Five Types of Brand Storytellers

By Jake Sorofman | June 3, 2014 | 0 Comments

Most marketers know that the better-faster-cheaper platitude is an old dog that no longer hunts. This is among the various tired devices and overused crutches that ring hollow to today’s audiences (problem-solution-impact is another that comes to mind; remember that one, B2B marketers?). Fortunately, many marketers have put them out to pasture, relics of a time when such brand-forward chest-thumping and predictable perfect-world posturing actually worked.

In their place is brand storytelling—which, of course, this is no new invention. The best marketers have always been brand storytellers. The difference is that, now, everyone is getting into the game.

But, like ice cream and neckties, storytellers come in many different varieties. The question is: What kind of storyteller are you? What kind of storyteller do you aspire to be?

Don’t know? Here are five archetypes to help guide you.

  1. The Evangelist—this storyteller narrates a path to a beautiful future paved with practical advice that gets audiences from here to there. Their goal is change and their method is pragmatic. The evangelist dispenses spoon-fed wisdom to guide you from as-is to to-be.
  2. The Skeptic—this storyteller is a bit of a rock-thrower, disrupting conventional beliefs by being, well, disruptive. Proven highly effective in politics (and cable news), this technique is best suited to times of high dissatisfaction with the status quo. Judge it right and your ideas may sound like flat truth telling. Judge it wrong and you may sound like a crank—and you and your ideas may get tuned out (like cable news) for the faux drama they may or may not be.
  3. The Jester—This storyteller brings levity to the party, using humor as the storytelling canvas. Wry observation, irreverence and iconoclastic, off-center narratives catch audiences off guard and delight with wisdom wrapped in wit—or wit wrapped in snark. Done well, this technique can win wide audience attention. Done poorly and you may ask: Is this thing on? Try the veal.
  4. The Helper—this storyteller, like the evangelist, is full of helpful wisdom. But, unlike the evangelist, they’re a bit lighter on the ideology. In fact, that point makes this storyteller not really storyteller at all, but really more of a brand publisher. Here, it’s more about FYI than POV. The helper aims to serve audiences’ needs first. For that, this storyteller is much appreciated.
  5. The Visionary—like the evangelist, the visionary seeks to illuminate a beautiful future. But they’re really more into tilting at the stunning architecture than paving roads for passage. Like the best TED talk, the visionary gets you to see things differently—and then leaves you to make use of that insight. The vision helps you see clearer, reach further, do—and perhaps be—better.

Truth is, most storytellers move between these archetypes, playing the visionary one day, the evangelist the next and perhaps trying their hand at the jester from time to time.

But the best storytellers are keenly aware which archetype suits them and their brand—and they stay true to that knowledge.

What type of storyteller are you?

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