Why Story Hacking Leaves Me Cold

Have you noticed that since the resurgence of storytelling there are two camps of people?Story Enthusiasts These folk genuinely embrace storytelling. What they don’t already know about storytelling, they take time to learn. As a result they move people by telling great stories. Be that about brands, strategies, innovations,...

Written By : on November 25, 2015

Have you noticed that since the resurgence of storytelling there are two camps of people?Story Enthusiasts These folk genuinely embrace storytelling. What they don’t already know about storytelling, they take time to learn. As a result they move people by telling great stories. Be that about brands, strategies, innovations, culture, life lessons and so on.Story Hackers These people know that storytelling is in vogue. They want the benefits but not the effort. They pay lip-service to it. And seek short-cuts. The most common hack is thinking that the power of story is in the word. Story, like love, peace or joy is much more than a word. Here are two typical story hacks.

Have you noticed that since the resurgence of storytelling there are two camps of people?

Story Enthusiasts
These folk genuinely embrace storytelling. What they don’t already know about storytelling, they take time to learn. As a result they move people by telling great stories. Be that about brands, strategies, innovations, culture, life lessons and so on.

Story Hackers
These people know that storytelling is in vogue. They want the benefits but not the effort. They pay lip-service to it. And seek short-cuts. The most common hack is thinking that the power of story is in the word. Story, like love, peace or joy is much more than a word. Here are two typical story hacks.

Shoving the word story into a brand tagline.
One of the first brands to use this particular hack was Dulux (paint). The tagline for their TV campaign is ‘change your story’. My thought was – really? By changing the colour of a wall? There was no story. And it made no sense.

You mean that putting um, lets say…. antique green on my living room walls vs jasmine white would be life changing? What kind of changes might I expect? Good ones?

However, they began to redeem themselves in 2014 with the help of Bartle Bogle Hegarty. They created a story. It’s a brand myth based on the concept of prohibition in 1920’s. In it, colour rather than booze that been banned. There’s a series of these ads – the first is below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cm_3dplw9YQ

Personally, I warm to it. It’s engaging and uplifting. The big idea is about the transformational power of colour. That makes sense when it comes to changing a room.

But personal transformation takes more than a lick of paint. So, for me, the tagline ‘change your story’ is still at odds with what’s otherwise an engaging advertising movie.

Let’s move on to the next story hack.

Talking story but sharing statistics.
Not long ago I attended an ad agency pitch on behalf of a client. All the agencies pitching bandied about the word story. But only one told a story.

One agency espoused story before the big campaign reveal. I was salivating to hear the story. Then it was time for the unveiling. Ta dah! And …the creative boards were plastered with statistics. No story at all.

Can you imagine how my heart sank? It left me cold. Don’t whet my appetite for a juicy story and then feed me with bland statistics.

That’s not just because I’m a storyteller, living and breathing story everyday at The Story Mill. Try reading a bunch of statistics to your kids instead of a story. They’ll soon put you right!

Needless to say, the agency that won captivated everyone’s hearts with powerful storytelling.

So what does it mean to embrace storytelling?
It’s as much about where you’re coming from, as where you’re going. It’s not a façade you can plaster on to impress. It calls for soul searching. You need to know who you are. Storytelling penetrates beyond skin deep. It comes from a more authentic place than glossy hacks. And that matters now more than ever.

Here’s why.
In the wake of the economic recession the storytelling revival has escalated. People want authenticity. They’re fed-up with self-serving short-cuts that put profits before people.

We’re living in a cultural narrative that calls for transparency.
Customers want to know where their food has come from. That it hasn’t been sprayed with toxic chemicals. That their clothes weren’t stitched by a child deprived of food and education. That they’re not being duped or ripped-off.

Brand stories begin inside a business.
The stories you tell customers are integrally linked to your company culture. Great company culture comes from connecting people with a shared mission and strategy. Leadership is pivotal.

Your people want to know your purpose and your ‘why?’ They’ll question:
– Are you just in it for yourself and a few cronies? Or do you care about them?
– Are you bumbling along? Or have you got a clear vision?
– Are you all style and bluster? Or have you got substance?
– Do you see them as disposable resources? Or do you recognize them as uniquely talented people?
– Do you gel people together? Or do you divide to conquer

Both inside and outside, people want to know that they can trust you and your business.

That’s why story hacking doesn’t work.
It skips the first half of the equation. It focuses on impressing people by saying what you think will grab them. But it lacks substance. Research may have been done. But the soul searching hasn’t been done. You haven’t defined your purpose, who you are and your why. And therefore all you can create is a facade. That comes across as wanting to make a buck. Not caring so much about how you do it. And people sense that pretty quickly.

Storytelling works from the inside-out.
It makes your intentions more transparent. And it builds trust. It warms peoples’ hearts towards you, your brand and your business.

When you tell stories you’re showing what you stand for. You’re telling people who you are – as a person, as an organisation or as a brand. And who or what inspires you to do what you do.

Do you want to warm people to your brand, your strategy, your idea or your leadership with storytelling?

DOWNLOAD FREE – THE 12 SECRETS TO INFLUENCING WITH STORY

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Author:

Claire Taylor is co-founder of The Story Mill – a business that creates innovative programmes to support organisations to make their brands more human and foster a culture of authenticity and innovation. We run engaging storytelling workshops including: Storytelling in Leadership, Influencing, Branding, Strategy, Culture and Innovation.Claire is a Corporate Storyteller, Coach, Consultant, Trainer and Author of The Tao of Storytelling.

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