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#InsightsIn5: The Art & Science of Storytelling

Updated: Feb 13


During this weeks #GlobalHangout co-hosted by Transition AMP and 4xi Global Consulting & Solutions, Jackie Cupper chaired the session, moderated by Karen Turton and with this weeks guest speakers, David Murdin, and 4xi's Simon Elliot talk about the science and art of storytelling.


Storytelling is as old as humankind itself from the Stone Age cave paintings depicting scenes and even our ancestors with musical instruments. To hieroglyphics, the written word, scriptures and how they were set to music as a form of block chain to protect the words and the message contained within.


Nursery rhymes and lullabies are examples of these, as are National Anthems, even songs of revolt or liberation.


Here’s a quick history:

From 1,400 BC in Syria, in Ancient Greece, the Romans, the English and around the world, civilizations were setting their words to music and to the drum beat from within. The old Rugby songs, shanty music from the ancient mariners, the use of our bodies as instruments, our beat, our voice, whistles, and drums.

  • 1580: Ding Dong Bell ( refers to Shakespeare’s, the Tempest)

  • 1609: Three Blind Mice (refers to Queen Mary I, and the demise of 3 Bishops)

  • 1611: To Market to Buy a Fat Pig

  • 1790’s: Ring a Ring o’ Roses (referencing The Great Plague, or Black Death)

In Malaysia during the Tsunami in 2004, an old nursery rhyme saved many of the locals but not the tourists, “If the ocean runs away from the shore, then you should run away from the ocean”.


Since time immemorial stories have been at the core of our human experience, the tool we use to shape our identities and make sense of the world around us. When told well, stories can:

  1. INSPIRE LOYALTY

  2. SPARK EMOTION

  3. CHANGE HOW WE THINK, AND FEEL

Why is this important?

Because storytelling has been with us forever, and forever it remains. The combination of words, music, and pictures has been accelerated since the invent of cinema. Disney famously have a formula that even makes grown men cry watching a bionic racing snail or karaoke contest in an imaginary world full of animals of the savanna.


We understand storytelling in three basic layers and when carefully orchestrated, storytelling can build a powerful and authentic connection between your brand and your consumer, no matter the medium or channel:


EXPERIENCE: A lived event or moment within a larger story that can influence a story’s outcome. Experiences that connect to a story are more memorable and more emotionally powerful.


STORY: A linked series of events that takes a character from one state to another.


NARRATIVE: A system of stories that links values and events to establish broader cultural meaning.

TIP: When thinking about your storytelling, think about the HERO, its not you, the hero is your customer or consumer. It has to be a story that they can relate to, put themselves in the story, relate to their own current state and appeal to their aspiration of future state. And don't forget - it’s also got to be both CREDIBLE and AUTHENTIC.

The automotive industry has over decades developed a successful and advanced methodology and practice of connecting with their consumers, often for repeat purchases, sometime for decades, and in some cases for life. Their ability to story tell as a means of building long sustaining brands and loyalty, is no more about just the vehicle itself, but all about the emotional connection it creates with its often-loyal followers:

  • NISSAN: Innovation that Excites

  • CHEVROLET: Find New Roads

  • FORD: Go Further

  • BMW: The Ultimate Driving Machine

  • LAND ROVER: Above and Beyond

  • AUDI: Vorsprung Durch Technik (Progress Through Technology)

  • MINI: It’s a Mini adventure

These companies managed to capture the essence of the brand focused on the emotions they stir and the loyalty they generate.


What about, “Just Do It”, Ronseal and “It does what it says on the tin”, KFC and “Finger Lickin Good”, Disney and “The Happiest Place on Earth”, or the likes of Apple who don’t even have a tag line as they believe their Apple logo is sufficient - and who is to argue with that?


So, what’s that got to do with me?

Simon Elliot recalls, "As a young sales guy in the UK, I first saw sales as an adversarial pursuit, “I have something to sell, you have the money, and I’m here to win.” I was barking completely up the wrong tree as my boss reminded me at the time,

“Look at it as telling a story - people don’t remember all the data, the specifications, the detail, they remember what it does for them, it means to them, and the connections to the emotions it stirs.”

Elliot goes on, "I remember thinking at the time how on earth I was to stir emotion? But I realized that the clue lied in “What’s in it for me?” Whether that be; being able to do their job better, recognition, promotion, making their life easier, developing their brand, or engaging folks in a higher purpose and connected with their beliefs and aspirations."


Think about that when you are telling your stories, then also think about, if appropriate, the sounds and visuals you can set to your storytelling.


Use pictures that stir connection, smiling faces looking at the camera. Use video to get your message over. Think about Microsoft Windows distinctive boot up sound. What about, "Nationwide is on your side", or "We are Farmers (dum, dedum, dedum, dedum, dum, dum)", the McDonalds ditty, or the memorable INTEL Inside signature intro.

"If a picture paints a thousand words, a video tells a million, and with sound and music potentially creates memories and emotional connections that can last a life time."

