One of the four key pillars of Aesthetic Intelligence is Articulation. While many of our students at A.I. Labs are naturally articulate, few come to the course knowing how to articulate artfully. In other words, how to use words and other (non-verbal) communications to tell a great story.
Great storytelling isn’t just about painting a full picture, but about capturing people’s attention, stimulating their imagination and remaining etched in their minds.
In our latest Tastemaker Conversation, we invited Robin Albin, founder of the branding and innovation consultancy Insurgents, to share her insights on the art of storytelling. After all, that’s what she does for brands.
Robin believes that every great brand is rife with creative tension. Like people, they are not built on just one idea, expression or attribute, but on a blend of many different ones — oftentimes, contradictory ones. As she says, “Truth can be messy.”
We learned a lot from Robin during the event as well as a subsequent conversation with her on SiriusXM. Below are just a few of our biggest “Aha’s” on how to tell a great story.
1 | Storytelling Starts by Listening
Robin argues that the best storytellers are not really tellers, but listeners.
We live in a noisy age. Between the distractions of technology and the busy-ness of our lives, many of us no longer tune into what the world has to say. So how can we possibly know what the world really needs?
Robin says that listening — and not just with our ears, but with our entire bodies — is the first step to understanding how others feel, what empowers them, what motivates them, and why and how they make decisions. Those insights are what define a brand’s purpose.
Earlier in her career, Robin came up with the idea for the beauty brand Origins. The genesis stemmed from listening to the world of beauty customers and recognizing that many of these women felt a lack of respect from the industry. Origins was designed around the concept of RESPECT — respect for people’s intelligence, respect for their skin and respect for the environment. Today, about three decades later, the concept of respect is still core to that brand.
2 | Go Out On a Limb. That’s Where the Fruit Is.
When it comes to achieving creative breakthroughs, risk-taking is critical. Robin advises others to embrace risks. They often lead to the best outcomes, and, in any event, offer rich lessons and experiences. She believes that, in order to unearth great stories, people need to get out of their comfort zone and, wherever possible, break the rules. As she puts it, it’s not just about “thinking outside the box,” but about “thinking like there is no box!”
3 | Stories Humanize Brands
Most companies stick with uni-dimensional concepts and stories. That may seem straight-forward and efficient, but, in the end, falls flat. Superficial stories feel templated and generic. Instead, Robin advises companies to approach their brand from a more holistic perspective. Treat brands as if they were human. (After all, they are conceived and run by humans.) Create layers and deepen the messages. Allow customers to see themselves in your stories, and embrace the values and the expressions of your brand. Robin feels it’s important to know the rules, but not to accept them. Rules are full of constraints, and breaking them is what brings a brand to life!
4 | Appealing to the Heroes within Us
From the books we read to the films we watch, we all have been moved by the power of the “hero’s journey.”
The hero’s journey is a basic framework on which all great stories (and myths) are built. It generally consists of three parts — separation (where the hero sets out on a journey – oftentimes reluctantly), initiation (where the hero overcomes a crisis) and return (where the hero comes home transformed).
Applying this transformational journey to your brand provides an effective and impactful roadmap for telling your story and engaging your customers. Brand storytellers should start by answering basic questions: what is the main obstacle to overcome? How does the hero feel about it? How will the brand help guide the hero? Ultimately, the brand’s role is to help empower and transform the hero. In so doing, the brand is also playing a role in its customers’ own transformational journey.