Archives for posts with tag: storytelling

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


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

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

Here’s a good use for the word gobsmacked:

Issey Miyake’s genius continues to extend the distance between him and all other clothing designers.

Is anyone else in the industry doing this:

…or telling a STORY like this:

“The process by which the clothing is made is groundbreaking, using a mathematical algorithm: first, a variety of three-dimensional shapes are conceived in collaboration with a computer scientist; then, these shapes are folded into two-dimensional forms with pre-set cutting lines that determine their finished shape; and finally, they are heat-pressed, to yield folded shirts, skirts, dresses etc. These clothes are significant not only for the process by which they were made but because they are also made using recycled PET products, sometimes in combination with other recycled fibers.”


~Christopher Smith

A few years back I had passed the audition (done successful freelance work and been hired full time) at a startup financing firm in Portland, Oregon called Portland Family of Funds. My first assignment: write a speech for the Mayor to deliver about a project that was intended to define green building, historic rehabilitation and support of the arts through innovative financing.

Simple enough?

Wish this TED talk had been available at the time – – check out the brilliant Nancy Duarte
 (perhaps I should revisit the speech and see how I fared?)

~ Christopher Smith

In a rather brilliant Harvard Business Review article “Steve Jobs and the Eureka Myth, Adrian Slywotzky argues that there’s a gap between the founder’s legend of Apple ( “…a small bunch of geniuses that “Think Different”) and the reality of how effin’ hard Apple designers work to make their products.

Here’s the table of Myth vs.  Reality that Slywotzky uses:

eureka jobs.jpg

He says: “Apple would love us to believe it’s all “Eureka.” But Apple produces 10 pixel-perfect prototypes for each feature. They compete — and are winnowed down to three, then one, resulting in a highly evolved winner. Because Apple knows the more you compete inside, the less you’ll have to compete outside.”

I’ve written here about the Founder’s Legends that breathe life into the cultures of Nike, Patagonia, HP and Ann Sloane. I am a big believer in this valuable piece of storytelling.

But is the Founders Legend supposed to be absolutely factual?

Hello? It’s a legend…

But that’s not the point of the Founders Legend. The Legend is inspirational, aspirational, and motivational.

But let’s be clear: your legend won’t make you competitive.

“The glitter you see [as Apple launches its ‘miracle’ products] is not the explanation; look carefully, and the inspiration/perspiration ratio is where it should be. Under Jobs’ leadership, Apple has done 10 times the amount of relevant homework of most companies — internal competitions, supply chain training, endless deal-making, endless recruiting, training, and generating and sustaining employee excitement that you just can’t fake. If others emulated that, all of that, their results would be a lot more like Apple’s. And our economy would start really humming again.”

The lesson here is, build a great legend. But what you say is only a small part of your success. You’ll have to work your ass off to make anyone notice you in the first place.

Got a little archetype-boost yesterday. I was quoted in an article on GE’s ecomagination website: check out

Mobile solar power, you say? What the….

Well, in my role as VP Marketing for Pure Power Distribution, I have become an expert in mobile solar power.  I have been quoted in Forbes, the LA Times, and other publications.

The point is, this article, sponsored by this revered company, helped my personal branding as an archetypal Sage.

There is a lot of info out there on archetyping, but in my humble opinion, Mark & Pearson’s The Hero and the Outlaw is the most comprehensive study on archetyping in marketing and communications. I know I’m not alone in this thinking. And though I might quibble about whether the Caregiver and the Lover; and Magician and the Creator; are often too close to distinguish in reality, my copy of “H&O” is well-thumbed.

When creating a brand for yourself (or a company, if you do this professionally), it makes sense to first think about where you fit in the world of archetypes. Archetypes are simply personality categories or types that are common throughout cultures – using an archetype, one can understand what a person (or brand) should do in a situation.

Take Clint Eastwood: Outlaw (Rebel hero who goes his own way), Explorer (seeking truth and freedom) and now Sage (now that he’s the elder statesman of actors). Or Apple Computer: Magician (formerly Outlaw when “battling” with Microsoft back in the day) with hints of Innocent and Explorer.

I believe my personal Archetype is Magician, with Sage and Explorer qualities. (Brandhouse has summarized the Mark and Pearson definition of Sage here).

So this article was helpful in supporting the Sage role I enjoy playing. I know my stuff, deep and wide. I research the hell out of topics and practice speaking about them until I can tell a compelling and simple story, no matter how complex the topic. As a creative thinker and copywriter (Magician), I can make esoteric stories interesting using quote-worthy phrasing.

Tax credits? Got it. Green building. Call me. Mobile Solar Power. What would you like to know?

And while I worked with other clients, I knew their stories cold: What does FAO stand for in FAO Schwarz? (I wrote the FAO Schwarz catalogues for 2 years). Has Bill Bowerman’s original waffle iron ever been found? (I wrote the history of Nike, including the waffle-iron-story, for the Nike exhibit at the Boston Marathon). Why was the first building in Portland’s “River Blocks” called the “Meriwether” (I named both).

As a Magician (+ Sage/Explorer), I know what to expect from myself, and my clients know what to expect from me. It helps in getting hired, and it helps in doing a job well.

~ Christopher Smith

Advertising people are aware the turmoil their business is in. Some are wishing for one more shot at the 3-spot campaign with crackling and wry headlines, a tag that joins the zeitgeist and the hang-it-on-the-wall graphic. Others are busting chops to understand what COMMUNICATES, and delivering content – STORIES – that people care about.

Of these, most would declare that “advertising” is past-tense. “Mad Men” belongs on the History Channel. David Ogilvy, Ted Bates and the rest of the dinosaurs belong in a museum… That withing leading edge / early adopters / sophisticates / sneezers, the brand-manipulation radar is on high alert.

And when the smartest – – or among the smartest and most talented – – describe the new landscape, do they turn to TV or film for a quote that will help make sense of it all?

Yogi Berra?

No, they turn to literature; Jeffrey Eugenides, in fact “What’s the first thing a kid says when he learns how to talk? ‘Tell me a story.’ That’s how we understand who we are, where we come from.”

OK, so…?

Story posits the following: “With experts from Eugenides to old-fashioned management guru Tom Peters now saying stories are everything, what’s a beleaguered CMO to do with that information?”

Look back? 3-headlines and out? Or forward?

Read on.

~ Christopher Smith