Imagine for a moment, that you have invented something totally novel that will revolutionise the world. Your ‘Aha!’ moment has arrived. You can’t believe no one has thought of this thing! It’s going to be fantastic and life-changing!
You spend months building the business around your thing. You develop your story and can’t wait to tell it and launch this thing to the world. Everyone will love it.
And at first, it seems everyone does love it. So it’s a successful thing – for a while. Then sales start to level out, and eventually drop off. Perhaps something has outperformed your thing, or maybe the need for it has been eliminated.
You’re sitting in your office alone, wondering what will become of you when the business fails. You Google to see what awful things people are saying about your thing. Scrolling through and becoming more disheartened, you come across people using your thing in an unintended way. You can’t believe it – it’s so wrong! So far off the mark of your original dream!
What do you do? You can either a) carry on telling your same old story and watch your idea die a slow death, b) work on a plan to secretly set fire to everything and hope for an insurance pay-out so you don’t starve, or c) embrace the market, adapt to your customers, share their stories and make them part of your story.
Now the easiest option is option a, and one to which many people sadly resign themselves. Option b isn’t really an option (is it?) and option c will require effort, flexibility, fluidity, communication skills and a new strategy… but it just might work.
The story above illustrates how a Storymaking strategy can be used to make or break a brand.
The telling of stories is as old as time. It is the means by which legends passed from generation to generation, predating the written word. Storymaking, however, involves empowering your customers to recreate the content for your story. It allows for your brand story to be retold through their own real-life experiences, building on the content and sharing within their networks.
Here’s a nice little story for you. Back in the 1930s, the burning of coal left undesirable soot marks on walls. A cleaning company in Ohio created a simple putty that would remove the soot when rolled across it. Their wallpaper cleaner was a success! However, in the 1950s the advent of vinyl wallpaper and natural gas heat meant their prosperous run was over. A family member of the founders revolutionised their idea when she came across a newspaper article using the wallpaper cleaner to create art projects. She brought the cleaner into the nursery school where she taught and the children made Christmas ornaments with their new, softer and inexpensive version of modelling clay. In 1956, with coloured dye and new packaging, the wallpaper cleaner turned into Play-Doh – a multi-million dollar company today.
Now imagine that 1950s newspaper article as a social media post. Today Play-Doh’s Facebook page has over 2 million likes. On Instagram, #playdoh has over 450,000 posts, plus thousands more on variations like #playdohtime, #playdohcake, #playdohartist. Social media is filled with the endless projects children make and the ways in which teachers and parents are using the product. Who doesn’t want to share stories of their cute kids demonstrating creative genius?
Customers sharing their stories has driven new products. Young aspiring chefs and bakers use Play-Doh to create colourful inedible versions of everything from cupcakes to bacon. Through the sharing of stories on social media the trend has grown and now there is an entire line of accessories to help create the most realistic food – the Breakfast Time Set, Lunchtime Creations, Barbecue Playset, Sweet Shoppe – the list goes on. (By the way, Play-Doh sells 100 million cans of Play-Doh each year and seven million Fun Factory playsets have sold since 1999.)
Storymaking is the new storytelling, with the effective use of innovative social media platforms the driving force. As consumers share their stories within their networks, a brand’s story is recreated again and again. Great storytellers adapt those stories, driving evolution and expansion through story making.