Posts Tagged 'brand storytelling'

Match Wits With Sherlock Holmes In This Unique Immersive Story Experience

This Saturday you can be part of a very cool narrative experience at Lincoln Center. You will be asked to solve a crime worthy of Sherlock Holmes. This is a “Sneak Preview” of a larger experience that will be staged later this year at a major film festival.

Details:
Saturday, May 2nd
12pm, 1pm or 2pm
The Frieda and Roy Furman Gallery
Lincoln Center
165 West 65th Street (between Broadway & Amsterdam)

RSVP NOW – space is limited

Come step into a FREE collaborative storytelling experience that reimagines the world of Sherlock Holmes. This coming Saturday, May 4th during the Columbia University Film Festival, we’ll stage 3 games starting at 12pm, 1pm and 2pm. Space is limited so make sure to RSVP.

Become Sherlock Holmes and help create and solve an evolving mystery in a fun and playful setting that mixes story, gaming and design. Lincoln Center is your crime scene and you’ll have 60 minutes to create and solve a mystery.

Sherlock Holmes and the Internet of Things is an ongoing project from the Columbia Digital Storytelling Lab in partnership with the NYFF and the Brown Institute for Media Innovation.

For more info on this storytelling prototype from the Columbia Digital Storytelling Lab visit http://sherlock.digitalstorytellinglab.com

About the project
Join storytellers, game developers, makers, creative technologists, and experience designers. An experiment in co-authorship – Sherlock Holmes and the Internet of Things invites participants to step into a collaborative design space. Over the course of monthly meetups, participants lay the groundwork for a re-imaging of Sherlock Holmes told through a series of connected objects. The year-long experiment culminates with a special presentation at Lincoln Center during the NYFF in 2015.

 Sherlock

Is The World Ready for TRUTH in Advertising? How About Next Week? How About $5,000?

It’s January.  Time to for you to enter the Clios, the One Show and the newest advertising competition of all… The Truth in Advertising Contest!

Sure, those statues and plaques from the other award shows are fun.  The awards dinners are fun.  But do you win $5,000?  Only The Truth in Advertising Contest gives the winner $5,000.  http://truthinadvertisingcontest.tumblr.com

And remember, there’s only one place where you can find TRUTH in advertising.  And that’s in the novel by John Kenney.

You can order it today, but you’ll have to wait until next week for the Truth In Advertising.  That’s when it goes on sale.

TruthInAdvertising

Learn more at:  simonandschuster.com/truthinadvertising/

Corporate Narrative Arcs – or – What’s Past is Prologue to the Future*

Every company has a powerful tool to build a strong internal culture.

It is the narrative arc of the company.

The narrative arc is a collection of individual story lines that weave together the larger story of the company.  It starts with the inspiration driving the founder(s)  to form the company, driving them to the early successes, and from the inevitable failures (generously called teachable moments) to the successes which reaffirm the company employees’ sense of common purpose.  It answers either implicitly or explicitly the questions of employees and customers alike:

  • Why was this company founded?
  • What is the common purpose that we all share?
  • What are the famous past accomplishments in which we take pride?
  • What are the dark moments in the corporate history, the turning points which demonstrate the resilience and resourcefulness of the company’s people?

All of these questions are answered through telling the corporate story.  In essence, the narrative arc conveys a sense of destiny, inevitability, a unified purpose and direction behind the company’s trajectory.  Done right it points to the direction the company will take in the future.

*Or, to slightly paraphrase the lines from the Tempest by Shakespeare (our favorite creative director) what is past is prologue for the future of the company.

You can visualize it like this (thanks to Mike Prentice who is now at the U of Mich):

Corporate_NarrativeArc

All too often companies overlook the power of their past to shape perceptions of the future.  Sometimes they deliberately leave out portions of the story that make them feel uncomfortable.  Other times the stories have been forgotten from disuse, hidden away in archives and the fading memories of former employees, leaving behind a form of corporate amnesia.  Or the stories have gotten stale from they way there are told.

