As people, we are merely a collection of stories. Well, saying merely wouldn't be the right way to put it, because it is these stories that make up who we are, what we like, what we have done in our lives, what we have been through and what we are working towards.
It is these stories that speak of our journey, our ride that we have taken to reach where we are. We know what our journey has been, the hardships we have faced along with those moments we wish we could hold on to forever, and to an extent we do, in our mind's eye. They stay with us all our lives and become tales that are regaled to others in social settings or they stay with us in private, where we relive them in moments of peace and quiet, in moments where we are by ourselves, with our thoughts and our eyes closed, music playing in the background and in this quiet, our smile is the loudest, cutting the background noise out. A testament to how much this memory, this story means to us.
That is the effect our stories have on us, it is physical, it is visceral and it invokes emotions within oneself that can be intense. So, I ask you this...if we can have such intense reactions to our own stories, does that mean these stories can invoke similar reactions from our listeners?
The answer to that is as simple as a yes, the only hindrance in this matter though, is the way we tell those stories. If done well, the listener/reader will connect to your story and be able to empathize with the protagonist, whether it be you or a character you created and the listener/reader will be able to feel what they feel but if the telling of the story is not done well, then the listener/reader is not able to completely immerse themselves into it and what you wanted to convey is lost in communication. This is why storytelling is an art, it requires practice. But, if you get good at it, it can be an important asset in your arsenal in any situation such as art, movies, entertainment, meetings, and also branding.
I faintly remember reading a quote in regards to telling a story, it was a quote by Stephen Fry, who once stated that an idea/true thing, poorly expressed is a lie. When I came to trying to understand what he meant by this, I came across a blog written by Philip Ho, where he interpreted this quote by stating that an idea, no matter how profound does not exist until it's communicated.
What I thought about at the time when I read that statement was, the manifestation of an idea depends upon the way we communicate it. The way we are able to bring it into words and communicate our thoughts dictates the existence of that thought. Along the same lines, we can use this thought for stories as well. It is all about the way we communicate with others.
In this matter, I think we can take an example of a movie that does a beautiful job of showcasing its story. If you have seen the movie 'Arrival' then you would know what I'm talking about. The movie is directed by Denis Villeneuve and the way he and his team depict the story Dr. Louis Banks (played by Amy Adams), a linguistics expert and how she gets involved with the events taking place in the world, in this case, aliens landing on our planet is beautiful. Amplified by the use of the background score produced by Max Richter, the movie is hauntingly beautiful in the way it plays out.
The movie starts with a montage of our protagonist's life, we see her interacting with her daughter, her relationship with her child and her life at home. We see how her daughter is suffering from a critical illness and how her case is terminal. Seeing the daughter pass away, we are left to see the mother's emotions on display, raw and untouched for us to see and it is just this montage that pulls us in, making us feel the grief she felt. Connecting us to her character without even having the need to use dialog. After the daughter's death, we are suddenly thrown into a shot where Dr. Banks is at work, walking to her class with a look that can be interpreted as somber, sullen, or contemplative. Our minds, I order to comprehend the scene connect the montage to her mood and we think that she is still grieving, but the fact of the matter is, we have been tricked!
Denis Villeneuve makes use of something known as the Kuleshov Effect. A phenomenon famously illustrated by Alfred Hitchcock where he explains how a shot of an old man smiling can change its meaning according to the different imagery used before it.
The movie plays with our sense and understanding of time, the fact that at the beginning of the movie we are watching Dr. Banks' future and then we come back to the present timeline, shows the theme that the future can influence the past. In this case, making us think she is a grieving mother when in fact she hasn't had a daughter yet. It plays with our perception and talks about communication throughout the film, how screens are used in the movie as a connector (laptops and video) as well as a divider (the screen dividing us from the aliens). In trying to decipher the alien language, we learn that time is relative, it does not have an en or a beginning, and the key to understanding time is to understand these aliens. The way the movie plays into these themes with its story, cast, and music really drives the ideology of the movie and what it's trying to communicate home.
That is what beautiful storytelling does, gets us invested, makes us feel, and in the end, it stays with us even years after the event has taken place. This is why Arrival, a movie that came out in 2016 stayed with me. It was because if the way it was told. The movie could just have been directed in a linear way and in doing so, would join the ranks of multiple movies about aliens or time and be forgotten afterward, but due to its unconventional nature, it was able to make its mark.
Similarly, if we use these methods in branding, we can make a long-lasting impact on consumers and grow the brand to even greater heights. If you look at brands like Harley Davidson, Nike, Surf Excel, and Omega, you start realizing how they have made an impact on us through the way they present themselves and use the stories of people in alignment with their brand to make an impact. The way Nike has Air Jordans, Omega watches with James Bond, Surf Excel using the tagline of Daag Ache Hain and showcasing everyday stories where people get dirty in their lives as a positive, it brings the consumers in. It connects to their desires and plays to their ambitions or personalities.
As a brand, when you can use the art of storytelling, you can truly become a force to be reckoned with. This is where you can use a few points to build and practice your story, this would not only be useful for brands, but also for individuals who want to work on themselves and make a mark on the people they meet.
These points are as follows:
1. Understand who you are and what your brand is about. This takes time but is a very important step.
2. Observe your environment, the culture, and where you are situated. You need to know where you are and what kind of communication should be used.
3. Understand and practice your story, you need to know the basics of what you are talking about and practice the way you are going to speak about it. With practice, you will get more confident and even be able to improvise onto the story or add your own anecdotes according to the setting.
4. Know the audience you are talking to, this part is very important because if the audience is unable to grasp or understand what you're trying to communicate then it would be a complete waste of not only your own time but the listener's time as well.
5. Finally, what you truly need to understand, is the fact that you need to be raw and real, even if the story is fabricated, you need to appeal to the listener's psyche and emotions. To do this, you need to first be able to connect with your own story and stay true to it in whatever communication you have with your audience. This is the most important step as without this, you wouldn't be able to create a real impact within your audience.
The topic of storytelling is something that I wholeheartedly believe in and you can listen to Zee and I talk about the art of storytelling on our episode of The Sheeples Podcast. Here we talk about different movies that have made an impact on us along with different brands and how they use storytelling. We do all this while cracking stupid jokes all the way!
Listen to our episode here: https://bit.ly/art-of-telling-stories
This is 1000Minus7 signing out! Until next time!