7 Basic Types of Stories:
Which One Is Your Brand Telling?
Creatives explore humans’ archetypal plots
by Tim Nudd
October 03 2012
Advertising & Branding
Droga5 turned Prudential’s retirement story from rags-to-riches into one of rebirth.
You think you’re being all clever and original with your brand storytelling. In fact, you’re not. From Shakespeare to Spielberg to Soderbergh, there are really only seven different types of stories, an Advertising Week panel hosted by TBWA suggested on Wednesday.
The challenge becomes finding which one best suits your brand, and then telling it skillfully, believably and—if you’re going to invite consumers to join in the story—extremely carefully.
1: Overcoming the Monster.
This type of story goes back through Beowulf to David and Goliath and surely a lot further than that. It’s the classic underdog story. Ad examples include Apple’s attack on Big Brother in “1984” and American Express’s attempt to dent the dominance of Black Friday with Small Business Saturday.
A story of renewal. It’s a Wonderful Life is a prime example from the movies. Brands telling stories of renewal include Gatorade, whose “Replay” campaign gave aging members of high-school sports teams a chance to recapture their youth through rematches against old foes; and Prudential, which is presenting retirement as the beginning of a new chapter, not the end of an old one.
A mission from point A to point B. The Lord of the Rings is the classic example. IBM and Lexus are among the marketers who are on self-professed quests—making a smarter planet and relentlessly pursuing perfection, respectively.
4. Journey and Return.
A story about transformation through travel and homecoming. The Wizard of Oz and Where the Wild Things Are are both journey-and-return stories. Corona is one of the brands that also encourages a trip, urging you to “Find your beach” and return refreshed. And Expedia has built its whole new campaign around the idea of changing one’s perception through journey and return.
5. Rags to Riches.
In literature: Charles Dickens and Cinderella. In the movies: Trading Places. In ads: Chrysler, which is rising from the ashes of Detroit; and Johnny Walker, whose entire brand history is about a simple Scottish farmboy’s rise to global prominence.
From the Greeks through Shakespeare, these are stories of the dark side of humanity and the futile nature of human experience. Advertising has little use for such stories, except in PSA work, where shock tactics and depressing tales can get people to care about an issue.
The flipside of tragedy, and the last of the great storytelling tropes, it’s perhaps the hardest to do well but is hugely popular in both popular art and advertising—with Old Spice and Geico among the brand leaders in the space.
There is joy, happiness and a smile to be found within the pages of these books.
This is the essence of my writing, to create an emotional bond with you. If I have failed you, please accept my apology in advance, and I shall try harder in my next book to meet your needs, the reader of my works…
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The global search for high-quality education, embedded in high-performing education systems, has taken on mythical proportions, almost resembling the alchemists’ quest to turn common metals into gold.
It is my hope that the present day search for global education, equitable and providing equality of opportunity for all, shall not cease until the “gold” we seek, has been found.
I therefore dedicate this book to all the educators, researchers, parents and students the world over, who strive to achieve this elusive goal,high-quality education for all the citizens of the world.
In this endeavour, it is my belief that the International Baccalaureate merits a closer look, based on their more than 40 year history of delivering consistently excellent results.
I add that all of the reflections and views in this book are mine alone, unless otherwise noted, and can not be attributed to my employer or any other organization I am affiliated with, past or present. For any errors or oversights, I bear the complete responsibility.