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Mittwoch, 6. Februar 2013

Die Langeweile der Perfektion. Oder warum Marken-Storytelling einen von 6 Konflikten braucht.

Ich mache das ja selten: Ein Cross-Posting.
Den Artikel habe ich für unseren Firmen-Blog auf blog.threeheadedmonkeys.com geschrieben (daher englisch).

Ich will ihn euch aber nicht vorenthalten, wie mich beinahe ein Tannenzapfen erschlagen hat und was das mit Storytelling zu tun hat. 

Aber Achtung: LONG READ

Also los:

Two years ago my girlfriend and I made on a round-trip through California.
We went from Los Angeles to Passo Robles. From Passo Robles to Montereay. We saw San Francisco, Yosemity, Death Valley and Las Vegas. It was a perfect and harmonious holiday. And we took about 500 photos like this one to remember it.

Back at home I proudly presented our holiday memories to our friends. But after ten pictures at least their interest in our holiday went to boredom. Until I showed them this picture and told the story around it.

It is a fir cone from yosemite national park. While we were wandering between the sequoia trees this thing fell from a tree sixty meters above me. It hit the ground were I had been standing just a millisecond ago. I didn't realize it. But my girlfriend and the other tourists around me were shocked. If this cone had hit me, I would probably not write this post.

This little incident brought back my friends attention in a blink of an eye. And even two years later when I mention my California trip everybody remembers the cone picture.
All the other beautiful pictures of perfect beaches and breathtaking landscapes were forgotten.

So what made this story so sticky?[nbsp]And what can we learn from it for brand-storytelling

In his book "The Storytelling Animal", Gottschall describes why humans are interested in stories like this. And he describes the trigger that makes a story relevant. The trigger that makes people listen, follow and remember a story: **Trouble**

It is a constant in human cultures: attention grabbing storytelling - from children's make-believe to folktales to movies - is about trouble. Stories about pure fullfillment are boring. Same goes for stories that simply retell our boring daily life. But Why?

From a evolutionary perspective we use stories to train our brains for the challenges of life. It helped us to survive, because with stories humans can share experiences without having to experience them by themselves: Like how to avoid a sabertooth-tiger or how to behave in the group.

But without a challenge, conflict or trouble there is simply nothing to learn. No reason to follow or to stay exited. So our Brain gives one message only: BORING.

Same goes for all my 499 holiday-pictures.
They have a pretty dull meaning: Look what a perfect holiday I had.

But the cone story - it's about trouble. Existential trouble.
If destiny hasn't been my friend that day, I could have been badly injured or even dead. Everybody listening to that story could imagine himself hurt. And the moral is pretty meaningful for everybody: Beware the cones under big trees.

**A lesson for brand-storytelling**

For me the cone story offers a lesson for brand-storytelling:
Is your brand presenting 499 perfect holiday memories or a cone-story?

It is natural to try to avoid trouble or conflict. It carries a negative connotation. It might pose a risk. Brands want to be perfect. Products want to shine. Companies and executives want be flawless.

But especially fiction writers and screen writers know it better. For Janet Burroway "Conflict is the fundamental element of fiction". Because only a conflict evokes the "what will happen next" Question in the audiences’ mind.

Conflict aversity on the other hand will make your storytelling simply boring and irrelevant. So for a building a relevant story it is important to constantly ask: Where is the trouble that makes people listen? What is the conflict driving my brand-story, my tv-spot, my campain, even the press release….?

However not every conflict needs to be life threatening. Human life is full of big and small troubles worth telling stories about: Will she love me? Will I get the job? Can I call my client this late?

But how to find a conflict that drives your story?

In her book "Story Structure Architect" Victoria Lynn Schmidt describes that stories are driven by six basic conflicts. Knowing them helps to find and shape the trouble that your brand story is about.

To illustrate each conflict, I have assembled some videos. Most of them are tv-ads because they are easy to find and share on the web. But that does not mean, that conflict does only work in TV-Ads.
And as you will see in the given examples: The best position for the brand is not just to play the conflict - but to resolve it!

1. Relational Conflict
The trouble arises from a human vs. human situation. Two characters are competing or clashing with each other over muturally exclusive goals. If one archives his goal the other will loose his goal. The conflict might be about who will rule the universe. But most relational conflicts arise from little things - Like: Do I stay with my girlfriend or with my friends at the bar. Exactly this conflict fuels the story of the Andes Teletransporter.

There is something at stake here: If men prioritize their barcrawls higher than their girlfriend they risk their relationship.

However breaking up is the most emotional relationship conflict available. A perfect driver for this IKEA Ad from Germany:

2. Situational Conflict
This is a human vs. nature/environment conflict. The conflict arises on how to handle a natural or environmental situation. And the hero hast to find a way to overcome or deal with it.
A situational conflict can be a natural desaster to handle.

It's about being kidnapped into a boring environment.

Or it is about how to behave in a certain environment - a library for example.

This case also shows that it is possible to combine trouble: In this case an escalating relationship conflict with a situational conflict.

3. Inner Conflict
Human vs. self - The hero has troubles with himself and needs to overcome a mental struggle from an internal opposition force.

It needs inner strengh to resolve an old battle.

It is an inner conflict to find your inner greatness.

It is an inner conflict: Do I approach the girl of my dream in the risk of humiliation - or not.

4. Paranormal Conflict
The trouble comes when humans stand against technology/possibilities. When you push the limits of what is possible, what are the consequences...

It is simply paranormal to have Honda that runs a million mile without breaking down:

Million Mile Joe Case Study from Mark Tripp on Vimeo.

It is even more paranormal trust technology and make a jump from the stratosphere. Remember Red Bull...

5. Cosmic Conflict
The human vs. fate/destiny/god conflict. Trouble arises between a hero an a supernatural force. Normally there is no escape from this force. So the stakes are high.
But sometimes there is a cheap alternative:

A miracle often provokes a cosmic conflict...

It is also a cosmic conflict to revolt against a seemingly inescapable fate.

6. Social Conflict
The human vs. group conflict. The hero has troubles with a group of people because the differ in values or status. They may be a religious group, an institution, a sports club..
It's the smarts vs. the pretenders

Now the smart vs. the cool

Or more seriously: the heard vs. the underheard like homeless people.[nbsp]

Or finally the people vs. the extremists. Im this case: book-burners.[nbsp]

Final thoughts
My cone story has been to me a cosmic-conflict. A meeting with destiny. A happy one.
It reminds me that a story needs a conflict that causes trouble. And what is true about telling holiday stories is also true for telling brand stories. Perfection is boring.
It is trouble that signalises the brain: Attention! This might relevant information to survive your social life.

However sometimes your audience may disagree on the conflict you have choosen to drive the story. Take the following Superbowl VW-Ad for example.

While most of the people see a situational conflict: An happy guy vs. the boring office-life. Others see a social conflict between a white middleclass and jamaican stereotypes. And Huffington Post asks "Is this Volkswagen Super-Bowl Ad Funny or rascist?"[nbsp]

It is important to have trouble - but it makes sense to ask yourself: How would the story change if the core conflict changes.

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