Archives for category: Storytelling


Dang it, Story is good. They’re so good that they just tweaked the nose of Coca Cola – a brand they follow and admire. The charge: old-school bullshitting.

Check out this post, where Story lays out a new Coke ad that purports to be about making strides against obesity. Noble, to a point… but when Coke sets itself up to make the (much-needed) honest statement about owning its role in the obesity crisis, Coke whiffs.

Rightly, Story points out that transparency is a zero-sum activity – – you’re either COMPLETELY transparent about your mistakes (and efforts to make things better) or you’re bullshit.

Coke, Lance Armstrong, Anthony Weiner… welcome to the 21st century. Get with the program, or STFU.


legoyayIt’s been a while, I know, I know, but moving quickly along, this story from LEGO caught my eye – – one of the best company stories I’ve heard in a while.

Or maybe I’m just a sucker for a happy ending…

The Subject Line is: “What a Lemonade Stand Taught Me About Storytelling” – – the email starts like this: “I was on my way to play golf this past weekend when I drove by a young girl selling lemonade on the sidewalk in front of her house….

I know the source, so in two seconds, I’m drawn in.

In 5 more, I see video clips from Seth Godin and Rolf Jensen – business storytelling legends – that support the premise that a little girl’s lemonade stand is relevant to my brand. Great communication about communication.

~ Christopher Smith

Makes ya’ wonder: does one keep returning to the same information resource / magazine / blog / radio station… because it confirms the reader’s worldview? Or because it continually informs, and the worldview adjusts accordingly?

Probably a bit of both, but I get great comfort reading Fast Company and seeing ideas I can relate to and agree with. For me, I get a bit of both from Fast Company – no matter what I read, I always learn something. Many times it’s just a new way to articulate a big idea.

It’s been 10 years since Don Rood of The Felt Hat melted my brain (in a good way) with “A brand is a promise.” The sound still goes off for a second when I think about the way he describes brands.

In 9 Principles for Great Branding by Design , here’s the plain-speak gem: “A brand is not your logo or ID system…It’s a gut feeling people have about you. When two or more people have the same feeling, you have a brand. You get that feeling via smart design, which creates the experiences people have with the brand. Everything you do creates the brand experience, ergo design IS your brand.”

~ Christopher Smith

I know, I know, I need to use a new resource… but GOOD keeps on giving, and I want to share this great example of the power of storytelling with my thousands of readers (cue the crickets…).

Seems little bitty library in a little bitty town (Shutesbury, MA) is under threat of closure. Just like in your hometown, “Kids come to practice their reading. Adults come to use internet and search for jobs. And just like in other towns, a budget crisis is preventing the community from maintaining the facility they deserve: The 900-square foot building, built in 1902, doesn’t have running water or even any space for patrons to sit down and hang out. Much of the town is restricted to dial-up internet, so townspeople naturally want to use the library’s high speed connection, says Emily Bloch, a volunteer. “Except there’s no place for people to sit inside, so people park in the parking lot and idle with their laptops.”

So small there’s no place to sit down? What’s to love?

A lot, as it turns out. Libraries everywhere are under siege by the dual threats of imploding tax revenues and the internet.

But Shutesbury is not going to allow its library to go down easy:

“An incredibly cute YouTube video by filmmaker Lindsay Van Dyke recruited local people to demonstrate their love of their library. The short gets to the essence of what makes libraries so important: having a haven for ideas, inspiration, and creativity. The video’s gotten 35,000 hits in a little more than a month, inspiring nearly $40,000 in donations from donors across the country as well as Singapore, Australia, Canada, Kenya, and Europe.”

I couldn’t summarize this story any better than GOOD has, so here goes: “It’s an amazing example of what creativity combined with a community’s passion can do to get the world engaged about a local problem.”

Make a donation fans. Save a library.

~Christopher Smith

Some days, I think I could get all my news from GOOD. Which is why I get their daily blast – it’s well designed, uplifting and stimulating.

For example, this story about HCD Connect, a new platform designed by and (funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) to design solutions for people in extreme poverty.

Sharing stories with your global peers in order to help those critically in need of design solutions?

Has storytelling ever been more important?

~ Christopher Smith

Legend has it, Clark Gable took off his top in 1934’s It Happened One Night, revealing a naked chest, and the men’s underwear industry lost its shirt.

And so, product placement was born (more or less).

These days, product placement is a must-have (oh no – is there a Mazda in The Lorax?) — Even the sustainable industries are getting into the act – lookie here

Point is, any company or industry, as long as it does so authentically (honestly), should tell its own story by leveraging other media with similar values, to reach its target.

~ Christopher Smith

Hollywood has long taken liberties in movie-izing books. Few take umbrage any more – why would they? Film is, after all, a quite different medium than text and cannot portray “word-for-word” the author’s original ideas. Cannot and therefore should not be expected to.

But there’s movie0making and then there’s movie-promoting. And here’s where Disney has screwed the pooch on The Lorax: (I have not seen the movie btw) – – in its effort to secure corporate sponsorship to make additional money / defray costs, Disney has obliterated the book’s original intent by co-opting sponsors such as Mazda of which the author would clearly disapprove.

It’s a classic case of greenwashing, and in this case – maybe an emotional connection to the author and this beloved story, and the children who will see the film and experience this dark-side of marketing – I feel it’s callow and obscene.

There’s no way in hell that Suess would have allowed Mazda as a sponsor of this story. It’s ridiculous.

I think this post sums up the conundrum, and the storytelling lesson, quite well.

~ Christopher Smith

“I didn’t know what the hell I was gonna do. My dad’s a scientist, but I didn’t have that skill set. My mother’s an urban planner, and I’d always liked buildings and thinking about how a city works, so I tried urban planning. I worked a couple of years doing both things, City Hall during the day, then at night with my girlfriend, now wife, packing boxes and doing customer service. I’d take boxes on the train in the morning, go to the post office, then go to work.”

That was 7 years ago, says the founder of a company that now has $200 million in revenue per year.

Give this little nugget a read in Fast Company

~Christopher Smith

Every two months, Expert Blogger Kaihan Krippendorff pulls together a community of innovators. They meet somewhere in New York City, usually a boardroom overlooking a park or cityscape. But last month they all found our way into an acting studio operated by The TAI Group to learn about storytelling…

Read more on Fast Company