There can be no doubt that Matthew Luhn is a master of visual storytelling. At only 19, he became the youngest animator to join The Simpsons while in its third season. Luhn later joined Pixar Animation Studios and collaborated on the most commercially successful and well loved movies of our time: Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc., Ratatouille, Up, Cars, Toy Story II and Toy Story III.
From Hollywood to the boardroom, Luhn now advises Fortune 500 companies on how to successfully narrate their brand and connect to an audience through visual storytelling. On September 13th, the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia hosted a seminar on digital storytelling and invited Luhn to be the keynote speaker. Mixing popular examples with his own experience, Luhn outlined how today’s brands can craft their own powerful stories that resonate.
Visual Storytelling Makes a Brand
Memorable, Impactful and Personal.
Statistics show that when you wrap a story around something, people remember it. Given the age of short attention spans and media oversaturation, how do we make a story wrapper that sticks?
Use as few words as possible. If you can’t explain something simply, you have to go back to the drawing board.
HAVE A GREAT HOOK
What if a rat dreamed of being a French chef?
Sound familiar? Pixar writers knew that people don’t like rats and especially don’t like them around food. What’s more, they don’t like uppity Parisians dictating good taste. Add this up, and you get the unexpected hook of Ratatouille.
What if you could fit 1,000 songs in your pocket?
Steve Jobs knew the importance of storytelling. Before unveiling the first generation iPod, he described the disappointments and drawbacks of his competition’s current technology. With the stage set, he gave his hook to create anticipation for Apple’s revolutionary products.
Don’t be clever or snarky. Be vulnerable and honest. Come from a place of truth and passion. Don’t be afraid to be bold because if you try to please everyone, the message will get weaker until no one is affected.
Never state the theme in your story. Make people feel it. This comes down to the old adage, “Show. Don’t tell.” The theme of Finding Nemo was: Being overprotective won’t lead your loved ones to a better life, letting them go will. However, no character beats us over the head by overstating it. Great storytelling has to be subtle. Dory the fish says, “Well, you can’t never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him.”
USE UNIVERSAL THEMES ABOUT CHANGE
Once you’ve hooked an audience, take them on a journey of change, be it striving towards impossible dreams, facing fear of abandonment and learning about love and sacrifice. Your consumer/user needs to play the role of the hero; not your product or company founders.
The Always #LikeAGirl campaign used video interviews where young girls, both before and after puberty, were asked, “What does it mean to do something ‘like a girl?’ How would you run ‘like a girl’ and fight ‘like a girl?’” The videos demonstrate that somewhere in puberty, girls learn that “like a girl” translates to weakness and is meant as an insult. If this was something learned, then it could be unlearned. So campaign creators set out to transform “like a girl” and make it a call for confidence, as in “try, fail, learn & Keep Going #LikeAGirl.”
Stories that are memorable, impactful and personal are about the kind of transformation that inspires us to make decisions towards our own change.
The start of every year brims with opportunities for great marketing and results. Here are some key take-aways from 2009 as we move into 2010.
Key Marketing Take-Aways From 2009
1. Your message and brand fundamentals are as critical as ever
2. The addition of a multitude of new channels via social media only means that it is more important than ever to understand who your audience is and where they get their information
3. The press release is not dead – in fact it is more versatile and useful than ever before
4. SEO is critical, but it must be aligned with traditional marketing strategies
5. Customers and prospects still love – and react to – great creative in all its forms
6. Customers will tell you what you want to know if you ask the right questions
7. In an age of electronic communications, a phone call or hand-written note goes a long way. Along those lines, bulky direct mail gets opened
8. Despite the decline of print media, nothing makes a client more excited than seeing their name in print
9. A great customer reference is invaluable
10. Measurement in all its forms continues to be a challenge – but it can be done and with the growth of web analytic, instant metrics are becoming an industry standard.
And, as always, an integrated strategic communications plan that takes into account all facets of marketing and public relations always delivers the best results! Begin 2010 with a resolution to make your marketing count.
Post by Zer0 to 5ive CEO Michelle Pujadas
If you’re like me, you probably hear or read about a new product every 30 seconds. I suspect that, also like me, you don’t remember more than a handful of those products.
But if you are the one launching a product to audiences within your own industry, they’ll be sure to stand up and take notice, right? Well unless you just launched the next iPhone, it can be a challenge – a big one!
In the fall of last year, we faced such a challenge with a client in the financial technology sector – CashEdge. Their services enable financial institutions to engage customers in new ways. After launching a couple of products earlier in the year, they wanted to introduce a new, cutting-edge, third-party transfer product before their annual customer conference.
Should we do another product press release and send an html email to our customers? Sure, we could have done that. But we wanted – and quite honestly needed – to tell this story in a new light. The company was at the point in their corporate evolution where their story had changed and this new product really was a compelling example of that change. The challenge – how do we make it compelling to anyone outside of our strategic planning meeting?
We decided to go big – yet simple. This was a great time to do something we’ve been hoping to do for this customer for a while – create a new vision and do a brand refresh. Given their unique position and expertise in the market place we decided to tell the new story in three simple, yet strategic words – “Intelligent Money Movement.”
Of course no story is complete without the pictures so we put our creative team to work and executed a total brand refresh by updating the logo and designing an entirely new website and new collateral to support the new story.
Occasionally we need to resuscitate a brand and reposition it for the changing marketplace. Sometimes going big is exactly what you need to do. Next up…an iPhone designed just for online banking needs? Well, maybe someday.
Image Credit: Mike Finklestein via
Every brand has a story to tell. Finding that story is the tough part. Tougher still is crafting that story into something compelling.
As communicators, storytelling is at the core of what we do. We uncover, craft and find the right audiences for stories that convey — directly or indirectly — the messages we want customers to hear. In years past, telling our stories was simple: we pitched reporters, produced print ads and talked with prospects at trade shows. Today, we have untold numbers of channels with which we can potentially get our stories told — or lost.
This response by Hanson Hosein, the director of the University of Washington’s Master of Communication in Digital Media, on the topic of information overloaddrives the storytelling point home:
“It is not just about social media to me, it is also about really effective storytelling. If you are a good storyteller, you are always going to break through.”
Good stories don’t require 200 page manuscripts. They don’t require two hour-long screen adaptations. For some, all it takes is 140 characters typed on a keyboard. Or a blog post. Or, gasp!, an actual conversation. Good stories hook people, they reel them in with colorful characters, keep them engaged with conflict and resolution, and let them walk away with a sense that their time wasn’t wasted.
Hollywood writers don’t hold eminent domain on storytelling. Companies have stories too (more than they probably know). Can you find your Oscar-worthy company story? Have you built your syndicated run of episodic stories?