Highlights from Cannes 2017: The Influence of Great Storytelling

Storytelling is a popular word in the current marketing lexicon. Its one of the most authentic ways to ignite a bond between brands and consumers and was the theme of many talks and sessions at Cannes 2017, including one with Ira Glass (Producer, host, creator of This American Life, among others). Glass spoke about how to tell a good story and why it matters.

Glass’ 6 keys to telling a story:

  1. Story is a plot with forward momentum—it should drive to an interesting idea with meaning and involve interesting characters.
  2. Kids make great content—Kids really do say the most amazing things if you have the patience and respect to hear them. Interviewing kids can seem difficult, but it’s actually quite simple if you just listen.
  3. Great stories happen to those who can tell them—not everything has to be perfect. In fact, failure can make for a very interesting story if told correctly.
  4. Amuse yourself—to tell a moving story, you have to put your humanity into it. Laughing or showing curiosity in subjects or events that (in real life) aren’t funny is actually human. It’s ok to seek fun and to share your enthusiasm for the story as you’re creating it. Humor keeps people listening.
  5. Talk normal—Conversational tone is human and relatable. It creates a chatty intimacy between the teller and reader. True 1:1 conversation, with real vernacular, intonation and emphasis is the tone of the Internet.
  6. The power of not seeing—when you can only listen, there’s nothing to distract you from the narrative and characters of the story. You become reliant on your imagination to match the characters and narrative to image. The sound of a human voice immediately connects you to them and their story. As a radio icon, Glass is well aware of this.

Success of a Podcast is rooted in great storytelling.

The results have literally spoken for themselves: This American Life took 4 years to reach 1 million listeners per episode, while Serial took 4 weeks and S-Town took only 3 days. And when you compare the reach of the podcast, consider the data around other mediums as well: Wonder Woman’s opening weekend US audience was 11.4 million. Breaking Bad’s series finale was 10.3 million. While Serial’s S1 average downloads PER EPISODE was 14.2 million.

So how can we tell better brand stories?

As marketers, our messages should mean something—and lead to real connections with our audience. We should speak in a voice and tone that’s human and natural because it generates trust and loyalty. The success of some of the greatest podcasts was truly organic—no social media or promotion outside word-of-mouth. If we create stories that people want to share, we’ll bring the same level of success to our brands.

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