Over the weekend, I finally got around to watching Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds, a rather interesting flick about a group of rogue US soldiers who specialize in killing Nazis during World War II. Like just about all of Tarantino’s films, the movie is divided into chapters. While I was focusing on the movie, I was also once again enchanted by the tools Tarantino uses to engage his audience with his storytelling. There are five keys that I’ve noticed in Tarantino’s method of storytelling, and I think all five could unlock the power of engaging storytelling for your blog and all of your marketing materials.
1. Make people care. Think about any Tarantino film. Even if you’ve never watched one, you’ve probably heard of some of his characters. Maybe you’ve heard of Hattori Hanzo from Kill Bill, or maybe you’ve heard of Mr. Pink and Mr. White from Reservoir Dogs. In all of his movies, Tarantino creates characters that make you care, even if that caring surfaces as you really hoping that character gets what’s coming to them. If people are indifferent about your product or your brand, they won’t stick around to hear more about it. There are plenty of other products and brands they can read up on.
How are you making people care about your story? What can they hold on to and tell others about?
2. Interweave lots of stories together. Pulp Fiction is probably the best example of how Tarantino can take the stories of characters from all over the place, fully develop each story, and then majestically bring them all together to form the punchline of the whole story. The audience is always aware of each individual story, but it’s never entirely clear, till the end or the climax (which aren’t always the same in Tarantino films) how it will all pull together.
In your marketing materials, you need to tie together a lot of stories, too. You need to tell people why they should give you any time or attention. You need to tell them why your product or service is something they need or want. You need to tell them that you are not a smarmy sales person. In the end, all of these stories need to come together to create your message.
Is your message cohesive, put together, and clear? Are you wrapping all of your stories together or are there some loose ends? How can you tie them up?
3. Don’t give away the whole story all at once. Just as Tarantino keeps his audience on edge about how all of these individual tales will mesh together, he also waits awhile to reveal details about the story or his characters that end up revealing a great deal about the overall story. For example, we don’t find out till quite late in Pulp Fiction that the time line is completely off. That’s pretty important. We don’t find out till pretty late in Kill Bill what Uma Thurman’s story is. Also very important. This late reveal keeps the audience engaged because they can’t wait to see more of the backstory.
In your marketing, whether it’s your blog, an ad, or your website, it’s ok to leave some of the story to your audience’s imagination. That’s how the story you’re telling becomes their story. Locally, there’s a car replacement place called Maaco. Their ads have basically become sound bytes. You hear the sound of a crash, and then a voice says, “Uhoh, better get Maaco.” You don’t need much more than that for your audience to get your point, and yet they can internalize that message and apply it to their own lives.
How can you leave some space for your audience to finish your story and make it their own? How can you wait for the big reveal?
4. Every idea is fresh, and every idea is yours. Tarantino excels at creating very different movies. Reservoir Dogs doesn’t really bear much resemblance at all to Inglorious Basterds, which in turn doesn’t really bear much resemblance to Pulp Fiction. However, you can always kind of tell when you’re watching a Tarantino film. His trademark violence, ultra dark humor, and method of storytelling are dead give-aways.
When you create your marketing materials, don’t just keep recreating something that worked once in 1987. Come up with something fresh. But still make it yours. Weave something in there that reminds people of your brand, of your past marketing messages, and most importantly, remind them of your overall message.
What makes your marketing materials YOUR marketing materials? How can you weave that in while keeping your audience surprised with the new ideas you send out to them?
5. Know thy audience. Tarantino is kind of like a stinky cheese. Not everyone likes his work, and in fact some people find it revolting. The people who like Tarantino’s work have very specific reasons for liking it, and they would likely fight you if you called their allegiance stupid. So far, Tarantino has not tried to bring radically different people into his office. He hasn’t approached Disney, for example, nor has he ever tried to do a kid’s film. In fact, I can’t recall many kids even showing up in his movies. He knows his audience, he knows what they want, and he delivers it to them.
Do you know who you’re marketing to? This is the core of what engagement online can bring you. You can REALLY know who you’re sending your marketing materials to. You can get direct feedback, in fact, hour by hour. Are you talking to your audience the way you talk or the way they talk?
Who is your audience? If you can’t answer this question, the other 4 keys will not work for you. You can’t engage someone you don’t know on some level.
Amber Naslund recently said that storytelling is the most underrated facet of modern day business. I’d say that’s probably spot on, but it could be because people don’t really understand how to use “storytelling” in the business world. Hopefully these five keys give you an inkling of how you can tell a story to relate to your audience, and to make yourself a company or a brand your audience can understand.
What do you think?
This is post #36 in the Engagement Series. If you are worried about missing the next post, there’s always the subscribe button, waiting to be clicked
First image by Image by Viktors Kozers. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/vikush.
Second Image by Gabriel Del castillo. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/miracle