The story of when the cheese met the onion. It seems an odd starting point, but White Light Media’s Fraser Allen begins with the humble crisp when looking at the psychology behind storytelling and why it affects us.
This simple packet of crisps shows how far the power of storytelling has gone in marketing. But why is it valuable? It boils down to logic vs. emotion. Over 90% of decisions are made emotionally; that’s why storytelling is so effective when it emotionally engages someone. People will always remember how you made them feel.
There’s a physical effect. Fraser says he can tell his daughter not to tell lies and within two minutes she may have forgotten; tell her the story of the boy who cried wolf, she draws the conclusion herself and will remember it.
So what are the eight secrets of powerful storytelling?
1. Learn from real storytellers. You are a storyteller just by being human, and through choosing to work in publishing, we’re even more drawn to stories.
2. Be authentic. It’s vital. You can say what you think people want to hear, but if it isn’t true to your brand and what you’re doing, then they’ll see it a mile off.
3. Be interesting. If you don’t believe in your story then no one else is going to.
4. Structure is your friend. The famous adage, thanks to Christopher Booker, is that there are only seven plots in the world. Knowing what one you want and will best represent your brand means you have a guideline there to follow.
5. Visual storytelling. Fraser proves his point by having a picture of a family in a field on the screen. There’s sun, it feels happy, you start to craft your own story for them in your head. Show an image and the story creates itself. Know that and use it.
6. Edit your story like a weasel feasting on a chicken bone. Says it all, doesn’t it?
7. Listen to the audience. They are who you need to succeed, so their opinions matter.
8. Don’t let tech swallow your story. Online is key to a lot of things but don’t make the story secondary to just getting it out there via technology. Make sure it’s right and fitting.
Speaking of stories – what’s his? When he was younger, he read Shiver and Shake and became fascinated with magazines. As a 14 year old, he made the Alternative Voice, a magazine with Che Guevara on the masthead on schoolboy politics and strange humour. He’d get the librarian to print 100 copies for free and then sell them.
When it came to White Light Media, the name came from the Velvet Underground. It felt very edgy. Their first clients were funeral directors and a branch of the NHS. Not quite so rock ‘n’ roll. There comes a point, then, where you hit the wall of despair. It happens to everyone, and when they faced it he received invaluable advice.
“You go on about how you love magazines, but you’ve never launched one of your own.” It was a Road to Damascus moment. They could launch something exciting and take themselves out of the risky markets, and so Hot Rum Cow was born. There’s a heavy use of illustration, and it’s different. There were little ripples of interest, and then one day the Museum of Modern Art in New York asked if they could stock it. To them, it was huge.
Then comes World Whisky Day. Blair Bowman bought domains, picked a date, garnered online attention and created a massive young following of adventurous whisky drinkers across the world. But he hit a point where it was too big for him, and they bought it from him but still have him on the team. With 170 official events in six continents – even two on Antarctica! – and over 10,000 attendees, it’s a massive international project that they’re able to have associated with their brand.
This is just the road so far for Fraser Allen and White Light Media. That is their story, now follow his lead and go tell your own.
For all updates and recaps from #SYP2020, click here.