When you understand the cumulative power of these individual story lines, you will understand why some companies continue to mine the stories of their past and retell them today.  It isn’t limited to small companies like Patagonia.  They are big companies like Coca Cola, McDonald’s, IBM, GE and Lockheed Martin.

Example on Effective Use of Corporate Narrative Arc:  Lockheed Martin

100Years

This year (2012-2013) Lockheed Martin is celebrating a major milestone, its Centennial.  To double down, this company is actually celebrating two centennials-in-one: it is the centennial of both companies that eventually combined to form Lockheed Martin.    [Full disclosure, my team at Verse Group worked together with Lockheed Martin on this program.]

From the 100th Anniversary website:

To mark our 100th anniversary, we’re looking back at the innovations and achievements that helped our customers rise to some of the world’s most vital challenges. And we’ll look forward to emerging global challenges and the technology that will change our world for the next 100 years. [From  website].

100 years ago the Glenn L. Martin Company was founded by…Glenn L. Martin.  That very same year the Alco Hydro-Aeroplane Company  was founded by the brothers Allan and Malcolm Lockheed.

All of three of these men were pioneers with the vision, determination and smarts to make breakthroughs upon breakthroughs which transformed aeroplanes from novelty rides into a robust form of commercial and military travel.

There is real drama in their stories, and the stories of the men and women who worked with them, those who flew their machines and those who benefited from the advances and achievements they inspired.  From their bold visions and humble beginnings in a barn and church came the great innovations which helped land Neil Armstrong on the moon and are now giving us sight into the past through the Hubble telescope — to name just a few of achievements that their successors made possible.

LockheedMartin

Through-out this centennial year the company is sharing 100 story lines that weave together into the larger corporate narrative arc.  100 Stories.  100 Years of Accelerating Tomorrow.

Just as important are the stories shared by individuals with their own very personal experiences of Lockheed Martin.  There is real power in the reminiscences, imaginings and memories of these people.  The company is tapping into this power by inviting the public to share their own personal stories online.  These individual and the company storylines weave together, co-creating the larger narrative arc.

ShareYourStory

Sharing stories is what brings a brand closer to its audience.

Add them all up and these shared stories form the larger narrative arc of the company.

And that is a powerful tool for building a strong internal culture based on a common understanding of their shared sense of purpose from where they came and where they want to go next.

Happy Birthday 2 U-2

Not many companies have the staying power, the strong internal culture, to make it to the century mark.  Lockheed Martin is one of the few who do, who continue to be relevant to us today.  At Verse Group we are very proud to be helping Lockheed Martin tell their story of accelerating tomorrow.

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So this is also the year of big milestones for Oreos, Zurich Insurance, Citibank and Chevy.  What is most important about any branding program is making it relevant to us, the people who are going to be seeing the ads, going to the facebook pages and buying the products.  Okay, maybe we aren’t all in the market for an F-35.  But certainly Oreos!

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Oreos make their centennial relevant.

Citi and Zurich have missed the mark, they are rather more self-congratulatory than relevant.

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Cognitive Dissonance

In fact, Citibank’s advertising even features a shot of the Space Shuttle lifting off.   That really is something NASA accomplished with Lockheed Martin and a number of other vital corporations.  And you’ll see that Lockheed Martin’s centennial tells the story of our past century and how they’ve helped to accelerate the pace of innovation.  (note: updated with fixed links!)

 

 

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What’s Past Is Prologue – or – Ad Copy By Shakespeare

This just in from  forbes.com as retold by Michael Margolis

Storytelling is a hot business trend for a reason. In the face of growing cynicism and distrust, stores are how people decide if they belong in your tribe…. The brand story is what allows your message to travel.

Every brand has a founding myth, an epic narrative that explains how it came to be in this world. It’s important because it explains why you do what you do. If you’re clear about the end product you’re trying to create, you can use the past to help tell the story of your future.

