A conversation in the ever-wonderful ECF forum this week yielded a really useful insight for brand communicators, I think…The Toblerone Tale.
Stories are definitely the currency du jour in the world of marketing, but even so, there was still a very robust and energetic debate about how to actually use stories within modern, digital marketing.
Stories are brilliant things. Campfire tales have been part of human living for millennia. They offer us an abundance of ready-made templates to follow – from parables to fables, romances to tragedies.
Most alluringly to marketers, they are neurologically hardwired into the human brain, as geniuses as diverse as Jung, Joyce and Stephen Pinker have well understood.
But there was still real hesitation from charity campaigners…
Q. Can you actually tell the subtle stories like world poverty alleviation quickly enough to be both memorable and honest in social or digital media?
Q. Can you realistically ask your supporters to piece together a complex, composite narrative from tiny story fragments? Won’t they miss the big picture? The story arc?
Q. Even worse, if you spread your story over time, and share it between different voices, then what happens if people miss a crucial episode? Won’t they get the wrong impression?
These are real and important challenges. Because as a sector we desperately need different voices to come together and share narratives to drive innovation. And we need the detail of sustained narratives to honour our accountability – both to donors and beneficiaries. But we also need the ability to evoke the need for change through powerful sharp experiences. We need these campfire conversations as the heart of impact 2.0.
So here’s the challenge: to communicate your call to action instantly and consistently while still carrying the rich context of the cause. To continually allow audiences to catch up on the backstory of our narratives. To keep adding new stories of the same shape and structure as our core story. And to share that story, relentlessly and generously so others can become familiar with it…
Brian Fitzgerald, long-time storytelling adviser to Greenpeace, shared exactly how he’d done it, and boiled this weeklong debate down to one iconic image.
In it, he also epitomises the Heath Brothers SUCCESs model of what makes a sticky idea:
The Toblerone Tale is Simple. Unexpected. Concrete. Credible. Emotional. And yes, it itself embodies a Story – the breaking and sharing of complex stories as a social ritual.
Having a metaphor for it may not make it any easier to accomplish in practice. It will remain an art as well as a science. And is a continual exercise in managing complexity. But even so, having a sticky, sweet metaphor does help keep us all honest to the ideal. Love it!
Tim Kitchin is client service director and director of consulting at Copper, the digital marketing agency.