It’s a combination of all these factors that make the interactions memorable and for easier recollection of your brand, but it’s the EXPERIENCE that really gives you lasting impressions.


David Murdin is a self confessed Brand Shaper, Experience Creator, and Engagement Geek. During his illustrious career he has been working with and building brands for an impressive line up including; British Airways, Sky Sports, Egg, Royal Bank of Scotland, Whitbread, Costa Coffee, Debenhams Restaurants, and even working with Manchester United's own footballing legend Eric Cantona!

David tells the story about Bob Beamon and his green "Bobble Hat" and how he would use it as a marker during his practice sessions, and how unbeknown to Beamon his coach would move it, just a little further, and Bob would jump a little farther each time. It's a powerful story and one that inspired an Olympic record that still stands today.


Murdin recollects when with British Airways how the brand story was one of "Quintessentially Britishness" from the values of the organization to the air crew, the pilots, the stewards and stewardesses. From their uniforms and how they wore them, to the little things that sent the brand message and created memorable moments that in turn created consumer loyalty.

He talks about how the introduction of a tiered cake stand as a "prop" in the First Class cabin to serve "Very British" afternoon tea was a great hit and how such a small investment made such a big impact to driving memorable experiences.

How a simple video created a story of discovery and a message of purpose and belonging, and created a following in not the restaurant business, but the business of creating memories. Take a look at this video, "The Dallas Discovery" - bonus points if you can spot the narrator!

The video takes you on a personal journey of Paul and David and how all good stories start with a moment of inspiration, and the basis from which they created the ethos and culture of Whitbread Restaurants.


So, if we've established that storytelling can be an important tool to stimulating memorable moments, emotional connections, how do some of these things make you feel?

  • The cake-stand serving the British Airways afternoon tea?

  • The feeling when you open an Apple device, plug it in, and it works!

  • The smell of your new car and how that stimulates the senses?

  • How you connect with your Mini, BMW, your Citroen 2CV, or Lamborghini or Rolls Royce, and how it portrays how you want the world to see you?

  • Do you wear brands or not? Are they visible or not? Which ones do you identify with, what do they say, project about you?

All these factors combined point to connecting brands, products, services, and experiences with how they make one feel.

TIP: Whatever you want to project, have a go at writing about it in the context of a short story, one page at the most. Share it, get some feedback, distill it as far as you can as possible, and then practice telling the story - to your spouse, partner, friends, colleagues, even try it on your mates down the pub - see how it resonates but most importantly tell it naturally just like you would recall what happened 5 Christmas’s ago in the log cabin in Lake Tahoe, or the August day you got married in some magical castle somewhere, or when Manchester United won the Premier League (again!).

Elliot grew his interest in storytelling through his professional life but as an extension under his pen name, Willy Mitchell, his grandfathers name, has published 5 historical fiction novels so far with a work in progress currently under way. Cold COURAGE tells the epic tale of leadership, survival, grit, and determination as it follows Sir. Ernest Shackleton’s 1914 Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Gipsy MOTH tells the story of his Aunt Nikki, her friend Amy Johnson and the parallel of Amelia Earhart during the golden age of aviation. Both these examples hold lessons within and learnings transferable to both life and in business.

Storytelling has become an important part of both Simons personal and professional life and a critical tool to tell our stories in a way that is impactful and memorable, and to build business.

For David, in his new business, Reel People, is helping clients clarify their #Purpose, #Proposition and how this translates across their end to end experience through #People - like a thread from a cotton reel that weaves its way through each element – hence the name of his firm, Reel.

Simon, as Managing Partner and co-founder of 4xi Global Consulting & Solutions is amongst other things including setting the tone for all things the #FutureOfWork is helping clients establish their #TRUENORTH - a process of deep self-reflection, analysis, process and science providing the roadmap to sustained growth - to retain better, and win better business.


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Come join us on our next #GlobalHangout on Friday 26th February featuring Tony Johnson, Customer Experience Officer at 4xi as he talks about how to make great experiences resonate right across your business.


Email us at hello@4xiconsulting.com to learn more, or follow this link to join: GLOBAL HANGOUTS (Alternate Friday's: 8.00 am PST, 11.00 am EST, 4.00 pm GMT.)


Inspiring the future, together.


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Transition AMP is a leadership and development firm based in the UK and focused on the development programs that equips the best, most entrepreneurial and ambitious unit general managers to make the challenging step to be multi-site operations managers in the company.


A clear pathway from GM to Area Manager: "This is a step change, not just a curve to greater responsibility, for ambitious and skillful unit managers."


The Area Manager Program (AMP provides the insight and understanding for a new multi-site leader to expand and deliver on their own retail skills, and to learn how to support their various teams in delivering commercial success.

4xi Global Workplace Consulting & Solutions provides a range of services to support Corporations, Service Providers, Innovators, and Accelerators to navigate the world of work. Inspiring the future of work, together.

4xi is proud to be Chair of WORKTECH Academy for North America and a member of its Leadership Advisory Board. 4xi is a Global Ambassador for WORKTECH Academy.

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