You CAN be a Storyteller (Despite What Some Say)

A video of design icon, Stefan Sagmeister (Fulbright Scholar, editor of Colors magazine by Benetton, TED talker and celebrated artist) has been making the digital rounds lately. In it, he clearly expresses his disdain for individuals who call themselves storytellers, citing that the only real people who can claim the title are usually those who don’t (namely, filmmakers and novel writers). His dismissal has been collecting triumphant fist pumps and sneers from digital natives, and, to a certain extent, we’re on the same boat. Yes, storytelling has become one of the gut-churning buzzwords that has unfortunately crept its ways into too many PowerPoint slides and the lips of both seasoned pros and self-anointed experts everywhere. It’s overused, oversimplified and in many cases, a half-hearted attempt to prove a more humanistic approach. And no, branded content is most definitely not always the same thing.

We know that authentic, unique, strange, sometimes sticky and always honest storytelling is a place where we as marketers should strive to be. Of course, not every brand can be a Dove, Red Bull or even a Lego, but shouldn’t we work a little harder to get closer to those ideals?

Storytelling has been a universal theme for eons, in our industry and in society, and citing the only real storytellers as filmmakers and novelists is narrow-minded and short-sighted. At its most basic, storytelling engages audience’s brains more consistently than pure fact-driven data.  At its best, storytelling has the power to make the hair on the back of your neck stand up… and it’s our opportunity as drivers of communication, ideas, products and design to push the boundaries using every capability and technique we can gather.

Which side do you fall into? Is storytelling solely the province of those who practice it in film and the printed page? Or can it be done in the context of serving a brand and its audience? Sound off in the comments!

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