In the first season of “Mad Men,” Don Draper, the creative director at Sterling Cooper, the New York advertising agency at the heart of the TV series; is asked to present to Kodak, a new client.
It’s 1962 and Kodak has just come out with a new slide projector. The product’s main feature is a circular tray or “wheel” with slots for storing and organizing slides. (You remember it, don’t you?)
Kodak’s marketing people have charged Don and his team to come up with a creative concept based on the new “high-tech” main feature. (Unlike the straight slide tray, the new wheel tray will hold slides if dropped.)
Draper mulls over ideas for several days. He’s going through an emotional ringer in his personal life and feeling pretty raw. Out of this emotion Draper hits on a brilliant concept: The Carousel Slide Projector.
Brilliant concepts are nothing new for Draper. But this one is more evocative than most.
During the client pitch, Draper explains that a carousel—unlike a mere wheel or round metal tray—lets us experience memories as a child would—round and round and backwards and forwards. With an undercurrent of emotion typical of Draper’s character, he runs the Kodak folks through a slide show of images of Draper himself with his wife and children. It’s a nostalgic moment. The client is thoroughly moved and give the concept the thumbs up. (Watch Draper’s Kodak Carousel’s slide show here.)
Draper’s idea is strictly fiction (Although I couldn’t find the details, I suspect the real story is far less compelling). Still, it shows us what’s required to conceive and craft a meaningful story that will compel customers to engage with our brands and products.
1. Feelings are a bridge to creativity and narratives customers will connect with.
2. Evocative words are the building blocks of a powerful brand story. One carefully chosen word or image (“carousel” vs. “wheel,” for example) can provide a novel’s worth of feeling.
3. A brand story should communicate the product benefit in an emotionally engaging way.
4. Story is the context or framework, features and benefits part of the narrative.
When I work with clients on crafting their brand story, the process is both linear and non-linear. It requires not knowing what problem they’re solving, and how–i.e. the features and their benefits–but also nailing the feeling the product “experience” evokes for the customer.