Words by Lauren Regan
Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children’s Books, lies nestled in the heart of Newcastle’s busting Ouseburn Valley, a stone’s throw from the city’s vibrant quayside. The mission is simple, to bring the joy of children’s books to families across the world through innovative exhibitions, events and activities.
Seven Stories holds a special place in my heart. I spent seven years of my career working as part of their marketing department and it is the role that I get asked about the most. What was it is like to talk about children’s books all day? And I always have the same answer. It was bloody hard!
To put it simply, we brought children’s books to life.
I was surrounded by storytellers every day. Brilliant authors waltzed through the doors and entertained rooms full of excited families with their daring tales. It was apparent that the best storytellers weren’t the novelists, they didn’t use the most, the biggest or the fanciest words, in fact the complete opposite. The best storytellers were the picture book writers. The authors of the books which have very few words but every word has been toiled over and carries meaning. They repeat their message over and over – any parent will be able to quote Julia Donaldson’s “Oh wait, oh no…It’s a Gruffalo!” – these messages are memorable and the audience will be shouting them well after they forget what the story is actually about.
Storytelling is in my blood but it’s also in yours. Our entire civilisation started with people sitting down and telling stories to each other around a fire; where the best berries were, how to catch a mammoth, have you heard that a guy two hills over has found out the rubbing two sticks together can make this cool thing called fire? None of us would be here today without the power of stories. Studies have shown that effective storytelling will actually affect the listener or reader’s brain. Our brains light up when we hear stories, so much more than when we are fed factual content, and not only that, we remember them. People re-tell stories that make them feel something, whether that’s at the bus stop, around the dinner table or on social media – powerful stories get people talking.
Did you know that every story ever written is simply an iteration of one of seven plots? Rags to riches, the quest, voyage and return, comedy, tragedy, rebirth, and the most interesting from a brand storytelling perspective, overcoming the monster. For effective brand storytelling you need to find each of your customer’s monsters, slay it and become the hero by helping them over come it. Your service or product exists for a reason, if it didn’t benefit your consumers, you simply wouldn’t exist. By understanding your customers’ pain points you show that you understand them and their world and have a relevant place in their lives, much more than a brand who is simply broadcasting their own agenda.
Your overarching brand message should be clear and concise and it should be simple enough for a child to understand and repeat. No, scrap that. Write your brand stories as if you are trying to explain it to your drunk friend in a loud bar. You have to shout over everyone else’s noise, they keep wandering off and getting distracted and all you want is for them to listen and remember the one simple thing you are trying to tell them.
The world is one, big noisy bar and while your customers probably aren’t drunk all of the time, you’re competing with global distractions coming at them from every angle. What is the one thing that you want them to remember about your brand when they wake up in the morning, with a fuzzy head, hungover from the marketing messages that bombard them every day?
Everyone has stories to tell and I am constantly surprised by the amount of businesses who think that they don’t have anything you say. At O we often question each other to search for the ‘so what?’. Whether you’re launching a new piece of baby-tech, unveiling a new family-friendly venue or introducing a new product; unpicking the real-world reasons behind your story allows your customer and stakeholders to become part of the narrative and gives them a hook to re-tell the story to their peers.
Stories help us to make friends, and ultimately, isn’t that what it’s all about?