In a constant quest to learn and question, Steven DuPuis attended a storytelling retreat last September with acclaimed storyteller, actor, director and Writers Guild of America board member, James Bonnet. This seven-day workshop, held in the eastern part of France in a village called Nans-sous-Sainte-Anne, was the ideal setting to capture James’ knowledge and be inspired. Steven was the only designer in a group of script writers and novelists, the perfect opportunity to test his philosophy that creativity flourishes when you pursue the unexpected – thinking which has been carefully woven into the culture of DuPuis.
“I find it imperative to cross industry boundaries in order to discover unrelated opportunities – it is a receipt for innovative thinking.”
Steven returned with a fresh perspective, ready to apply the structural frameworks and fundamentals of storytelling into a business context. With brands challenged by excessive competition and category commoditization, consumers are becoming less brand-loyal. Story serves as a strong authentic marker with which to establish a deeper relationship with customers.
Good stories shape our perception by assigning meaning, significance, relevance and novelty. The act of sharing stories led our ancestors to find food and to pass traditions and cultural norms through generations—even to track and record genealogy. These ancient stories serve as the foundations of storytelling by establishing the metaphors that influence our society.
Stories are about a problem to solve. They take us on a solution-driven journey through complication, resistance, crises, discovery, revelation and finally, resolution.
Hearing the stories of successful companies such as Apple, Patagonia and Nike inspires and motivates– these stories are typically founded upon overcoming obstacles and in some cases, against unbelievable odds. But most of all, these stories are about a person or group of people who overcame a complication. This humanizes a company and allows one to feel empathy toward the business, product or brand. Furthermore, we feel a desire to continue our experience, whereby we seek to purchase the company’s products or services. If told correctly and simply, consumers will subconsciously recall a brand story each time they see or hear the brand.
New product stories like Art Fry, creator of Post-it Notes, and Larry Page, creator of Google, have become folklore in business schools as they represent an individual’s driving passion to bring a product to market: We view them as heroes. This speaks to the American ingenuity and drive to conquer the impossible. Stories serve as roadmaps, and within them are hidden metaphors to success. Marketers, designers, and business leaders can find many helpful hints within the pages of classic literature, bringing a whole new meaning to masterpieces such as the Odyssey or the Iliad. Ultimately, these stories inspire others to believe in themselves.
We all read stories as children– within colorful books that delighted our senses and introduced our minds to new concepts– but stories often live outside the context of two covers. Movies and motion pictures are perfect examples of medium that capture the necessary elements of a story– you are asked to follow a character or group of characters, in an environment, at a certain point in time, as they often struggle against external forces. In the meantime, your brain is enjoying watching these actions as if you are actually participating.
Other forms of storytelling are more subtle– the Fireside Chats, for example, had a very specific purpose but were crafted in such a way that other elements, other than content, created an experience for the listener (or the viewer, in more visual presentations).
Our senses are our receptors for any situation, and the way we receive stories is no different. How do we see a story? How do we hear a story? How do we taste a story? How do we touch and feel a story? How do we smell a story? More importantly, as storytellers, how do we craft a story to capture the senses in a way that best supports our message?
‘Brand Story’ is a term that gets thrown around often in business schools and boardrooms. It’s often presented in paragraph form and picked apart for content several times before the final story is distributed to all who have stake in the brand. However, a brand’s story isn’t much different than the storybooks we read as children or the movie we saw last weekend. In fact, it’s similar to the Fireside Chats as well. It has characters and a setting; it occupies a place in time and, most importantly, it assumes a context that is out of the control of the storyteller.
When President Roosevelt gave his Fireside Chats, he captured the listener’s ears with his words and tone of voice and attempted to capture their eyes with language full of vivid imagery… but he had no control over what the listener smelled, tasted and touched while listening.
However, where the explicit ended, the implicit stepped in: The name ‘Fireside Chat’ suggested to listeners that they tune in next to their fireplaces, that this would be a friendly conversation. The chats were broadcasted right after dinner time, a time when families traditionally sit together in conversation, creating an environment that supported Roosevelt’s message.
Though the Fireside Chats happened long ago, and the content may or may not be relevant to your brand– the ability to craft a story in explicit and implicit terms is becoming more and more important to a brand, as communication is now as simple and immediate as an email or text message.
For more than 20 years, Steven DuPuis has led his company to integrate story into its brand strategy process, and has continually refined its application within the business environment. As a result, methods such as the Lunch & Learn seminar series– which teaches companies how to embrace their story and maximize brand value– have come to life.