The magic of storytelling

PLATO“You’re never going to kill storytelling, because it’s built into the human plan. We come with it.”
– Margaret Atwood

Storytelling goes back millennia. Whether appearing on cave walls, around campfires, on papyrus, paper or iPads, stories have always been a valuable way of communicating shared experiences with our peers as a means of making them relevant. Storytelling is used to convey values, morals, ideas and traditions. They help us shape our sense of ourselves, and who we are. Folktales, fables and fairy tales are passed down the generations because they’re relevant, they’re emotive and they’re valuable – people of all creeds and classes can aspire to them, and they retell them to their peers. It’s no different in business – when it comes to creating a brand narrative, storytelling is paramount.

In today’s information age, any company worth its salt has an online presence with a global reach. Companies are not only marketing themselves to the outside world; they are opening up a conversation with everyone in it. With the rise of the internet and social media, ordinary people are no longer making detached transactions with faceless corporations, they are entering into a meaningful and valuable dialogue with them, and there’s nothing more enticing than a good old story…

There’s always a story to tell – that’s the magic of storytelling. From the independent bookseller around the corner, to the global corporation dominating city skylines around the world – their commonality is in their story.

Every business, regardless of size, started somewhere. It begins with a seed of inspiration; a specific motivation. And eventually over time, with a lot of sunlight and water, that little seedling will push through the soil and transform into a beautiful sunflower… Or maybe it won’t.

In the words of G. K. Chesterton: “Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” This notion that the dragon can be defeated is the perfect analogy for a real-world business narrative. Failure, in its myriad forms, is one of the defining characteristics of the human condition; everybody’s been there at some point in their lives. And it’s no different when it comes to business. Focusing on past failures and mistakes and how they were turned into a success, is extremely powerful. It makes you vulnerable, it makes you authentic, it makes you human. It’s the most natural way of your peers, clients and collaborators understanding who you are and what you represent.

Values are a powerful commodity when it comes to business. In recent years some of the world’s biggest businesses have been trading in values, as a way of promoting familiarity with their global audience.

A perfect example of this is the Henley-based baby food company Ella’s Kitchen, whose MD Mark Cuddigan spoke at one of Liverpool’s IFB events last week. As a godmother to a very active and extremely fussy little eater, I have a lot of time for Ella and her lifesaving pouches of organic goodness. But the simplicity of the product is not what drew my cousin (my godson’s mother) to invest in the product; it definitely wasn’t the price (there are much cheaper options out there) – it was the story.

The story of Ella’s Kitchen is as authentic as they come: new dad, Paul Lindley, decided that he wanted to feed his daughter Ella, fun, healthy, organic food, but there was nothing on the shelves that quite matched that description – so he made it himself. It’s a story which parents the world over can aspire to; it’s certainly something that, given the time, I’m sure many of them would have considered doing themselves. That organic, ethical outlook has become the bedrock of the brand, and a key part of its journey to become a B Corp, which is what we listened to them talk about.

Shared values between business and consumer are gold, and storytelling is the perfect vehicle to convey them. At IFB, Mark spoke of the way in which the business has grown since its humble beginnings in 2006. Now with a global turnover of over $100 million worldwide and over 80 products under its belt, Ella’s Kitchen is one of the biggest baby brands on the planet – but it’s certainly not lost its soul. Having recently registered as a B Corporation, meaning that it abides by ethical standards across all aspects of its business, Ella’s Kitchen intends to do good in the world for a while to come, and thus its story continues…

As is common with all good stories, I retold Ella’s success story to my cousin, who on hearing it just smiled and went on to tell me the story of Paul; the young father who had an idea in his kitchen one morning, of creating fuss free, tasty and healthy baby food and who went on to turn his dream into a reality…

Paul’s story made the brand. The story of Ella’s Kitchen is so familiar, honest and aspirational, that people can’t help but tell their family, their friends and their parenting peers; which in turn, has transported Ella’s Kitchen, out of the kitchen and onto the global stage…

I told you stories were powerful didn’t I? What’s yours?

Lucy x

– – – – –

If you want some help telling your story – whether that’s through words, on film, in print or via your website, get in touch… Click here to drop us an email and let’s have a talk about what you do.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *