Brain Chatter: The Story Begins

October 25, 2016 Ophelie Zalcmanis-Lai, Content Editor

Aside from cave drawings, storytelling is about as old as it gets when it comes to communication. 

It's pancultural: storytelling isn't exclusive to one side of this planet or another, not specific to any language, and transcends cultural boundaries. 

Anyone and everyone can tell a story. Anyone and everyone has a story. 

That includes brands. 

At the 2016 Marketing Live: The Story Begins, Marketing Mag treated conference-goers to the once upon a time tale of the craft behind making stories that are relevant, binge-worthy and memorable. 

The tale that had us all turning the hypothetical pages?

Too often stories don’t get told because brands, marketers, whomever, give up the idea and shrink away from the process.

“The story was legitimate whether it was sponsored or not, which is a good litmus test.” – Jordan Hyman, Vice President, WSJ Custom Studios

Alongside the WSJ Custom Studios’ Global Editorial Director Fara Warner, Hyman made the first resounding point.

There was a good story to be told. 

Too often process, people, semantics, etc. stifle creation and ideation. There’s a good story, but no one acts on it. There’s a good story, but people ask “what if” too many times. There’s a good story and it just. Doesn’t. Get. Done.

What a wasted opportunity!

With a little persistence, insistence and flexibility, the team at WSJ Custom Studios brought to life Cocainenomics with Netflix and its original series Narcos.

They had a matter of weeks and were met with an initial “no” from Netflix.

Yet they managed to reimagine what was offered as ad space into a long-form interactive journey through Columbia’s history.

“We are rooted in legacy behaviours and it’s a barrier.” – Eric Korsh, President, Mashable Studios

It’s not enough to take the same piece of content and scatter it aimlessly on the web.

Oh, we have so many options, which platform should we pick? All of the platforms!

Incorrect! The content has to be platform agnostic, but the experience must be platform aware.

Just because you built it, doesn’t mean anyone is going to come. You need to take a close look at where your resources are being spent and on what.

The real way to navigate this? Re-purpose and re-package your content.

“Humour is a way for us to connect.” – Shane Rahmani, General Manager, CollegeHumour

Neuroscience! Okay, not deep neuroscience, but neuroscience nevertheless.

Memory recollection of the things we see and hear are driven by our positive or negative associations with the experience.

Great comedy is relatable, smart, speedy, surprising, well-written, and novel.

Great advertising is universal, entertaining, unmistakable, emotionally appealing, and visually ironic.

See the similarities here? Take Vitamin Water’s #makeboringbrilliant.

We relate to those everyday moments, but seeing someone make a farce of them is awesome.

The moral here? Don’t be afraid to experiment with humour. It helps things be shareable good.

“Attention is the new currency!” – Laura Henderson, Global Head of Content and Media Monetization, Mondelez International

Sound like our Battle for Time segment?

That’s because it is. Marketers are starting to understand that they’re having trouble maintaining the attention of their audiences.

There is something specific out there for everyone! That’s why it’s so important to make content that makes money.

How did Mondelez do that? It re-launched Stride Gum by throwing a man out of a plane, sans a parachute.

It played every role of a production studio to pull this stunt off and guess what, they pulled it off.

One billion impressions. An additional $15 million in media value.


“You’re not there to do what others say. You’re there to do what you’re doing.” – Director X

Let the creatives do their job!

When working through the creative process to get a story made, it’s important to know when you’re interfering with or contributing to the process.

Furthermore, don’t just demand that things “go viral.” Art has to come from a pure place.

So let the story play out and trust the people you brought on to make it happen.

The story has its protagonist. The creatives have their skills.

Let it all play out. And stop trying to monetize everything. Great content is great content and it will stand.

There’s no one way to tell a story. But there are certainly ways to help it come to life.

The main thing to remember is to simply tell it and tell it well. 

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