Context really makes a difference

Stories are all around us, even if we don’t notice. Structure of the story is so simple and is based on contrast and growth that it is very easy to use it in communication.

So what is the foundation of every story? Main character, protagonist, hero, call him however you like. What is the key when defining your brand: character, values and target audience.

Question is how to define Main character of your brand? Could it be your target audience?

Robert McKee in his book ‘Story’ talks about difference between character and characterization. Characterization is a process of describing the hero by his attributes: tall, lean, dark haired, bit shy, good natured. It is a list of attributes. Character is the thing that sets him apart from everybody else and is not apparent. Story is needed to test the character and truly describes it. Tests and obstacles hero passes in the story form the character. Story provides the context.

Characterization

We’ll embark on our Main Character forming journey with this two terms: characterization and character. In marketing, characterization doesn’t leave you with much. Basically bunch of acronyms: All 25-45, ABC, parent, Urban. It is not something that is ready to give you the communication message of your life. This I don’t mean because of the nature of the description, but because it is just a description, list of attributes.

Characterization doesn’t mean much if there is n context. On its own, list doesn’t provide the context and you are stuck in creation process.

This is the greatest problem with market segmentation. It’s just too boring. By using statistical and measurable variables, we end up with statistical lists that cannot inspire brand managers, media people nor creatives to do their job.

Character

Character grows from context, on the base of characterization. It is the backbone on top of which clay of character is moulded into finalized person. This clay is formed by stories, anecdotes, interests, trials that consumer has been involved in.

Easiest way to collect all this is through scrapbook. It doesn’t need to be a scrapbook, it can be a drawer, digital notebook, whatever, but you need a place to keep all the material you have on your consumer. When the time comes to form a character, you just pull the scrapbook and start imagining.

Why is this better? Because its the way writers prepare for book writing, because it is the way comic book authors make their comics and because screenwriters write for the movies. It gives you so much more than usual list of attributes: Visual, audio and experiential stimuli. Compared to All 25-45 ABC Urban parent, it is obvious that you gain an advantage here.

Tools

Internet is a source of data. Without the context it is useless, but combined with a focus it can provide insights and information. Social media provide the opportunity to scrapbook various stories, links, statuses, blog posts into one story that describes your character. One tool to do all this is Storify, online curating service in beta stage of development but with a clear purpose to collect and arrange social media and media found online into cohesive story that you can share and further interact with.

To find out more, visit www.storify.com

Enjoy!

I'm currently working as an Account Planner in Direct Media. I'm interested in leveraging brand stories through digital media and helping brands fulfill their potential.

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