Crafting Narrative for Change

We live in a very distractible world. With people seeing thousands of marketing messages every day, it’s hard to know what one can do to break through the noise.

Above image by Wander, from the film “Follow the Frog.”

According to a profile in AdvertisingAge by Matthew Luhn, a 20-year veteran of Pixar, story is the key to making your brand stand out. At Wander, we couldn’t agree more. Narrative is the key to grabbing people’s attention and cutting through the clutter, especially when your brand stands for something important, like the Earth’s long-term sustainability. A good narrative needs high stakes — and there are no stakes higher than the fate of our planet. On the other hand, putting a human face to large-scale issues helps an audience better understand challenges and solutions. In short, narrative and sustainability make a perfect marriage.

Matthew Luhn breaks down story into 5 principles, each of which is uniquely suited to spreading your brand’s message:

1.) The Hook

In storytelling and in marketing, one needs to grab an audience’s attention in any way possible. But one has to be careful about how they go about doing that. As Luhn puts it, “Mere excitement isn’t enough: They [the audience] have to care about the action and characters.” At Wander, our trademarked filmmaking method called “Syncopated Storytelling”SM uses quick cuts, graphic design, and unexpected imagery to convey warmth and humor and hold the viewer’s attention. We’ve found that this method is the best way to grab viewers’ attentions and make them care about the players involved, seamlessly getting our clients’ messages across.

2.) The Change

The hook may be what grabs a viewer’s attention, but watching the characters change is what keeps it. Great stories deal with change; they are perfect vehicles for sending a message about a cause, as they’re able to explain the path to an ideal goal and what has to be done to get there. For example, take the film we made for the American Museum of Natural History, “Maria and the Dinosaur.” Before the museum visit, Maria is an inquisitive kid looking for something to be passionate about. When she goes to the museum, she sees the dinosaur bones and exclaims, “It’s an Allosaurus!” The visit inspires her to learn more and more about dinosaurs, and drives her to become the world’s foremost expert on dinosaurs. (It’s more fun to watch than read us explain — just take a look below to see for yourself.) Maria’s change from passionate student to expert is what keeps the audience interested and gets the message across that visiting the AMNH will open your child’s mind.

3.) The Story Structure

For the change to successfully come across, the story has to be structured in a way such that there is a clear beginning, middle, and end. If people have no idea where your story is going, they will tune your message out and you will lose their attention. Wander understands the importance of good story structure. In our award-winning campaign, “Follow the Frog”, the story of the film begins establishing the protagonist as a well-meaning guy who is trying to do his best. Upon hearing about the rate of the destruction of the rainforest, he takes it upon himself to pull the “cliché gringo fantasy” of assembling a resistance against the deforesters, but ends up sacrificing everything else he cares about in the process. (Again, it’s more fun to watch.) The moral of the story is that there are more efficient ways you can protect the rainforest, like by buying Rainforest Alliance Certified goods. While the finished product might make it look obvious, we were very deliberate in how much time we spent on the beginning, middle, and end of the piece so it would finish before we lost the audience’s attention. As a result, through our years of storytelling experience, we were able to make a film of which we are incredibly proud and that seems to have resonated with audiences as well.

4.) The Connection

The goal of any campaign is to make the viewer feel something, and anyone who has cried at a movie knows that narratives have a unique ability to foster an emotional connection with the viewer. By grabbing people’s attention through story, you’ve broken through the clutter and connected with your audience on an emotional level, making them more open to listen to your message. As Matthew Luhn puts it, “We make choices based on feelings, and then later we justify those feelings with the rational, left side of our brain.” Creating an emotional connection is something we at Wander take very seriously, and we take care to make our films feel as warm as possible to foster that emotional connection with the audience.

5.) Authenticity

Perhaps the most important thing a film needs in order to work is authenticity. Without authenticity in a film, a narrative can come across as either bland or treacly. Being honest and showing sincerity in a narrative is key to coming across as authentic. As a result, one needs to work with people capable of crafting strong narratives to engage with audiences emotionally. Our campaigns using Syncopated StorytellingSM to tell stories about philanthropic efforts around the world have won a fair amount of awards, due in part to our ability to tell an authentic story.

Obviously, our critical success has to do with the amazing collaborators we work with on a day-to-day basis. But it also stems from our ability to connect with an audience, maintain their attention, and tell a great, sincere story.





For inquiries, please contact:
William Trusting
ph: 323.230.7361
e-mail: [email protected]