7 On Storytelling – The Jolt! from ckwrites 10.01.2014

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Holy smokes. It snowed Monday. There goes another year.

A big thanks for your cards and letters on the Apple launch. Amazing that the story keeps on keeping on – the iOS8 update locked out the owners of the new Sixes. Bend-ghazi. The missed opportunities with U2. But like a good magician who only does a trick once, after three times it is time to give it a rest.

I am still fiddling with the shape of things to come. This week I thought I would try something new, a post around a single theme to see how it plays. Since the whole idea here is to give you a Jolt! I thought we would talk about stories – what they are, where they come from and where they are going.

Your Brand And The Amazing Spiderman

This is a really interesting premise.

Great storytelling doesn’t take much more than imagination and the desire to see it come to life.

Canadian mad man Mitch Joel story began in a drug store where he hung out as a kid reading comic books. Mitch wrote this post after attending ComicCon Montreal with 50,000 fellow enthusiasts.

Stan Lee (Note – of Marvel Comic fame) is just one of the many geniuses behind some of the most legendary super heroes. You know, the ones that are killing it at the box office, on TV, in video games, toys, books, t-shirts and beyond…The creativity and thinking is astounding.

It makes you wonder why brands don’t do their best to embody some of these values. Imagine brands with a story so strong that people would get sentimental and reflective when they use them. It may not be for every brand, but it’s still something that every brand can consider.

So how do we reliably and consistently get there? Ever wonder why sometimes you get magic and sometimes you don’t?

‘Briefly’ Documentary Asks: Can a Creative Brief Inspire Great Work? 

To explore this question, Basset & Partners’ produced a documentary called Briefly, which was released for free online yesterday (9/30/2014.) You can watch it here.

The film consists of interviews with six creatives from a wide range of disciplines including advertising, architecture and illustration.

…Everyone seems to agree: The shorter the brief the better. The brief should communicate a dream — an audacious goal or ambition. And a brief should be challengedespecially if it forms creative boundaries or limits the solution.

BTW it’s not too hard to predict that this will be a terrific calling card for an agency that bills itself as “a disruptive brand and design strategy firm.”

When I was starting out, LA guys like Jim Cross, Robert Miles Runyan and Saul Bass had already invented many of the concepts and conventions that inform today’s practices in brand and design. They pioneered the corporate story and their format of choice (as well as their toast and jam) was the annual report. Print, glorious print. Wondrous, awe inspiring photography. Crisp, taut narrative. Tastefully presented numbers. All perfectly bound in 80# coated cover sumptuousness with a 4 color smell that defies description.

If you are inclined to dismiss the annual report as a relic… don’t.

5 Brands That Nailed Their Annual Reports

This post from the infographic wizards at Column Five makes it clear that the old warhorse is alive and well. As you are about to discover, some clients and their agencies continue to evolve the annual report as a story telling medium.

The companies are Shopify, MailChimp, Kickstarter, Austria Solar and UStream.

Not one of them was around back in the day. Most of the annual reports featured here are interactive. But one report is printed using inks that only appear when they are exposed to sunlight (Go on, guess =)

The best annual reports even do the seemingly impossible: engage investors and win loyal fans. And as more emphasis is placed on creative presentation, it’s fast becoming the latest format to benefit from good design. (Guys – you’ve gotz to study your history)

So what makes a great story? David Meerman Scott has explored this topic for years and offers up this case study in his latest book, The New Rules of Sales and Service.

How OPEN Cycle Communicates Relentless Simplicity to Customers

OPEN Cycle builds uber-lightweight mountain bikes. Founded in 2011, Scott explains that “the founders were able to create an organization completely around their vision of the company’s character and then set a goal to communicate that directly to the marketplace.”

In the words of the founders:

OPEN means open to new ideas; from our customers, retailers, vendors and ourselves. Open to show the intricacies of our products but also our company. Open even to issue shares to some of our customers.

If open is the goal, simple is the tool.

“Relentless simplicity” is our guiding principle. Reduce the number of models and you simplify production, logistics, customer decision making, the website, everything. Avoid traditional advertising or sponsorships and free up precious time. Transfer logistics to third parties and you can focus on what matters most, which in our case means:

  1. Designing better bikes, the first of which we introduce here.
  2. Connecting with our customers.

And when you put it that way, is there really anything else to do?

A passionate man himself, David believes that:

When the founder or CEO lives his or her passion… the passion and the story behind it intersect brilliantly with what the buyer wants.

Those of you who try desperately hard to deliver great work, know that there is a secret to doing this. Especially doing it consistently.

The Biggest Factor in Getting to Great Advertising….is the Client

Graham Robertson of Beloved Brands has a nice way of cutting to the chase and he delivers here.

The best advertising comes from a very tight Brand strategy. How tight is your brief? (Ed note – oh, that again!)

Do you stay focused on ONE target, ONE strategy, ONE benefit behind ONE big idea? Avoid the “just in case list” where you sneak “one more thing” onto the brief.  Narrow the Target market and tell their story with engaging insights?

Graham is kind of enough to offer up a deck on HOW TO GET BETTER ADVERTISING. It concludes with one of my favorite quotes from David Ogilvy,  “Clients get the advertising they deserve.”

But do “Clients get the stories they deserve?” Well consider this one:

Jack Daniel’s Scours America’s Bars For #TalesOf Whiskey, Then Creates Multimedia Extravaganza

In which some intrepid storytellers frequented some really sketchy establishments. If you’re thinking Mickey Rourke in Barfly or Fear and Loathing, you’ve got the idea. I shared this story with reader Chuck who commented that this seemed off-brand – that Number 7 is more upscale. See what you think.

Which brings me to what in my opinion is some much needed perspective. Not every brand has a story worth telling. This article by David Berkowitz who is CMO at MRY, a creative and technology agency based in New York, suggests why this trend that will run (has run?) it’s course and where we might be headed next.

The Beginning of the End of Storytelling: Brands Need to Be Story Makers, Not Story Tellers

The future of storytelling isn’t about telling anyone anything.

It’s about storymaking, where the brand facilitates and taps into the stories people are creating and sharing with each other.

That’s it from Taos.