Throwback Thursday – Stand Up The Storytellers

December 13, 2011


It was 10 years ago today.  I have been telling stories to the grandkids this week and it reminded me of something I spoke about 10 years ago at a conference in one of my favourite cities – Toronto.  I thought it might be worthwhile giving it another airing.




Last week I spoke to the nextMEDIA conference in the beautiful Carlu Center in Toronto. I was asked to speak about creating Lovemarks in the digital age. I showed how the power of stories is the most important element of digital communications, no matter what you are told about search optimization, email fulfillment, discount turnover, price transparency, screen resolution yada yada; these are all technical details.


The more platforms we invent, the more stories we need. Stories are critical to winning in the “Lifestream” we are in. When you’re a marketer with an annual sales target to hit, stories are your best friend for connecting with consumers. Here’s how:


Great stories are fast workers, outstripping our reason and logic, with their compelling truth. In the Age of Now you have to get your story across quick and clean.


Great stories touch us. They locate our inner fears, hopes and dreams – vampires and werewolves included!


Great stories are contagious. The three things to ask when judging creative work are:


a. Do I want to experience it again?

b. Do I want to share it?

c. Do I want to improve it?


Great stories bring people together for shared experiences. Sport is an innovator. The 2012 London Olympics will bring the next wave of interactive and collaborative television.


Great stories reframe the market. Lady Gaga reframed weird as wonderful. Steve Jobs reframed presence into absence. Facebook and Twitter have reframed Madison Avenue by literally moving into the street.


Great stories introduce us to great characters, people we want to spend time with. And some you don’t.


Great stories make us laugh. Humor is the short cut to the heart.


Great stories create a bigger meaning. To do this you must have a consistent equity across screens, across borders, across retail end-to-end. Tactical promotions and micro-digital CRM plays have their place, but all too often brand managers slip into off-message tactical promotions.


Great stories Surprise with the Obvious. They make you think “Why didn’t I think of that?” Apple’s retail stores are so obvious! The Start button of the Prius is so obvious. To develop a pen that could write in space, NASA spent millions on advanced technology. The Russians used a pencil.


Great stories are crafted. If you want your talent to shine, give people Responsibility, Learning, Recognition, and Joy.


Great stories result from continuous practice. Like ideas, you have to produce lots of small ones all of the time. This is dedicated work, like Gladwell’s 10,000 hours. Perfect practice. Big ideas are scarce, strung out over time, investment hungry. Shelve the idea of writing the ‘Great Canadian Novel.’ Fail fast, learn fast, fix fast.



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Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts is founder of Red Rose Consulting; business leader and educator; author and speaker; adviser on marketing, creative thinking and leadership.


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