Does every brand really have a founding myth?  No, but they should.  It’s like a back-story for an attraction at Disney World.  You may not know it but you can certainly sense it.
As the Bard once said, “what’s past is prologue”

Brand That Place – or – George Washington Slept Here

In today’s NY Post there is a swell piece about Brooklyn as a brand.  And, yes, that is me being quoted.

My first experience of branding a place was spending some of my cavity prone years in Morristown, NJ.  Everywhere you look there is a plaque about George Washington.  George Washington Slept Here (A Lot) is pretty much the town’s unofficial slogan.

Best of all in Morristown is Fort Nonsense.  Basically it is just a hill. The story is that George Washington had his men build fortifications, dig trenches and put up a guard house on the hill for the sole purpose of  keeping the soldiers busy during the winter months.  It was never used and soon reverted back to its natural state as a hill.   All that remains are plaques on the hill, telling its unique narrative.

Fort Nonsense is such a wonderful name and a wonderful example of how branding a place can create a legend.  The story carries so much value that today a plain hill is a historical landmark and a national park!

Improving Marketing Through Improv

I just got home about an hour ago from a very exhilarating evening with the improv group Chicago City Limits and the NYAMA.  We had a very special workshop on creativity in marketing.

For me, personally, it was one of the most enjoyable events I’ve been to this year.   I must confess my strong bias.  I’m a person who has always found improv classes to be the most enjoyable theater experiences.  They are easily as enriching and mind stretching as anything I did at Columbia’s School of the Arts.

If you work in marketing or any creative field, you owe it to yourself to study improv.  Agency side, client side, consulting, academics — we can all benefit from this as long as we keep an open mind and open attitude.

Chicago City Limits is NYC’s longest running improv theater.  It was transplanted here about 20 years ago when Paul Zuckerman, the creative director, moved to the city.  And by great good chance, Paul is also a member of the NYAMA.

Next up:  Monday is a networking event at the NYAMA.  And next Wednesday, May 25th, is breakfast with Jack Trout as part of the NYAMA’s “Meet The Author” series.

Who is Jack Trout and what’s he done for marketing lately?

Jack Trout has written a new book, that’s what he’s done!  Come and meet Jack in person and find out more next Wednesday, May 25th at the NYAMA’s “Meet The Author” breakfast series.

It starts at the ungodly hour of 8 am with a jolt of caffeine followed by a conversation with Jack Trout.  It will be held at the New York American Marketing Association offices on 116 East 27th Street, 6th floor, 1-212-687-3280.  You can sign up at nyama.org

Jack Trout is the co-author of Positioning.  And of Re-positioning.  And of many other well-know books on marketing.  If you’ve never heard him speaking about branding, you really should come.

So here’s one of my favorite Jack Trout stories.

In 2004 the CMO of McDonald’s, Larry Light, revealed the new branding strategy behind McDonald’s incredible turn-around story.  How incredible was the turn-around?  In less than a year his approach lifted the company to higher sales, revenues, margins and growth of a brand that many people had written off as just for young families.

Here’s Larry Light in a NYC speech to the heads of ad agencies and clients:

Beware of the so-called “positionistas.” They say that a brand can only stand for one thing in the mind of the market. This may make some sense for small brands. But for big bands – like McDonald’s – it’s nonsense.

Identifying one brand position, communicating it in a repetitive manner is old-fashioned, out-of-date, out-of-touch brand communication. Simplifying a brand to a single position is not simplification, it is simplistic. Simplistic marketing is marketing suicide.

Then Light introduced an entirely new approach to marketing, to advertising, to branding.  It is an approach to marketing with narrative and storytelling at the heart of it.  Here’s how Larry described it:

A brand is a multi-dimensional, multi-faceted, complex message, not a single-dimensional, single-positioned, simplistic message. Customers will not accept monotonous, repetition of the same simplistic message. They want a dynamic, creative chronicle.

