Advertising with story structure

#masterthebasics 01

Tell me a fact, and I’ll learn; tell me a truth and I’ll believe; tell me a story, and it’ll dwell in my heart forever. Ancient Indian proverb

The importance of stories Many of us don’t realise the immense power of storytelling. If you’re a would-be-writer, you know what it means hearing a parent or a friend wonder why you spend time engaging in such a fruitless activity. And yet most often, the very same person who’d asked you that question, is also the one that loves crime fiction and never takes meetings on Tuesdays at 20.30 because that’s when her favourite series begins. Social media may have revolutionised the world of advertising, but despite it, storytelling is still, and perhaps always will be, the most powerful way to make your audience attracted to your brand. We are so embedded in storytelling that we don’t even realise it. Stories amuse, instruct, and educate us in the most natural way: the human way. Composing with images For this reason, we may say that we’re all storytellers, because we are all human. Nowadays, ‘storytelling’ has become fashionable and in most cases overused, as much as the word creativity. And it feels like nowadays we are all good storytellers. But not everyone is a good storyteller, one that is able to engage his audience. The first step to become one is understanding story structure, and the second step is being able to use it to connect brands and consumers. Storytelling in a way is like composing. Actually those accustomed to this craft would tell you that it’s exactly like composing music. The difference is that instead of using sounds, you’d use words, facts, events, and most importantly images that trigger the audience’s thoughts and most importantly: emotions. While a musician will trigger the audience’s emotion with musical notes, a storyteller will do the same but by composing scenes through the means of words.   Triggering emotion This is the power we have to work with. But as storytellers, we don’t make people feel emotion, we rather trigger emotions they already have. The role of the storybuilder is not to create emotions in the audience, which is a pretty assuming statement, but to trigger, to pull out emotions that they already have, they may be hidden, but they are real. It starts with knowing something about the consumer that goes beyond the basic demographic. But they lack an insight on the emotional approach that consumers have, which is something that finally drives their decision making process. The 6 Basics Human Emotions Love, joy, Surprise, Anger, Sadness, and Fear, but each of them produces sub-emotions, for a total of 24.   Love and Fear are the two strongest human emotions, everything we do is towards something we love, or away from something we fear.   Story Structure Story structure plays with events and images so that they trigger human emotions. Ever noticed that you can predict how most movies will unravel? This is because story structure is embedded in our way of understanding the world, and storytellers have understood this logical line of thinking and have rationalised it in order to compose stories that resonate with us as humans. Most stories have this structure, and many others are seen as revolutionary and unique simply because they omit, or change the order of the story. Not all stories need to have a good or a bad guy in human form, think of it more as forces that go with or against the protagonist. – Exposition – Setup who, what, where, when – Inciting incident – something takes place that gives purpose for action – Rising Action – Resistance – Climax – Final completion – Resolution – closure, what it all means in the end   Storytelling Simplified for the advertising industry The advertising world has simplified this structure in a way that still reflects the human way. Storytelling for advertising is divided in two different worlds: the world that ‘is’ (something is lucking from the consumers’ perspective) and the world that ‘could be’ (complete) brought by the product we are offering. In the middle of the two there’s our brand. The 5 step story structure is incorporated in the two worlds structure.   Empathy vs. manipulation The difference between a story that aims to manipulate an audience to buy something and a story that aims to attract the right audience for the right product, so that both parties can be happier, is empathy. When brands include the emotions they want the consumer to feel into their marketing, this is often seen as manipulation. BUT when they understand and express what the consumer already feels and believe into their marketing, this is seen as empathy, understanding and exhibiting the feelings of another. That is seen as value, not marketing. This is not something we don’t want to see, but something we deeply desire. SELLING WITH STORIES, MEANS ENGAGING THE RIGHT TARGET FOR YOUR AUDIENCE, SO THAT THEY BUY WHAT THEY REALLY NEED, RATHER THAN PERSUADING THEM INTO BUYING SOMETHING THEY DON’T REALLY WANT.