Most of the successful marketing campaigns that stand out in my memory all revolve around characters. Some of them are simply charismatic spokespeople, like Geico's gecko, Nationwide's "Greatest Spokesperson in the World, or, I suppose, Burger King's creepy king. Others keenly represent the intended customer—think way back to Wendy's "where's the beef?" lady, or more recently to Apple's mac and PC guys. In all of these cases, it was decided that a more compelling message could be created by using characters to tell a story, rather than putting the product itself front and center.
Relating to characters and their stories is essential in order for people to make an initial connection with brands. Sure, some brands eventually transcend the need for connection and become themselves defining characteristics of people. In fact, Apple's "I'm a mac/pc" was somewhat self-referential in that way. But in the beginning, people need to connect with a story in order to believe that a product or service matters to them.
Of course, this isn't news. This has been established marketing thinking for a very long time. But somehow, the concept of storytelling doesn't seem to have worked its way down from the worldwide mega-brands to the next tier of businesses in which you and I work. But why shouldn't it? After all, we're endeavoring to speak to the very same people they are!
This month I'd like to explore storytelling, dispel the myth that we can't tell stories on the web, and identify some ways we can hone our craft as web-based storytellers.