And, big brands like McDonald’s are not uni-dimensional. We are a multi-dimensional, multi-faceted, multi-segmented, many-sided brand.  So, we changed from mass marketing a single message to multifaceted, multi-segmented, many-sided marketing.

We think of our new marketing approach as “Brand Journalism.”

In Ad Age Jack Trout responded.  Go back to the August 2004 and you’ll see the headline reads:

McD’s abandoning of positioning is “Lunacy”

Perhaps it was lunacy but it set the company on a path that has put it into the stratosphere.  McDonald’s was 1 of 2 DJIA companies in 2008 to end the year with their stock price higher!  Gold Effies in the US.  Global Gold Effie.  Record breaking sales.  That’s the kind of lunacy that I like!

Agree or disagree with Jack Trout….the point is you need to pay attention to him.  It is absolutely, entirely and certainly worth going and seeing him first hand next Wednesday, May 25, at the NYAMA.  nyama.org

Marketing The Musical – or – Opening Night for People In The Picture

The time: 6:30 pm, April 28, 2011

The place: Studio 54

The event: Opening night of “The People In The Picture”

Donna Murphy is spectacular.  It is as if the whole musical were written just for her, for her talents, for her singing, for her timing.  You really must see her to understand how wonderful she is.  The marketing of the show plays to her star power.

Marquee

On Friday morning the reviews are in and so are the Drama Desk Award Nominations.  “The People In The Picture” picks up 3 of the nominations.  Tony nominations are tomorrow, May 3rd.  It is widely expected that Donna Murphy will be nominated for a Tony.

These will all be helpful in marketing of the show.  It seems that awards, particularly the Tony, are playing a larger role in the success of a show than in the past.  They give permission for people to go ahead and buy a ticket for a new and unknown show.

That is the biggest challenge for an original musical, based on an original story.  A fan base needs to be created.

In the past it was the newspaper reviews that mattered.  Not that they don’t today — but they don’t matter the way they did.  With the rise of social media, the influence is shifting away from critics and to the personal opinions of friends and family who saw the show and posted about it on Facebook.  Who are you going to believe more some guy from the New York Times who panned “Wicked” (which you loved!) or your sister whose post on Facebook says she loved this show, it made her cry and thinks everyone in the family must see it?

Now, on to the reviews.  Or rather, to the review that matters most to those to whom reviews matter — Ben Brantley in the New York Times.  Brantley’s review is full of raves for Donna Murphy.  From the opening of his review to the final lines, he sings her praises because “it does make you marvel anew at her protean gifts.”  However, he is decidedly divided and ambivalent about the show overall.

And that brings us to the story behind the story in the Times!

The book and lyrics of “The People In The Picture” were written by the enormously talented Iris Rainer Dart.  Iris Dart started out as a trail-blazing top-notch female writer of tv comedy shows back in the 1970s — Tina Fey before there even was an SNL.   Most people will know Iris Dart more for her bestselling novel and the smash movie, “Beaches.”

This is the salient fact when deciphering Ben Brantley’s review in The New York Times.   Brantley has a long history of expressing his personal dislike for the movie Beaches.   One has to question the editorial judgement of the New York Times for sending Brantley to review “The People In the Picture.”

About “People in the Picture” Brantley writes:

Such eventful, tear-stained, multigenerational plots are less common to musicals than they are to fat novels displayed in airport bookstores as temptations to women with purses full of Kleenex and long flights ahead. And it is no coincidence that Ms. Dart is best known for just such a novel, “Beaches,” which became a four-hankie hen flick starring  Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey. 

In his review of “Wicked” on October 31, 2003, Brantley writes:

That’s one side, anyway, of the lopsided equation that is ”Wicked.” The other side involves the ambivalent, ever-shifting relationship between Elphaba and Glinda, in which the adversarial women learn from each other and which recalls sobfests about female friendships like the movie ”Beaches.” (You keep expecting Glinda to start singing, ”Did you ever know you were my hero, Elphaba?”)

His final judgement of Wicked?  “‘Wicked” does not, alas, speak hopefully for the future of the Broadway musical.”  From a commercial perspective, time has proven Ben Brantley’s judgement to be wrong on that one.

More about the marketing of the musical in future posts.


Marketing The Broadway Musical – or – The People In The Picture on Broadway

How do you market a musical?  How do you tell the story of a life changing narrative?

Here is a case-study-in-progress, the new musical The People In The Picture.  I say in-progress because the musical is opening on Thursday, April 28.

The People In The Picture

Marketing a completely new musical on Broadway is an ambitious undertaking.  Most musicals are revivals or based on an already established movie or novel.  Hairspray?  It was a John Waters movie before the musical (and in full circle became a movie again).  Wicked?  It was a big best selling book based on well-known characters immortalized in a movie (c.f. Oz, Wizard of).  American Idiot?  Green Days’ version of Beatlemania or Mamma Mia.  The Addams Family?  The cartoons, the tv show, the movies, but of course always the incomparable cartoons.

The reason so many shows are revivals or brand-extensions is that they remove some of the risk involved.  A general rule of thumb on Broadway is that only 30% of shows actually make back their original investment.  Some shows you know will never, ever, make back their investment (we will NOT mention the musical  based on a famous comic book character with songs by Bono).

Here are the 3 marketing challenges:

1. Build an audience for an unknown show.  Also known as Audience Development.

2. Reduce the risk that the average audience member feels when buying a ticket.  For most people Broadway is a big treat, more expensive than a movie.

3. Reduce the risk of the producers who need to maximize their limited marketing budgets.

An easy entry point is the name, The People In The Picture.  The name immediately conjures up an instinctual, universal behavior.  Everyone can identify with it.  Show me a person who hasn’t shown a picture of a family member, a child, a friend, as part of a story and I’ll show you a person who is lonely and sad.  Maybe we don’t show physical prints as much anymore, but certainly on our iPhones and Blackberrys we have pictures of our last vacation or our kids playing soccer.

The name goes deeper.  Pictures allow us to travel in time, emotionally if not physically.  Like the pictures in the Harry Potter movies, in our mind’s eye we can see the people come alive.  In this musical the people step out of the picture and the past comes alive, with the exuberance and tuml of life lived to the fullest. [Tuml being the Yiddish for noise, or tumult].

The musical’s creator, writer and lyricist, Iris Rainer Dart tells the story of this picture, the true history of the picture, that inspired this moving musical.  Then it was posted on Roundabout’s website as well as YouTube:

Roundabout is a subscription theater, so there is already a built-in audience.  It is important to have this base to work from, a cost-effective way of getting people into the theater to experience the show themselves.

Another factor is that this musical has real star power going for it.  This is where PR does best.  It’s the buzz factor.  Can this generate gossip?

So you’ll see many interviews with the team, from the amazing actress Donna Murphy or byline pieces by her.  To Iris Rainer Dart, who has been a TV comedy writer, novelist and screenwriter with major hits such as Beaches.  To the composers Mike Stoller — yes, that Mike Stoller of Hound Dog fame — and Artie Butler: two more talented composers working on Broadway you’ll not likely find today.

You’ll hear word of mouth, such as the Penn Club event on April 4th when Todd Haimes, artistic director of the Roundabout couldn’t contain his enthusiasm for the musical, while sitting on a panel on Life In The Theater to a crowd of Penn alumni and friends.  He shared the importance of Roundabout keeping theater healthy and robust by producing musicals with the power and beauty of The People In The Picture.

And you’ll hear Roundabout’s announcement on Morning Edition when you are still half asleep and already late for work.

More about this case-study-in-progress as it unfolds.  Perhaps we can get Iris Dart to share some of her observations about the marketing of a musical.


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