Possibly the Greatest Brand Story Ever Told

The most effective mass media is the stories we tell and conversations we have with each other. If you don’t believe me, let me prove it to you.

We've all seen an endless number of ads for cars, car dealerships, and the like. If I think really hard, I may be able to remember a few of them. Let’s see… I remember the Volkswagen ad with Kid Vader (but mostly because it was so talked-about, not because I thought it was so effective). I remember the Toyota Celica ads in which the senior citizen sees a parked Celica and yells, “Slow down. This is a neighborhood!” If you gave me 10 more minutes, I could probably think of another three to five, but not much more. Considering how many car ads I’ve seen in my lifetime, that’s a pretty low recall rate, and I can assure you that none of them influenced my purchase decisions.  

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What is Social Media Storytelling?

My parents and many of my friends still don’t understand what it is I do every day. They envision me frolicking in the fields of Facebook and Twitter, swapping gossip and sharing funny memes. They must think I have the best job in the world because my profession is social media—exactly the tool used by everyone else to procrastinate and avoid doing their real job.

The combination of social media and storytelling, the term social media storytelling could be the holy grail of buzzwords. Half emerging technology that everyone said would either rule the world or totally fail, half proven method of transferring emotion and knowledge since the dawn of humanity, social media storytelling is a relatively new and an oft-misunderstood term. Nearly every digital agency claims that they’re “storytellers,” and if the client is interested in a social media activation, then they’ve magically become “social media storytellers” as well.

My mom and dad are clueless about what “social media storytelling” means, and that’s okay. But I fear there are other agencies and brands that are misunderstood, and that can be dangerous for audiences.

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Marketers Take Notice: Reddit is Very Much Here

From Bill Gates, Barack Obama, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dave Grohl to a five-year McDonald’s employee and a valet for the stars, the “I Am A ____, Ask Me Anything (AMA)” section of Reddit takes on people from all walks of life. 

It can be a scary place. No moderator. No filters. Only rule is that you prove who you are. So why would POTUS and one of the wealthiest men in the world spend time answering questions, some intelligent, some inappropriate, from this fairly anonymous yet large (and to a point, influential) digital community? 

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Coca-Cola Falls Flat Tackling Obesity

This past weekend my beloved New England Patriots, a team in the U.S. National Football League, lost in the conference championship game, falling one game short of the Super Bowl. I was devastated and inconsolable, and even as I write this I sadly consider what could have been.

Up until what ultimately became the Patriots’ final game, their season was fantastic. They won 12 out of 16 games and earned the second seed going into the playoffs. But against a motivated Baltimore Ravens team, the wheels came off and the Patriots were handily defeated, at home no less. I wholeheartedly expected the Patriots to at least make the Super Bowl, if not win it. I never expected this. 

I had a similar surprise as I watched Coca-Cola’s two-minute spot addressing the obesity problem, which is often blamed on the soda industry and high-fructose corn syrup. If you haven't seen it, take a look. 

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Is Twitter a Gold Mine for Character-Based Brand Storytelling?

This post originally appeared in our December '12 issue of “Live Report from the Future of Marketing,” our monthly Post-Advertising newsletter. Subscribe for free here.

My wife has never seen the movie Goonies, released in 1985. That’s a shame. So many classic lines, and one of the most well known yet practically silent characters, Lotney Fratelli, better known to the masses as Sloth. 

The strong, silent type, Sloth had only three audible lines, but anyone who has seen the movie can recite his most famous one, “Sloth love Chunk!” 

For the more than two decades since the movie’s release, the only words Sloth muttered were those in his three lines. That is, until he joined Twitter.

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10 Marketing Lessons You Can’t Learn From Walmart

This post originally appeared in our November '12 issue of “Live Report from the Future of Marketing,” our monthly Post-Advertising newsletter. Subscribe for free here.

I’m not ashamed to admit that one of my favorite movies is You’ve Got Maila complete rip-off of Sleepless in Seattle, even using the same lead actors (Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan). Ryan’s character runs a small independent bookshop in Manhattan, while Hanks’s character is opening a large retail bookstore with low prices (if only he’d known how technology would change the way we read) just down the block.

In the late 1990s, when the movie was made, this was a common story line. What were small businesses going to do when Borders, Walmart, Kmart and Target moved into town? How could they compete with rock-bottom prices and one-stop shopping?

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When is Manipulation in Advertising Okay?

Manipulation: the action of controlling someone in a clever or unscrupulous way.

It’s a touchy subject, but arguably advertising in its purest form is manipulation. Campaigns want to change behaviour or elicit a response. You can’t argue with that. 

But we’re not in the business of manipulation, are we? We’re in the business of moving and compelling people to engage with, share and advocate a brand or product.

We’re in the business of storytelling.

Meet documentary maker Ken Burns—a master of manipulation through the medium of storytelling. He’s the man behind titles such as The Civil War and Baseball. He argues a good point and one that has inspired this blog post.

Manipulation is present in every story whether we like it or not.

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Fight Club, Cinderella, and What Storytelling Means for Brands

What does Cinderella have in common with Fight Club?

Lots, according to Jon King, Story Worldwide's Chief Storyteller. During the ‘Storytelling for Brands’ session at our London office last week, part of Social Media Week London, we shared Story’s brand-centred approach to narrative content.

We draw our inspiration from the most important study of storytelling ever done, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, by Joseph Campbell. Campbell’s insights have influenced and guided the approach, which he called the hero’s journey and which is used in all forms of narrative, including classic films from Cinderella to Fight Club.

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Social Media Week London 2012: The Full Story

It’s time to get your Twit on and fire up your Facebook! Social Media Week London is back and it promises to be bigger and more collaborative than ever.

For those of you who don’t know, Social Media Week returns to London for it’s fourth consecutive year from 24th – 28th September 2012. Hosted by Chinwag, this year’s theme is Empowering Change Through Collaboration. Digital dons and social-savvy client-siders will reflect on the global impact of social media and its role as a catalyst in driving cultural, political, economic and social change.

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3 Carmakers Embracing Brand Stories

My first car was a gray 1987 Honda Accord LXi hatchback. Well, it was actually a two-toned gray, since I never bothered to get the replacement panels painted after a fender bender (primer gray was close enough).

I bought the car using the money I earned scooping ice cream and washing dishes at Brigham’s restaurant the two years before. It was a stick shift, and since I didn’t know how to drive a stick yet, my mom had to test-drive it as I sat in the passenger seat. I remember that test-drive vividly. Supposedly it had great gas mileage and shifted like butter. I didn’t pay much attention. I was on cloud nine because I knew this would be my car, and I was dreaming of the possibilities.

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