News that Made the Cut
Once upon a time in the land of Marketing, there lived a powerful wizard named Story. Oft praised for his virtues, few understood the nature of his powers and fewer still knew how to channel his teachings. Depressed and dejected, Story left for Hollywood, and after banging out a few scripts at the local Starbucks, lived happily ever after. The End. Or was it?
Storytelling has been an industry buzzword for several years but in truth most usages have been euphemistic for a well-produced video. Not sure that business practices had really changed, our CEO brought some skepticism to a panel discussion he led on storytelling at The CMO Club Summit earlier this month. The results surprised him.
For a few select companies like Georgia Pacific, storytelling is indeed a seismic shift in how they strategize, execute, measure, train and hire. And from Renegade’s perspective, it’s about damn time. We all love great storytellers. We are also devoted to the stories they tell. Brands that are conquering the art (and a bit of the science) are already cutting through, but not without this plot line.
Burn Your Current BriefConsider for a moment that most marketers use virtually the same strategy brief structure and have been doing so for decades. No wonder most marketing drowns in a sea of sameness. Explains Douwe Bergsma, CMO of Georgia Pacific, “Storytelling is not a different way of describing advertising; it’s more of a fundamental approach to how you view your communication efforts across all your touchpoints.”
Find Your FrameworkNow that you’ve ripped up your “better-than-the-competition” strategy brief, let’s focus on crafting a story framework that will make your brand unique. “We have a major step between the brand equity work and the design- and campaign development companies typically do, which we call the ‘story framework.’ Within the story framework we first and foremost determine what is the fundamental human truth our brand would get into,” reports Bergsma.
Commit to ConflictWhile “conflict” is probably not currently a word in your communications playbook, it should be, since every good story starts with one and it is the motor of any story. Not only that, “Conflict is inherently the story’s framework,” says Bergma. The Brawny conflict, for example, is between “being tough and being gentle.”
Align Your AgenciesMost marketers will admit that delivering a consistent message across all channels in hard, particularly with multiple agencies. Georgia-Pacific’s solution was not to hire one agency to do it all but instead to engage Character, experts in developing story frameworks. Based on their work, Georgia-Pacific then briefs the agencies, who focus on telling the story through design and advertising. Bergsma admits that the agency mix needed to change, as “Some agencies could be good in advertising, but not all of them are as great in storytelling.”
Wrangle a WriterEven if you decide to hire an external agency (like Renegade — hint, hint) to craft your story framework or to bring your story to life across various channels, you’ll still need at least one person inside to guide the process, and that person needs to understand all aspects of storytelling, including plot lines, character development and conflict. Shari Neumann is the “Chief Storytelling Officer” at Georgia Pacific, who may not have that exact title but nevertheless is in charge of all content development.
Train Your TeamIt’s a fairy tale to think your marketing department could transform into story mode overnight. As Bergsma explains, “We took almost everybody in the organization through a three-day storytelling immersion, called Character Camp. Then we had a brand summit with all of our marketers and there was a whole training process to get there, plus hands-on coaching.” That’s a lot of training, and by the way, that only happened after gaining senior management’s buy-in from the start.
Migrate the MetricsWith your new strategy, partners and employees in place, it’s finally time to reconsider your success metrics. Bergsma likens measuring storytelling campaigns to reading a book: in order to fully appreciate the book, you need to measure it in its totality. While this approach is “a big, big paradigm shift” away from the analysis of individual ads, “Without this shift, we would not be able to turn storytelling into a competitive advantage in the marketplace.”