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Core elements: people, action and the stage

Stories over the ages and everywhere have always shared a similar structure it is as if there are rules, i.e. a universal
grammar to structuring stories: stories consist of characters and a plot occurring at a specific time and in a specific place.


Action Stage


Dependent events connected by
time and content
People and the brand are at the center of storytelling: researchers, production workers, quality controllers, people closer to
the consumer, competitors as well as protagonists who help the brand fulfill its reward promise.
Characters can be separated into

main characters (protagonists and antagonists)

supporting characters

The hero, protagonists and antagonists are main characters. They are the focus of the story: they stand in the spotlight and
often tell their own story or tell it from their perspective. As protagonists, they generate affection, curiosity and interest. As
antagonists, dislike even hate frequently pity or an odd kind of fascination.

- People from the company: stories can be about the CEO, a manager, a team, employees in general or from a
area like R&D, production or trainees.
- Protagonists: people, who support the action of the brand, e.g. consumers and experts. The Protagonist
archetype is the friend and helper.
- Antagonists: people, who are in the way of the brand fulfilling its reward promise. Their archetype is the
enemy, e.g. the most threatening competitor.
- Extras: they walk on and off the edges of the stage because the story needs them: general corporate
personnel, employees at the competition. Note: as soon as extras stop being anonymous, have names or take
on significant roles, they become supporting characters.
- Supporting characters: they are not the focus of the story but we cannot do without them: advisers,
provocateurs, confidantes, priests, fools, colleagues, trusted servants.


Fairytales and myths as patterns for action
The unconscious understanding of actions in fairytales make it easy for us to learn most of such legends as children. We see
branding myths in advertising in the form of paradise scenarios. The basic patterns of these legends, like in this example are
of temptation even if the temptation is always re-interpreted. Other examples of such legends are David and Goliath
(Greenpeace) and any about conquerors (Nike).

Physical and emotional action

Action can be physical and visible or emotional: physical action is visible or even touchable to the consumer. Emotional
action is how the characters feel, their conflicts, doubts, but as well their commitment to solving a problem.
Both components illustrate the dramatic dialogue of the character:

- the character has a conflict, e.g. she must struggle with fear.
- the character interacts with other characters (hostile, friendly, etc.).
- the character struggles with self (conquer fear, forgiveness, love).

Both aspects physical and emotional action are similarly interesting to consumers.

Elements of action in the story

The What in storytelling consists of three parts. Episodes, action and the story itself:

- Episodes/events: the episode is the smallest unit of action in a story. They are the blocks in the foundation of
the story. Eventful experiences are narrated in which something happens and which are set apart from normal
events. There would be no stories without events. The episode or event structures the plot. It adds to the
appeal because its colorful and interesting. Events also lead to arcs of tension and expectations about how
the story will continue so that the consumer can think herself into the story. If events simply follow one
another chronologically with no meaningful connection, its a chronicle, not a story. A story is possible only
when meaningful unity is present.
- Action: the action consists of all the chronologically-ordered and systematically-structured events.
- Story: story events are not only chronologically linked, but rather exist in meaningful relation to one another.

Stage and props

Storytelling occurs on a stage: consumers are aware of this stage and store it together with their knowledge about the brand,
emotions and their experienced physical state of being. Examples from advertising are tropical, desert or mountain
scenarios. This happens mostly unconsciously. Sensory perceptions are also a part of the stage, like light, warmth, color and
the moods such as excitement or boredom which characterize the location.

Where do brand stories unfold? At home in ones own country? Somewhere out in the world at large? Here we differentiate
between the main stage, where the story unfolds, and off-stage, where extras and supporting actors interact.

Not only is the location of the stage important, but also the ability to equip it with props such as symbols. Symbols are simply
signs that represent something else. Logos work this way.