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Weekly 3: Storytelling

Summary: Choose the right frame and lenses. Tell a story like Pixar. Start with why. (~5 min read) Id

Idea Journal Weekly 3

July 1 · Issue #41 · View online
We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.

Summary: Choose the right frame and lenses. Tell a story like Pixar. Start with why. (~5 min read)
Idea #2 is from a previous issue, and we’ve included it here because we think it’s a good fit with the core theme: storytelling.

#1. To get in view of your customer's biases, choose the right frame.
In his book All Marketers Tell Stories, marketing guru Seth Godin writes that a person’s worldview is the set of assumptions, biases, and values that they use to determine whether they’re going to believe a particular story.
For example, when a furniture store runs a going out of business sale with banners on every street corner, they’re not talking about the furniture. They are “framing the story for people who need an excuse to get their cheap spouse to finally get up and go with them to shop for furniture.”
And while this frame works on some people, it’s unlikely to be effective with those who are willing to drive 200 miles to an antique fair, or others who take pride in building their own furniture.
As Godin points out, many marketers fail because they try to use facts to prove their case about their product or service, without sufficiently acknowledging the biases of their potential customers.
For Godin, frames are the words, images, and interactions that reinforce a bias someone already has – having a frame is the first step in telling a persuasive story.
If your message is presented in a way that conflicts with your customer’s worldview, “you’re invisible” – more money and time won’t help.
Note: We wrote about another one of Seth Godin’s ideas, 5 steps to a successful marketing campaign, in a previous issue.
#2. Use Pixar’s storytelling framework to make your pitches more compelling.
Emma Coats, a former story artist at Pixar, writes that each of the animation studio’s films – from Toy Story to WALL-E – follows the below storytelling framework: 
Once upon a time ___________________. Every day, ___________________. One day ___________________. Because of that, ___________________. Until finally, ___________________.
You can use this simple framework to better organize the narrative arc of your next pitch, to make it more engaging and memorable.
Here’s the framework applied to the animated film Finding Nemo
Once upon a time there was a widowed fish named Marlin, who was very protective of his only son, Nemo. Every day, Marlin warned Nemo of the ocean’s dangers and implored him not to swim too far away. One day, in an act of defiance, Nemo ignores his father’s warnings and swims into the open water. Because of that, he is captured by a diver and ends up as a pet in the fish tank of a dentist in Sydney. Because of that, Marlin sets off on a journey to recover Nemo, enlisting the help of other sea creatures along the way. Until finally, Marlin and Nemo are reunited and learn that love depends on trust.
#3. Follow the "Golden Circle" to inspire others.
Simon Sinek's Golden Circle
Simon Sinek's Golden Circle
Author and consultant Simon Sinek writes in his book Start with Why that most organizations use tangible features and benefits to build a rational argument for why their company, product, or idea is better than another.
The problem with this approach is that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
Sinek argues that the most influential leaders and organizations – from Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy to Disney and Southwest Airlines – have all followed a pattern he calls the Golden Circle.
As you can see in the above diagram, the Golden Circle has 3 parts:
  1. What: This is easy to identify. No matter the size of your organization or the industry in which it operates, you should be able to describe the product or service you offer.
  2. How: You might call this your “differentiating value proposition” or “unique selling proposition” – this describes how you do what you do.
  3. Why: Sinek notes that very few people and companies know why they do what they do. Why does your company exist? Why should anyone care?
When most people and organizations think, act, or communicate they go from the outside in, from what to why. As Sinek puts it, “they go from the clearest thing to the fuzziest thing.”
Not the inspired ones.
For Sinek, Apple is a prime example of a company that follows the Golden Circle.
Here’s how Apple’s marketing message might read without the Golden Circle:
We make great computers.
They’re beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly.
Wanna buy one?
Instead, Apple’s actual messaging starts with why:
Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently.
The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly.
And we happen to make great computers.
Wanna buy one?
Quote of the Week
“Therefore, a story must abstract from life to discover its essences, but not become an abstraction that loses all sense of life-as-lived. A story must be like life, but not so verbatim that it has no depth or meaning beyond what’s obvious to everyone on the street.”
- Author and screenwriting lecturer Robert McKee in his book Story
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