3 Storytelling Lessons from Summer’s Blockbuster Movies

content marketing strategy, content marketing tips, storytelling

October 2, 2014 by

With September fading into the distance, summer is now officially over. The kids are settling into school, and the final box office tallies from this summer’s big movies are in. So what movies have you seen? What…you haven’t had time? Even as a busy marketer, you might want to make the time – because the best story-driven films are a great teacher for how to tell your own company’s story. As marketing wizard Seth Godin said, “marketing is no longer about the stuff you make, but about the stories you tell.” With that in mind, here are 3 lessons I learned from this summer’s highest grossing blockbusters:

1.  Guardians of the Galaxy: How a good story transcends media

Guardians of the Galaxy (GOTG) is based on characters originally developed by Marvel for their comic book franchise back in 1969, then re-imagined in 2008. Like all good stories, it works great whether it is told in comic, movie, text or game! Here’s why and how to put its best storytelling lessons to work for you and your business:

storytelling content

In the first 15 minutes of GOTG, you meet the main character, realize he’s from earth, determine that he is an adventurer (really – did anyone else notice the Indiana Jones-esque overtones?), and come to understand that he has a valuable treasure that other people want to take away. Everyone in the audience understands the premise for the rest of the movie.

The takeaway: When you write your business’s story you also need to make sure that you quickly define your business. Is it a restaurant or a car repair shop? What do you offer that others don’t? Lead with that information. Once the business is defined, then you can impress potential customers with your clever business name, or explain what’s special about your services, but first – establish the premise.

By the middle of the movie, viewers completely understand the problem (a very bad guy wants to use the valuable treasure to dominate the universe). At the climax, we see how the problem is solved (my favorite scene was the dance-off with the bad guy – woot!).

The takeaway: Use this same format for your business story. After you tell what your business does, clearly define the problem that your business solves for customers. If the business replaces car windshields, then the problem solved is not just a fixed windshield – the company may also save the customer time by driving to their location, or make the repair convenient by being available 24/7.

Related Class: Storytelling in the Digital Age

The last 15 minutes of the movie shows how life in the universe is better since GOTG got rid of that awful bad guy: the leader of the good coalition looks relaxed and happy, the officer goes home to his safe family, and the GOTG go off on another adventure.

The takeaway: When you tell your business story, you should also include the “happily ever after,” by explaining or showing how your customer’s life will be better for having done business with you. Did your business replace the windshield at the customer’s location, therefore giving the customer more time for other things? Then tell/show how they spent that time with their family, or out on the town, or at an important business meeting.

2.  Transformers 4: How sometimes great visuals and SFX can make up for a lacking story

Critical acclaim for the Transformers movie was very low – okay – very, very, low. In fact, it only got an 18% on the Rotten Tomatoes’ t-meter. But did that keep Transformers from doing well at the box office? Nope! And why is that? Because sometimes great visuals – even without a great story – are still enjoyable.

storytelling content

Related Class: Visual Storytelling on Social Media

The takeaway: I know, I know, I said that it’s important to know your story, and that’s true. But as they say, a picture IS indeed worth a thousand words, and it turns out that video is worth even more. So take a tip from Transformers and create lots of great visuals for your business! You probably don’t have Michael Bay’s special affects budget, I know. But there are a few investments that every small business marketer should make, to help create stellar visual content that can keep customers engaged and bring new ones to your website:

  1. A smartphone that can take good quality pictures and video is essential for celebrating successes, documenting behind-the-scenes moments, and capturing the human element.
  2. A photo and/or video app – Instagram is my recommendation. They recently introduced an amazing new tool that reduces the shakiness inherit with most smartphone videos. If you haven’t used Instagram – go get it now!
  3. Additional bonus points if you get a few smartphone photo lenses and a USB microphone for enhanced visual and audio quality. That stuff counts!

3.  Maleficent: How to give each character her own story arc

Maleficent retells the story of Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty from the perspective of Maleficent, the “wicked” fairy who cursed Rose during her christening (spoiler alert – in this version she isn’t evil, but rather a wounded soul who in a fit of anger does something she later regrets). The lesson from Maleficent is that great stories usually have multiple characters – and each one provides the audience with a different perspective into the story.

storytelling content

Related Class: Personal Branding: Who You Are

The takeaway: In your own business, introduce prospective customers not just to business owners, but also to your enthusiastic employees and other, very satisfied customers. Customers want more than your products or services these days – they want to connect with the humans behind the business, and hear from other customers, too. Expanding your story to include the stories of the other characters who make your business what it is provides a unique perspective on the overall business and your services, and gives potential customers even more reasons to consider doing business with you.

Now that we’ve scratched the surface of how to tell a good story, why not go deeper? Watch this class, “Content Storytelling rules for the Digital Marketer,” to find out more about how this strategy can help you apply creative principles to tell stories that will engage your target audience.

Your evolution starts here. Try our classes for free.10 day free trial

10 day free trial