Home»Story»Or is “story” dead already?

Storytelling has been all the rage across the internet. Is it over?

Elsewhere here I’ve described (briefly) how story is all the rage, particularly in marketing. It’s certainly a concept that I can relate to as a writer: making an emotional connection with your audience as they envision the story (and thus are carried away in it).

But perhaps the story movement – at least among marketers – is on its way out. In an article in Advertising Age, headlined “The Beginning of the End of Storytelling,” David Berkowitz wrote:

Once upon a time, an industry became obsessed with storytelling. Everywhere these industry people went, they said storytelling was the most important thing they all had to do. Then a mean dragon of a columnist said storytelling was evil, and the industry people slew him so they could go back to enjoying their jobs. The end.

Or consider a different version of this story.

Once upon a time, an industry became obsessed with storytelling. But it gradually came around to the idea that no one listening to those stories could remember anything about them, so the industry people found a more meaningful way to connect with their audiences. And they all lived happily ever after. The end.

. . . In this unofficial edition of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series, which path do you want to take? That path can have profound consequences for all of our jobs.

Berkowitz says that storytelling “is the epitome of the old one-way, broadcast mindset.” He wants brands to establish a “relationship” with the customer, one where the customer doesn’t know just “a” story, but the brand’s story.

He calls this new form storymaking, where “the brand facilitates and taps into the stories people are creating and sharing with(King Kelly, 1888, from the Benjamin K. Edwards Collection at the Library of Congress) each other.”

Berkowitz cites Coca-Cola’s campaign that places names and relationships on its bottles and cans. Consumers are giving the empties – of all things! – to friends and acquaintances who share the name or match the relationship. Berkowitz salutes this moment where the brand becomes “the catalyst for the stories (consumers) are making about themselves.”

I’ll be interested to see if “storymaking” takes off, though I’m not sure that Berkowitz hasn’t simply given a new twist on something that’s been around for a while, whether it’s been collecting vodka advertisements or buying a brand of cigarettes for their trading cards. The trick seems to be in getting the consumer to pass the item with your logo on it to someone else.

Nonetheless, Berkowitz is right about storytelling being old. But it’s so old and ingrained in human nature – and in the structures of the human brain, scientists are revealing – that for those us outside the marketing community, it’s never going to end.

 

(King Kelly, 1888, from the Benjamin K. Edwards Collection at the Library of Congress)

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