eivind holum

The art of storytelling

eivind holum
The art of storytelling


The traditional methods of marketing do not work anymore. Yes, it is hard to believe, but this is the absolute truth. What used to produce results back in the broadcast era – a time when a selective few controlled the production as well as delivery of messages – is no longer effective in the digital era we live in.

Nowadays, it’s very hard to get heard and be noticed. Why? Well, because there's just way too much content – noise and clamor. Hence, most of the messages that brands try to relay through their marketing campaigns die down before they even reach their target audience. However, a selective few continuously make it through and attract attention, using the most effective as well as efficient tool of all: storytelling. This is not a surprise at all given that it is only great stories that can stand the test of time, force people to think, inspire them, and get them to change their behavior.

Before we move on to the art of creating a story that will get the traction that you so long for, let’s first take a look at the five qualities that you absolutely need to inculcate in your story and five deadly sins that you need to avoid at all costs.

The 5 qualities that lead to the creation of a great story


A story needs to have a proper context. It needs to clearly define the who, when, what, and where. Don’t proceed until you have finalized these. Remember to start with the who.


If the target audience cannot relate to the story, then the story is going to fade away. A great story is a story with which its audience can identify with. By understanding the needs, fears, and motivation of your target audience, you can ensure that your story is relatable.


If it’s not meaningful then it’s not useful. Remember this. As a storyteller, you need to make sure that there’s something valuable that can be learned through the story.


Only if the story leaves behind a lasting image and impression can it yield results. So, focus on creating and delivering a core message that can be easily recalled by your audience.


If the story makes you think, then it’s good. If the story makes you feel one thing or the other, then it’s great. Needless to say, you need to aim for the latter.

The 5 Deadly Sins you need to avoid like the plague


Not putting in the hard yards in terms of doing research, narrowing down your target audience, and assuming that everyone already loves or would love your product as much as you do is a big mistake.


If you believe that the facts will speak for themselves and you should focus on other things, then you are mistaken.


Never ever try to make a sale directly and derive the conclusion for your audience by yourself. Instead, let your audience members arrive at the conclusion by thinking for themselves.


Sure, humor is good and it can serve you well. However, don’t think that it’s all you need.


Trying way too hard to please your audience is one way of shooting yourself in the foot. So avoid that.

What are the majority of the brands doing today?

Today, the most successful of the brands out there do use the storytelling technique. They use inadequacy marketing in addition to becoming the mythmakers to increase the appeal of their brands and in turn boost their sales.

Inadequacy marketing revolves around the concept of storytelling in which the audience is encouraged to go out and shop (or consume in other words). This strategy is most widely used to portray the brand as the Hero, which turns up and saves the day by solving the problems that consumers face. The myth concept enables companies to market themselves as brands that help people add substantial value in society and allow consumers to become citizens. Now even though these methods have worked and are also useful to an extent today but they won’t be for much longer.

What do you need to do to succeed today and in the future?

Now with the emergence of social media and technology, the best way to go viral is to give the role of the Hero in your stories to the audience and embrace the role of the mentor yourself by simply facilitating your consumers.

By being interesting, forcing people to feel, sticking to the truth, portraying it impeccably, and living with the story you portray you can go viral. One such recent example is of Nike’s “Dream Crazier” advertisement. Nike doesn’t tell you to buy their shoes or apparel and how it can boost your performance. It just says that you have got everything that it takes and that Nike simple wants to be with you on your journey to success. Believe it or not, this simple and specific message really appealed to people around the globe and not only got Nike the recognition worldwide but also an increase in sales.

The takeaway

It is vital that we as a global society realize that stories shape our world and they matter. They are our verbal DNA that helps us track our history, take decisions, and shape our future. We can positively use them, not to force anyone to buy something but to improve their own lives as well as the lives of their community members. Yes, it can be done. Now you also know how.