In episode #27 of the Social Currency podcast, we tackle one of our favorite topics - storytelling. Like many of us, we' ve always been drawn to people who were good storytellers. The core of content marketing, which supports a brand's connection with the consumer, is a compelling brand narrative.

From Jess after the interview:

Like a moth to a flame, I’d find myself at parties wedged into a tight kitchen with a group of others hovering around the one guy who could tell a story. It could be about anything. What mattered is the way he told the story. It seemed like magic to me. Like a magnetism that some people just had innately.

Over the years, I’ve come to learn that good storytelling isn’t just magic. There is actual structure around a good story. In fact, that story structure is repeated again and again across many of our favorite books and movies. I may be the last one to this party, but realizing that stories could be crafted using a framework and, better yet, applying this framework into the world of marketing was a big breakthrough moment.

In this episode, we interview Naomi Beaty. A long-time friend of mine and writing expert. Naomi founded Write & Co. where she coaches screenplay writers, directors and producers at all levels. She got her start working for Madonna’s production company, Maverick films, and has worked in the entertainment industry now for over a decade.

Naomi teaches me about the hero’s journey, a commonly used architecture where we are introduced to character as he/she battles a problem or faces a journey ahead. We discuss how a brand or product can often act as the mentor or savior for this hero, ultimately leading him/her to success or resolution.

I also learned about the idea of high concept. Often used in entertainment to pitch a script or film idea, it can be applied in the business world as well. Essentially, high concept is an idea that is very easy to understand from the mere name of it. Easy to grasp, repeatable by others and instantly relatable. It got me thinking about how I could package my own ideas in this way too.

Another facet of my interview with Naomi gets at the very root of why stories resonate so much more with us than statistics or facts. It is this: Stories elicit emotion. Often we make decisions first based on emotion (often this is subconscious), then we look to validate those decisions with data or evidence. This is sometimes referred to as confirmation bias.

How can we apply this to digital marketing? I think it’s this simple: First make your audience care about you, then tell them the benefits and features. If they don’t identify with you or your product/service, they ultimately won’t buy. Brand value in a nutshell.


Here's our three takeaways:

  1. The hero's journey is a commonly used architecture of writing stories in the entertainment industry. It can also be utilized in marketing where the brand or product is the "mentor" who helps the "hero" or customer find his/her way to success and happiness.

  2. The idea of high concept is pitching a story that is very easy to understand and one you instantly get. An example would be the old Tom Hanks movie, Big. A movie about a kid who wishes to be big and wakes up in a grown man's body. This can be used in the internal selling of an idea. Simple, repeatable and easy to grasp.

  3. Stories matter because they elicit emotion. We make decisions first on emotion and then seek out the data to justify those decisions. Utilize this when marketing a product. Before anything else, make them care about you.


Mentioned in the show: