I went to a fascinating talk the other day by an advertising creative of the old school, Dave Trott.
He’s the man behind TV ads I remember as a child, like Hello Tosh Gotta Toshiba, Cadbury Flake and Lipsmackingthirstquenchin… Pepsi. He was launching his new book, Predatory Thinking.
What I liked about Dave was his brand.
He wasn’t what I expected of a creative advertising type. I was expecting public-school smug aloofness. Dave was down-to-earth cockney. He didn’t mind swearing occasionally, and he talked with great affection about his Dad, and his wife and kids.
But more important than the allure of his character was the way he communicated his ideas on creativity. He didn’t bother with lists and hints, truths and principles. He illustrated what he meant by telling stories.
Stories about plumbers and chip friers and off licenses in Oxford and Don Revie (an idol of mine) and sweet wrappers on the village green.
Stories about how thinking differently – predatorily – will set us apart and help us succeed.
Story is at the heart of creative communication. Dave Trott uses stories to make ads (and sell books – I bought a copy).
I use stories to make learning experiences more tangible for participants, to bring abstract ideas about management, leadership and creativity to life.
Brands across the globe use stories to communicate their values and differentiate themselves from the competition.
We can sharpen our creativity by getting into the habit of telling stories.
Stories are vital to our ability to show off our creative credentials. We tell stories at job interviews, pitches, client meetings. Stories shine a light on who we are and what we stand for.
I recently wrote Sow the seeds of creativity by keeping a journal about the creative value of writing a journal. Use your journal to practise telling your stories.
And try to include these three fundamental elements (sorry Dave) in your story.
Character: every story needs a heartbeat. Character brings that – life, the human touch, a person we can relate to (even if the person is in metaphorical form, like Bambi or Nemo or the mustard seed). We need to be able to put ourselves into the story, and we do this by imagining we are on the character’s journey with them, facing their choices, making their decisions, living with the consequences.
Conflict: there has to be a problem to overcome, otherwise the story has no purpose. Imagine getting up in the morning with nothing to do. The human condition thrives on challenge, and ways to overcome it. Tales of heroism are born out of cleverly set up obstacles the hero must conquer on her journey to resolution. Dragons, storms, deceit. There must always be a battle to fight – and win.
Cause: a story without a meaning is a house without a home. There needs to be a reason for telling the story. This is fundamental to brand-building. We need to know what your brand is saying to us. What differentiates it? What are its vision and values? What do we take away in our hearts? Why should we care? And what do we do next? A story without a cause is, as my grandma might have said, like an egg without salt. Tasteless.