The art of storytelling.

Jonny Kelly

Jonny Kelly

Creative Director
Strategy, Creative and Curious

22nd January 2019Strategy

The art of telling stories is more relevant and valuable than ever. But now, businesses have to go beyond telling a story. They have to live it.

From fire-lit nights in caves to the warm glow from a Netflix fuelled Ultra HD TV, humans have always been captivated by a good story. Mark Twain had a nice take on it; ‘I like a good story well told. That is the reason I am sometimes forced to tell them myself.’

Now, I’m not nearly academically inclined enough to break down the psychology of the power of storytelling. I think that’s maybe a bit beyond my expertise, but in reality it has a lot to do with how we perceive the world around us. Every single one of us has a different perception, all based on our own experience.

Stories driven by narrative and involving elements and emotions will resonate with their audience. We naturally look for meanings in things and when we find something meaningful, we connect with it.

For example, a mother waving her only son off to war in a Hollywood film may draw a tear from a mother at home who has just waved her son off to college.

Or maybe a real-life story captivates us… Tiger Woods hugging his kids after the comeback of all time, or superstar NFL Quarterback Tom Brady, when asked by a young kid at a press event ‘who is your hero?’ Tom replies without hesitation (but with a tear in his eye) ‘My Dad is my hero’. Millions of sons and fathers (including this one) would have thought of their own dad or son and felt a drop in their stomach and lump in their throat.

These principles are also prevalent with the brands and businesses we align ourselves with.

Nike tell stories about sporting endeavour that we aspire to, Apple tell us to ‘Think Different’, Virgin’s narrative is about disrupting conventions for the better and Uber is ‘changing how the world moves’.

A key factor to note here is ‘authenticity’. Movies can suspend disbelief, but with the people and brands we admire we want authentic behaviour and emotion. All the above brands are doing this – Apple think differently, Virgin are disruptive and Uber has changed how the world moves. 

We need to believe it or it will appear ‘fake’ and we won’t connect and in some cases it will repel us.

People and brands must live their story as well as telling it. 

New York Times writer Rob Walker carried out a clever anthropological experiment which he called ‘Significant Objects’. His goal was to discover and demonstrate the tangible value of good story-telling. He started by collecting 200 items of no significance, monetary (average $1.25 average) or intrinsic value. 

Then he contacted 200 authors and asked each one to write a story about one of the objects. Rob then sold the articles on eBay with the stories included in the descriptions. What was the result? 

All items sold and from an initial outlay of $197, Mr Walker received a return of almost $8000. 

The story-teller and their story created an emotional connection with the customer and delivered a 40x return on the investment. 

Pretty good right?

How can telling stories help us connect with our customers and improve what we do?

Simon Sinek describes this perfectly in his book ‘Start with Why’.

In simple terms, you must tell the story about why your company does what it does. Humans are irrational and emotional and will connect much more with why you do things than with how you do them.

Within that context, your customer experiences and communications must tell a relevant, consistent and authentic story. But they also must tell a creative and compelling story that people can connect with, remember and share.

Digital provides opportunities to do this efficiently at scale.

The challenge is how to seize the opportunity and use it effectively.

We regularly consider our ‘Why’, and I know it can be tough. The best way we can encapsulate the spirit of the business is: 


We want to help great businesses grow, by making things easier and better for their customers. Our success lives in theirs.

Our chosen path on ‘How‘ to do that is through digital, by helping shape and deliver customer experiences and tell stories through campaigns and content.

Change starts here

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