Everybody’s talking about storytelling. From copywriters and bloggers through to agencies, all emphasise its importance for conveying different content. And rightly so! Strategically embedded, vibrant and visually rich storytelling that is done well is a wonderful way of making something lasting and unforgettable.
With storytelling, the message is packaged and gets under our skin like a drug. Good stories connect with our feelings. For the storyteller, it’s essential to get up close. Talk to people. Understand their concerns, inhale their (corporate) culture. Grasp what makes them tick! Specifically, let them experience your message with all of their senses.
The Beatles, particularly John Lennon and Paul McCartney, are giants of storytelling. One of their famous songs starts like this: "Eleanor Rigby // Picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been // Lives in a dream // Waits at the window // Wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door // Who is it for?" Just a few lines – but the listener is transported, drawn into the middle of a story, of love, longing, missing – and in the end: anything’s possible. This is the kind of story that engages people.
Storytelling was not originally conceived as a means of advertising or PR. It comes from art, literature, poetry and the cinema, of course. Storytelling has a long tradition in the US, with authors such as Ernest Hemingway, Cormac McCarthy and Colson Whitehead and directors such as Jim Jarmusch, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, who never directly address grief, love, deep disappointment, but package them into events. Stories, dialogue, expressive images, a sophisticated plot – all of these can be taken from the arts for the storyteller’s daily use. Storytelling is the music that conveys content. To master such an instrument, you need talent and instructions and to practice, practice, practice. Experience is no harm.
Furniture giant IKEA has given us a good example of excellent storytelling in an international context: Celie Sparre, known as Smilla, the ‘bubbly woman’ in the IKEA ads, is referred to in a newspaper story as ‘just so sweet and likeable’. And I bet we’re all picturing her right now. The 29-year-old Swede is known throughout the world for the comical situations in which she always ends up: she’s in love, getting ready for a date in her apartment. The doorbell rings, but there’s an unhappy friend on her doorstep. Then a group of buddies drop by. She can’t manage to get rid of them, and so cheerful chaos reigns in her IKEA apartment, instead of a tender tête-a-tête. This is not how the evening was meant to go – but the message of a friendly, nice, cosy IKEA home is left in everyone’s mind. A good feeling, a pleasant experience – and the typical Swedish informality which enables boundaries to be crossed with a smile. Perfectly staged!
In advertising and PR, a well-thought-out story still needs to be strategically embedded in something bigger. The message can be contained in reports, texts, blogs, films or ads. It must be lively, exciting, stand on its own – and affect the audience. The corporate identity (CI), colour of the logo and product idea must always be discreetly incorporated as well.
Style, the sensual experience, quality, a touch of status and the joy of affordable luxury play different roles for manufacturers such as Faber-Castell, Staedtler and Online-Pen-Shop. While the latter mainly attracts young people with trendy writing utensils, traditional company Faber-Castell relies on a tasteful writing and drawing culture. These examples show the power of storytelling – as well as the extent to which the narrative approach may differ in spite of similar usage of a product.
How can storytelling at Insights-X lead to success? First and foremost, trade fairs are inherently vital centres of communication – an ideal platform for stories. Most of the products at the stationery expo are already the result of a story. And many of them captivate with their special style – they are a delight, a beautiful addition to life designed to impart pleasure. Companies exhibiting at Insights-X have so many stories waiting to be told.
About the author
Peter Budig studied Protestant theology, history and political science. He worked as a freelance journalist, headed up the editorial department of a large advertising paper in Nuremberg for ten years and was the editor of Nuremberg’s Abendzeitung newspaper. He has been freelancing again since 2014 as a journalist, book author and copywriter. Storytelling is absolutely his favourite form.