All Posts in Storytelling

December 5, 2013 - 13 comments

The Right Price for Your Story

As soon as Thanksgiving passes, everyone is focused on the upcoming holidays. However, some corporations are looking a little further ahead.

Slots for the upcoming Super Bowl on February 2nd just filled up at a reasonable $4 million per :30. Yes, that figure represents 30 seconds. If you’re a latecomer but you still desperately want to get your commercial in there, then you’ll pay a meager $4.5 million per :30. There are still plenty of open slots for pre- and post-game advertising.

It’s up $.2 million from last year.

Neil Mulcahy, evp of Fox Sports ad sales (has one of the most envied jobs in television with an income of approximately $8 million a day) said to expect a few longer-form ads this year with a couple 90- and 120-second commercials.  We all remember the incredible Dodge Ram “Farmer” spot from last year. In case you’ve forgotten: please enjoy.

Neil said, “I think the autos totally have it figured out. They can measure the immediate impact they can get from their sales figures…and the return on investment is three times what they pay [for airtime].”

If you had to pay $133,000+ per second for an ad, you’re forced to consider the necessity of every moment to convey your story.

Considering the season, we don’t want to leave you without some holiday advertising.

Looks like a good use of a TV slot, right?

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October 11, 2013 - 3 comments

Stories Market

When the film Top Gun was released in 1986 it made $8 million opening weekend, and currently sits around $356 million. Considering how big budget films have exploded in the last two decades with movies like Titanic grossing $2.1 billion, or Avatar at $2.7 billion, back in the 80’s, making $300+ million wasn’t too shabby. It’s good enough to put Top Gun at #10 highest grossing film of 1980’s behind films like E.T., Ghost Busters, and Indiana Jones. However, the big wigs in the production companies were not the only ones who pocketed money after Top Gun’s release.

Guess which company saw a 40% increase in sales?

Ray-Ban’s Aviator sunglasses. Ray-Ban was happy: they didn’t have to release any marketing campaigns. Tom Cruise’s Maverick was the only marketing they needed. Cruise put a face on cool. And people bought cool.

The Air Force and Navy saw a massive spike in recruitment to be fighter pilots. It was such a drastic jump, they set up recruiting booths in theaters the movie played in!

Cruise gave people a face they can relate to. The results speak for themselves. Commercials saying, “this is why Ray-Bans are awesome” weren’t necessary to increase sales. All they needed was the right story to sell their product, and the rest is history. 27 years later, people still buy Ray-Bans to be cool like Maverick.

October 5, 2013 - 17 comments

8 Ways to Prepare for your Testimonial Interview

Preparing for a testimonial interview can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are a few tips that will help equip you to rock the interview!

  1. Testimonials are stories. And stories have power. Don’t think of it like an interview. Think of it like a conversation. You get to share with someone how you or your business was impacted.
  2. Plan spontaneity. Don’t memorize answers to possible questions. If you do, you will probably not sound authentic. Allow for genuine responses – the audience will recognize your passion.
  3. Speak plainly. Don’t incorporate the last 10 words of the day. Don’t feel pressure to reinvent the wheel. All you need to do is share what you already know. So talk like a normal person.
  4. No need to be nervous. “Understand that your interview will be edited.  The editor can choose to only use the good stuff. So don’t worry if you stutter.” If you can’t shake anxiety, watch an episode of Seinfeld or whatever it is that gets you relaxed. Drink a latte, talk to a friend, or listen to your favorite band. Loosen up and be yourself.
  5. Don’t wear bright colors! A vibrant shirt will draw attention to your shirt, not your face. Wear mid-tones like blue, brown, or even as dark as black. Whatever you do, don’t wear a pattern (striped, checkered, even argyle) or you could end up like this guy, and that’s just embarrassing. Cameras sometimes have difficulty processing intricate patterns, so they end up looking morphed on video.
  6. Clean your work area. Most filmmakers will want to get footage of you in your natural work environment (whether that’s doing a presentation, a sales pitch, or research). Make sure those areas are presentable.
  7. Bring a water bottle. Your mouth will dry out quickly!
  8. “Speak in complete sentences, and don’t rush.  Collect your thoughts and talk [at] a normal pace.  Most likely if you think you are talking slowly, it’s probably just right.”

Keep these pointers in mind when you’re preparing for your testimonial.

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August 30, 2013 - 7 comments

Video editing: the Williamson project

We had an amazing time in Haiti recently filming a piece for World Wide Village (WWV). We’d love to give you a glimpse at what goes into making something like this.

With a short documentary-style piece like this, you’re relying on interviews, b-roll material, and secondhand accounts. That means there’s no script. No script forces flexibility.

We had the honor of meeting with Pastor Joassaint, a Haitian pastor who has greatly impacted his community in Williamson with the help of WWV (who built him a house, partnered with him in the school, and from there how he's influenced the town).

From Minneapolis, developing the plot outline was relatively easy and straightforward. What Pastor Joassaint has done is powerful, and we were eager to show the house that WWV built for him and how he has partnered with them to create such an impact.

