Lately, storytelling has been increasingly praised as the most important tool to be used effectively by the advertising industry. Society in general is not interested in classical marketing anymore, and brands struggle to offer valuable content to their “choosier” than ever audience, in search of original content that both informs and entertains. Various important brands have experimented with innovative storytelling marketing strategies, inspired by old-fashioned storytelling formats, adapting these to the opportunities offered by the latest modern technology. Marketing discovers now how stories can connect humans at a very primal and emotional level, whereas technology can help us to engage and participate. In 2013, Marketing Week reported that the most successful brands differentiate themselves through the use of storytelling (Bacon, 2013).
Storytelling for businesses is the word of the day. But if we all know that storytelling is crucial to a successful marketing campaign how to be inspired by a great idea for a good story?
The famous writer John Steinbeck used to say that: “Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”
But just to have a dozen of ideas is not enough. One needs to know how to structure them, and transform them into many, great stories.
How to do it ? It is wise to research how others have done such as the greatest storytellers of all times. One of these is Marvel’s team of writers.
In a interesting article written by Michael Schein for Inc. the author tells us how comics writer Stan Lee came up with a fabulous idea that lead to a whole dozen of “rabbits” ideas. Stan Lee inspiring moment lead to a brand new type of superhero team that would influence generations of people and ways to do storytelling: The Fantastic Four.
As we all know, The Fantastic Four was a group of super heroes that had both wonderful characteristics and a whole set of insecurities, fears, jealousies, and flaws. They were super heroes that were quite human indeed. They became such a tremendous success that in a short period of time, Stan Lee invented all the super heroes that would become the most cherished childhood companions to the ones born after the seventies: Spiderman, the Incredible Hulk, X-Men, Thor, and Iron Man. But a new problem was to arrive: overwhelmed with so many great ideas and super heroes, Stan Lee had to figure out a system to handle the demand for new titles and new issues. Back in the sixties, Marvel was struggling with a problem very similar to the one most of us have nowadays: a great need of content, but no system in place to produce that content efficiently.
Moving back to our era one as how to find a way out of it. Michael Schein points out a way: “The key to coming up with great content is creating a system for producing it, and then sticking to that system every time.” Stan Lee method, for example, relied on a really simple idea: To each issue, instead of writing the whole story right away, he outlined it on a page and a half. He would then look for an artist of his team to work on the drawings of the all book, while he focused on outlining new stories to other writers. Eventually the artist would return to him the whole book already sketched, and he would add the bubble dialogues.
With his method, Stan Lee succeeded in producing many fantastic books, that marked the most creative period of Marvel’s history. His super heroes and stories would live to our days, and would entertain generations and generations of people.
What is the relation of Marvel to storytelling for businesses in our digital days? It’s the notion that : “Today everyone should be a creative content producer, no matter what industry you’re in.” as Michael Schein says.
Before the internet, marketing could use strategies to inform people about new products, by interrupting shows, TV programs etc, to inform people about new products . But nowadays, people grew tired of such “interruptive marketing” techniques. Brands had to adapt, and now, to be heard, they have to create a constant stream of content, in blog posts, videos, articles, that has be truly meaningful to their potential costumers.
We live in the informational era. People in general are well informed, educated, and “pickier” on where to locate his or her attention. To come up with the right story that will catch the attention of your customer is harder then ever. How to do it then?
One needs to figure out a system, just like Stan Lee did. As Michael Schein says: “Take a page out of Stan Lee’s book: Use a system.”
His tips are:
- Start by taking an inventory of your resources. Who will write ? What will ease the life of these writers ?
- Take a look at content structures that are already working and that apply to your business : what are the headlines they use ? How are their stories constructed ?
- Match the most appropriate content structures with the people on your staff that is best suited to handling those structures.
- Spread the content creation duties thinly enough across your organisation so that everyone is contributing a little.
Even if such a “Fordist” approach to producing content might seem counterintuitive , Schein believes that actually the opposite is what happens: “Ironically, when you apply systematic processes to creative content, it tends to increase the output of innovate ideas rather than inhibiting it. “
By following these simple tips you will involve all your team into creating greatest stories for your business.
Maria Fonseca is the Editor and Infographic Artist for IntelligentHQ. She is also a thought leader writing about social innovation, sharing economy, social business, and the commons. Aside her work for IntelligentHQ, Maria Fonseca is a visual artist and filmmaker that has exhibited widely in international events such as Manifesta 5, Sao Paulo Biennial, Photo Espana, Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Joshibi University and many others. She concluded her PhD on essayistic filmmaking , taken at University of Westminster in London and is preparing her post doc that will explore the links between creativity and the sharing economy.