutely have to. When it comes down to it, most brand stories amount to ‘it’s all good’.
Read the rest of this over at ABC Copywriting
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