Robert McKee is the world’s foremost authority on the craft of storytelling and the best-selling author of Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting. He has taught over 60 Academy Award winners, and his students include Peter Jackson, Julia Roberts, Jimmy Fallon, Meg Ryan, and David Bowie.
Since 2016, McKee has partnered with Skyword CEO Tom Gerace to bring the fundamentals of story into the world of business through their Storynomics seminars. The following article is an excerpt from their forthcoming book, Storynomics: Story-Driven Marketing in the Post-Advertising World.
Look around. It’s happening. In ever-escalating millions, consumers are cutting the barbed wire of ad-imprisoned media and disappearing into a forest of paid subscriptions and ad blockers. No use searching for these people. They’re gone and they’re never coming back.
Now look ahead. Before long, all public and private communication—entertainment, news, music, sports, social media, online searches—will be ad-free, leaving sides of buses as the publicity medium of last resort.
Millennials, that vital under-forty market, are not only banishing advertising from their lives but sneering at the institution itself, denouncing its bragging and promising as deceitful, manipulative, the next thing to micro-aggression. In fact, a recent study revealed that over the past five years, television viewing by people under forty dropped 30 percent, while ad-free over-the-top services like Netflix skyrocketed.
This massive consumer exit and the resulting drop in ad revenue has tossed umpteen media firms—Tribune Media, 21st Century Media, SBC Media, Relativity Media, Cumulus Media, Next Media, Citadel Broadcasting, the Sun-Times, Borders, Blockbuster, and dozens more multibillion-dollar corporations—into the dumpsters of bankruptcy.
In 2013, 76 percent of marketers surveyed by Adobe claimed that marketing had changed more in the last two years than it had in all the decades since the birth of television. Many chief marketing officers swear they will never again trust advertising to deliver customers. Some CMOs condemn ad agencies for wasting time and money trying to be Super Bowl-creative instead of market-effective. Others blame the noise from free online ads that drowns out their paid ads. Still others complain that falling return on investment (ROI) and rising costs make advertising just too damn expensive. Of course, if advertising suddenly redelivered the mass consumers of decades past, all would be forgiven.
The more the push strategies of bragging and promising lose traction, the more marketers turn to the pull tactics of effective storytelling. To support their efforts, the Harvard Business Review has published dozens of articles on the persuasive power of story for both leadership and branding, umpteen TED talks have championed the neuroscience behind storified messaging, and how-to writers have poured out dozens upon dozens of story-in-business manuals that could fill a wall at Barnes & Noble.
But despite published enthusiasm, boardroom misgivings about the nature and use of story run as wide and deep as ever. Now and then, an inspired campaign uses story to effect (for instance, the “What’s the Matter with Owen?” campaign by GE, “Misunderstood” by Apple, or “Click, Baby, Click!” by Adobe), but overall, corporate storytelling continues to sputter and stumble in confusion, more a trend than a tool. This is true not only for the marketing arms of most companies, but also for the PR and ad agencies that service them. The dream of story-driven commerce is still a dream. With Storynomics, we intend to turn this dream into reality.
Image attribution: Bruce Mars
Justin Smith, CEO of Bloomberg Media Group, said, “The media industry is bifurcated into two distinct worlds: the struggling traditional segment that longs for a simpler, more profitable past that will never return; and the vibrant, entrepreneurial segment that is reinventing commerce before our eyes.”
This book was written for you reinventors. We coined the infinitive to storify to name the transformation of data into story form, the adjective storified to describe data that has undergone that change, and the noun Storynomics to title the story-centric business practices that drive fiscal results.
The difference between data and story is this: Data lists what happened; story expresses how and why it happened. Data compiles facts by quantity and frequency; story reveals the causalities behind and beneath those facts. Story eliminates irrelevancies, concentrates on dynamic change, and then reshapes factual subject matter into a structure that links events into chains of cause and effect, played out over time.
Storynomics taps this enormous potential in the business world. Those marketers who master storytelling techniques will plant and harvest a timeless bounty as they reinvent the future.
Storynomics, by Robert McKee and Tom Gerace, will be published on March 20. Pre-orders are available today.
Featured image attribution: Joshua Earle