The importance of Story in Storytelling and in Branded Content

The Creative Director for T Brand Studio International of The New York Times Graham McDonnell

The truth is everybody loves a good story. From cave paintings, through hieroglyphics all the way up to movies, stories are the tool we as human beings use to communicate and pass on information.

It is proven that the chemical makeup of the brain changes when someone tells us a story. As a result, people can align their views with these of the storyteller. This is a very powerful tool to use as a brand marketer.

At the 2017 edition of Webit.Festival Europe the Creative Director for T Brand Studio International of The New York Times Graham McDonnell shared what an important role story plays in branded entertainment. What matters is to create content people can actually engage with. Something that takes them on a journey which tells a real, human story they can relate to.

Stories follow a simple formula. First, we introduce an element which is the main thing the audience can relate to. Of course, this element should face an obstacle most often represented by the villain in the story or an internal dilemma. And the grand finale reveals the outcome, the result at the end of the story which very often is quite unexpected.


The Creative Director for T Brand Studio International of The New York Times Graham McDonnell

When applied to brands, it is important to consider the landscape or how readers will access the content. Nowadays, the answer is on their mobile phones which according to research, people check around 10 times a day. In reality, the screen is populated with so much different content, that it is a real competition to win over the user’s attention.

“We need to stop interrupting what people are interested in and be what people are interested in.”, Graham McDonnell said.

This is what branded content is all about. Its goal is to make the product much more easier to digest because the focus is not on the product itself but on the story it is part of. When creating a brand story a small change in the formula mentioned earlier appears. First, we introduce the obstacle and then we present the element which is there to solve the problem. Only then, it comes time for the final outcome.

Stories are told all of the time and an example Graham McDonnell gave was politics, more precisely USA elections. He stressed the important role story played in Donald Trump’s election campaign. It was a very simple and effective story but most importantly it targeted the same audience every single time.

“You got to figure out the story first and then figure out how you tell it.”, McDonnell said.

He emphasized on the importance of how the story is told. It is the combination between both a really good story and the way it is told that makes the entire experience. The truth is, readers can gauge very well whether something is worth their time. Content should be divided in smaller chunks and mixed with images which according to research, people process 60 thousand times faster than words.

The content should be simple and relevant to the consumer. Because what matters is to engage the consumer and create relationship based on loyalty with them, which is far more important than selling the sole product.

You can watch his full lecture here:


If you want to keep up with the latest trends in the world of digital economy and technology, then Webit.Festival is the right place for you. Visit our website and book 2 in 1 of our Super Earlybird tickets for Webit.Festival Europe 2018.

Feel the Webit vibe with some of the best photos from this year’s event!


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