We talked previously about Freytag’s Universal Storytelling Structure and how you can use it to connect with your base and move them to action. If implementing a 150-year old theory from a German playwright seems a bit tricky, here’s an example from modern day marketing.
To promote the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association’s annual conference, Rottman Creative packaged key benefits in story form to connect members to the association. The goal was to use ASTRA’s caregiver archetype and cheerful, playful voice to resonate with members and encourage attendance. We followed Freytag’s pyramid as a surefire way to pique interest, forge connections, and inspire action.
Our commentary appears first, then the story appears after
2014 ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy: Where Everyone is on the Same Page
The first few sentences introduce the character, Todd, and set the scene: the ASTRA conference in St. Paul, MN.
People who know Todd Andersen wouldn’t believe he’s shy. A people person by nature, he’s no wallflower. But at his first ASTRA conference in 2009 (which just happened to be in his backyard of St. Paul)
The next few sentences introduce tension and additional information. Todd is intimidated. There are lots of strangers who already seem to know each other. What should he do?
He was momentarily intimidated when he walked into the mixer and saw groups chatting. Should he just walk up and introduce himself, he wondered? Before he even had a chance to consider it, something remarkable happened.
The turning point of this story happens when Todd dives in head first to a group of colleagues who turn out to be friendly and welcoming. It’s all smooth sailing for Todd from here to the end of the story.
“I just got pulled in,” he says. “It was such a friendly and welcoming group.” He was ensconced before he knew it.
Here we see even more tension released as Todd gains an awareness of the many benefits the conference offers, connectivity chief among them. We get a sense of the excitement and possibilities that come from attending. A powerful example is that competitors will come to one another’s aid as a result of connections forged here.
Coming from the hobby industry (which is highly competitive), Todd wasn’t prepared for the free-flow of information and sharing. “At ASTRA, you feel like everyone is on the same team. We’ve all come together…” says Todd, the CEO of Hub Hobby Center. That attitude pervades the Academy, where Todd wound up making some of his strongest connections. You sit down next to someone in a session, and it’s an automatic ice-breaker. The conversation and ideas just start flowing. The Marketplace has the same feel. “That first year, I was thoroughly enamored with the product selection. We have always tried to find unique products…and there were all kinds of things there,î he says. It’s not just a hunt for merchandise: it’s conversations. It’s connections. And it’s cooperation.
If Todd is out of product and customers are asking for it, he knows that in a pinch he can call on a fellow retailer he’s met at ASTRA to ship some product at cost-and he would do the same for them. The Marketplace & Academy has become a key part of his year-both for buying and for new ideas.
The story comes to a close with Todd’s recommendation that retailers shouldn’t send just one person to the conference; they should send a whole team.
Todd knows that first-timers may be tempted to skip the sessions and just walk the floor. But don’t skimp, he says, because literally every part of the conference enriches the experience. In fact, he encourages retailers to bring as many key people on their team as possible, because absorbing things together-in the context in which they are presented-makes a huge difference once you get back to life and back to the store to implement what you’ve learned. “You may not be aware of it yet, but the Marketplace & Academy is really something special.”
You’ll notice the climax in Todd’s story appears fairly early. In Romeo and Juliet, the climax happens about half way through the play. There are no strict rules for when to introduce each section of a story or how long each should be. You might find you need more time to introduce your characters and setting, to build tension and engage the reader before the climax. Or you might find, as in this story, that the falling action is most illustrative and deserves the most space. Experiment with your brand story to see what works to move your membership.
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