What do Shakespeare, Steinbeck, and Spielberg have in common? Well, aside from the obvious alliteration of their names, these men are all considered to be great storytellers. Regardless of the platform – on stage, print, or screen – they, like so many other writers, have captured the attention of audiences around the world through engaging stories.
In his book The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories, Christopher Booker asserts that nearly every story ever written can be broken down into one of seven fundamental narratives. It may seem depressing at first but that story you’ve worked so hard on has been told before and will be told again. Fret not! These plots have stood the test of time for good reason.
When it comes to brand marketing, businesses find most success from telling a good story. In order to stand out against your competition, sometimes the best solution is to stick to the basics. Let’s breakdown the seven plots and how companies can implement them into video brand marketing
Think: Beowulf | Frankenstein | War of the Worlds | Jaws
This is your basic good against evil story, where the hero overcomes obstacles in order to defeat the villain. There doesn’t have to be a literal monster involved and, in regards to brand marketing, companies will often highlight an underdog story. Gatorade’s Win from Within campaign featured many videos of athletes working hard – fueled by their product, of course – to beat the bigger, stronger, and faster opponent.
Think: Oliver Twist | Cinderella | Goodfellas | Slumdog Millionaire
It’s the story of a hero whom goes from having nothing to having it all. While the protagonist often acquires things like wealth and power, they will also gain knowledge and ultimately growth as a person. This plot translates well for brand marketing when companies show how their product takes consumers to a new level. Johnnie Walker created a commercial which told the true to life rags to riches story of how the whiskey company came to be.
Think: The Lord of the Rings | The Odyssey | Indiana Jones | Moby Dick
It’s a journey a hero makes from point A to B, trying to obtain a certain object or reach a specific place. The obstacles endured ultimately help the hero grow. Companies utilize different variations of this plot when making videos. Sometimes they show people trying to reach their product, while others highlight how their service enables people to reach a goal. Lowe’s became more than just a place to buy tools when they produced commercials about how they can help people turn a house into a home.
Think: The Wizard of Oz | Alice in Wonderland | Finding Nemo |Chronicles of Narnia
In similar fashion to The Quest, a hero embarks on a journey but returns home, armed with new lessons learned from the experience. Travel agencies and educational institutions use this plot well because they are in the business of offering an escape from reality with an inevitable trip back. It also served Budweiser very well in their 2015 Super Bowl commercial.
Think: A Midsummer’s Night Dream |Mama Mia | Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
These stories are light and funny and typically involve a happy ending. A comedy will often fall into another plot category, but it isn’t required to. Businesses involved in a… less than exciting industry will often produce comedic marketing videos. Geico and Progressive use humor to make purchasing insurance look fun and even filing taxes looks like a breeze after watching an H&R Block commercial.
Think: Romeo and Juliet |Macbeth |Reservoir Dogs |The Godfather
The antithesis to the comedy, these stories are dramatic and do not have a happy ending. It’s probably not surprising so few brands produce tragic videos because sad doesn’t sell. However, tragedy translates extremely well for PSA’s, drawing on the heartstrings of the audience. AT&T created a tragic yet powerful video about the dangers of texting and driving.
Think: A Christmas Carol |Beauty and the Beast |The Shawshank Redemption |Groundhog Day
This is the story of a hero’s inner change. Over time, events will alter the protagonist’s perception, making them a better person. When a company is rebranding, they may opt to produce a video highlighting a transformation. In 2008, the recession affected a lot of companies but the auto industry felt it the most. Chrysler, in an effort to inspire their consumers and people of Detroit, created a commercial and made it clear they had been knocked down but certainly not out.
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|As soon as he could talk, Alex set out interviewing anyone he could find. Armed with a tiny notebook and crayon, he primarily targeted his parents for these Q&As and always asked the same question – What color is the sky? Through this he developed a love for learning, writing, and storytelling.
Many years have passed, yet that inquisitive spirit remains. Alex left Austin, landed in Boston, and received a B.A. in Communications from Lasell College. As a Content Engagement Executive at Waverley Knobs, Alex hopes to combine his passion for writing and film with his desire to help people. He believes each moment in life helps flesh out a person’s story and enjoys using his talents to get those stories onto paper.