However, in Haiti, things weren’t as cookie-cutter as the plot outline (which is always the case). So, we had to adapt. We couldn’t get enough b-roll of him interacting with the community and portraying visually how he personally has influenced his community in Williamson.

Screen Shot 2013-11-30 at 5.14.41 PM

We got some good footage, but were unsure if our original plot outline would be effective with the material we were able to collect.

Video editing is a huge part of the process in production. In non-scripted pieces, the story is usually molded in editing.

We compiled a folder of all the clips. After meshing the video and audio, roughly editing the English translator out of the clips, we re-watched the footage to get a better grasp on what material we had. We made a Word document and wrote down a summary of what was said in each clip.

We went through and read each summary to understand the content we had access to, strategizing how to structure the story. We organized each story element into sections and created a new story arc with the material we had.

It turned out much different than our original plan, but that’s the case with many projects, and it can always be reworked into something good, even if it’s not exactly how we had previously planned it.

The end result, after long hours in our editing suite, was a piece on the community, and Pastor Joassaint being a part in the growth and development with the aid of WWV.

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August 29, 2013 - 2 comments

The Power of Story

The marketing world is consumed with 30-second sound bytes, TV time slots, and bulk mail. A world consumed with key demographics, marketing strategies, and months spent tailoring a single ad.

And now, to make matters worse, your key demographics’ radio, TV, and mail are now carried with them wherever they go. And outdated companies think they don’t have to adapt.

The average American sees approximately 5,000 ads every day.

Sensory overload much?

The majority of these ads are void of meaning and value. It’s difficult to make a personal connection in a short sound byte. Simply explaining what your business provides, regardless of how needed your services, will be largely ineffective as we are all becoming deaf from the growing noise that is advertising.

People crave personal connection. If you give them a face they can relate to, a story they can empathize with, they are far more likely to buy your product.

Psychology today says,

“Stories are how we think. They are how we make meaning of life. [They] are how we explain how things work, how we make decisions, how we justify our decisions, how we persuade others, how we understand our place in the world, create our identities, and define and teach social values.”

So what would happen if your business became the protagonist in a story? Oh look at that! Your audience might become emotionally invested in your product.

August 28, 2013 - 455 comments

Video Marketing Part 1

Can you market your brand, company, or product in 30 seconds? How about 15? Or 6? Is video length a big deal?

With Vine hitting 40 million users late August, it’s difficult to make a case against the relevance of ultra succinct videos. But why are they so popular? Does video length play a role in potency?

The numbers suggest that it does. The video-viewing experience is drastically different than the traditional longer-form. The time cap on Instagram video and Vine forces its users to be ingenuitive.

Orson Welles said, “The enemy of art is the absence of limitations.”

Bored teenagers aren’t the only ones using these apps. Many businesses recognized the evolution and adapted quickly.

Target came up with a creative marketing idea using stop motion.

Some businesses engage their audience in a conversation.

Instagram video gives a little more leeway with a 15-second time cap. Forever 21 launched a new social platform where people can have an interactive fashion experience, and are invited to share photos/videos of their outfits. This video helped introduce the campaign.

Many users are on the go, watching a couple videos while in line at Starbucks for their morning latte. They want short. Many phones with slower connections have difficulty loading a 30-second clip. A Vine or Instagram video is much easier for slow Internet and short attention spans.

These social media platforms are simply tools to support a broader marketing campaign. Marketing should always evolve with new media and their target audience.


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January 29, 2013 - 158 comments

The Importance of Storytelling

Arguing against the importance of storytelling is challenging, as stories have been an effective mode of communication for thousands of years. But what makes it effective? Why is storytelling more compelling than just listening to the facts? What makes us as humans gravitate towards stories?

One of the most intriguing aspects of storytelling is that it builds empathy. As a result of telling a story, empathy is built up within the audience for the protagonist of the story. This is incredibly effective if the protagonist is a business, or a product, as that empathy will create an emotional attachment to the company or product. Here are a couple examples of effective business storytelling:

The Dawn Wall by Facebook
Child of the 90s by Internet Explorer

A study done by scientists at Princeton, led by Uri Hasson, revealed that as a story is told the storyteller and the listeners brain activities emulate the storytellers brain activity. As a result, a good story leaves the audience feeling what the storyteller felt. By telling a story, thoughts, ideas and emotions could be planted into the listener's brains. Another fascinating aspect, is that the areas of our brain activate as if we're doing the activity the storyteller is mentioning. It's as if we are the subject in the story.

Granted, all of these implications are worthless if it's a bad story. So what should we avoid when we're telling a story?

We need to avoid complexity in our stories. A clear story has a protagonist which is relatable, attempting to accomplish an objective. We don't need parallel stories or universes, multiple objectives, or several characters. Even the seemingly most complex stories, are truly simple. One character, attempting to overcome obstacles to accomplish the objective. Additionally, we need to be careful in how we word the story. Many scientists maintain is that some words lose power, suggesting that one has to be careful how one sculpts a story and the words chosen to tell it.

"Some scientists have contended that figures of speech like "a rough day" are so familiar that they are treated simply as words and no more."

What are your thoughts? Have you ever had a time in which you had empathy for a company or person solely from a story they shared? How can you use this in your life?