Six Characteristics of Great Storymaking

In case you wondered how advertisers and marketing mayvens view the story creation process:

storyby David Berkowitz

It’s easy to call storytelling a cliché, but how exactly can one move beyond it when storytelling is entrenched as the epitome of what defines great marketing?

In previous Ad Age columns and during the Ad Age Digital Conference this April, storymaking has kept coming up as a way to describe the shift away from the broadcast-era mentality of storytelling to a new approach where marketers build on stories that people share with each other. Yet storymaking needs to be dissected so that anyone can identify it, learn from it, and engage in it themselves.

At the Ad Age conference, I moderated a panel with some stellar storymakers in their own right: Visa’s chief brand and innovation marketing officer Chris Curtin; Burger King’s CMO Eric Hirschhorn; Fullscreen’s head of content Ashley Kaplan; and Adobe’s CMO Ann Lewnes. Some examples and insights they shared further illustrate the art. Here are six characteristics of great storymaking.

1. Participatory: One clear sign of a story that’s told versus one that’s created with its audience is that the audience must be able to add to the story in some way. Beautiful stories can be told in 30-second spots, but it’s impossible for a 30-second spot alone to be considered storymaking. Storymaking requires some effort from its audience.

2. Fan-inspired: Sometimes, marketers create new experiences that trigger storymaking, and there’s a place for that, especially when launching a new product. Yet marketers are often getting into storymaking precisely because they’re seeing what their fans are already talking about and sharing. Like any kind of socially-driven marketing, it’s advantageous to have an existing base of fans to draw from. Adobe’s Lewnes said, “Brand love leads to storymaking. Fans must be engaged and very attached to you; otherwise it is difficult to make stories.”

Read it all at Ad Age