Storybuilding: Character Development


Storytelling: Using Story to Influence and Connect


Lesson Info

Storybuilding: Character Development

Nobody Roots For a Product Develop Character. Very few of us ever are like, man I hope Apple sells a gazillion products. Whether they do or not has no bearing on us. Right? We don't root for products, we root for people. And in that way we have to develop character. Most of the time we are asked to market a product or service. It's an inhuman thing that we're marketing. It's an object. And we think that we can make that object human, but in making that object human, that's not going far enough. We have to develop the character around that product. It's what brands exist for. That's what a brand is suppose to be. It's suppose to be the character that exists without a product. Right? It's suppose to be the human nature of the way that a company sees the world, and the way that they solve the problems that they solve. And it's up to us to develop those characters. Don't lose sight of the fact that character development, even if we don't have physical characters in the thing that we create...

, character development is still an ample part of what we need to create in the context of our creative work. We develop character whether it's through a brand, whether it's through a product, whether it's through the personification of such things. Or the embodiment of those things into something else. The natural way we develop character, obviously, as we've seen examples of them, in fictional narrative is for us to create a physical character. Is for us to have a person that plays a role. But often times we don't have that luxury. We don't have the budget, we don't have the time to be able to actually develop physical characters, and that's okay. All we have to do is communicate the character of something. Whether that's the character of the brand that exists around that product or service. Whether it's the character of the person who's using that product or service. We're beginning to attach ourselves to those. We saw in the skype video there was character development about this idea of longing, and wanting to be together. That the product just inherits. They didn't have to tell you it, they just inherit that. That they can help solve that. That they can help give that to you. And give that relief and that joy that comes from seeing those people come together. That's a character that's being developed. Sometimes we do develop characters in the work that we do. And here's an example of some character development. (silence) So we see an entire story play out through the voice, or brand, or character of the product. Characters that are developed, physical characters that are developed, but also the playfulness of a particular brand. This brand has clearly got a playful feel to it. We all know what scrabble is. We all know it to be a board game. But there's just a certain playfulness to the music that they chose, to the scenes with which they show. We show these two people who are coming together, and they're doing so through the character that's developed in this particular product. So when you're starting to look at your particular stories, the stories you developed, what's the character of your brand? What's both the character that is portrayed from the top down, and the character that's portrayed from the bottom up? Sometimes those are different. Sometimes the brand that somebody touts, isn't the brand that the audience feels or sees. And it's important for us to know both. To ignore one or the other is dangerous. And often times the one that we ignore, is the way that the audience feels about a particular brand. That there are certain things that they know, or say, or feel about our brand that our clients don't usually partake in. But we don't have to necessary tout them, we just have to know that they're there, so that we can build stories that to some degree either promote love and joy or alleviate fear. In doing so, maybe it's a little bit more subtle. Maybe it's not as obvious as we would normally take. But understanding what the character is. What's the character of our brand or our service? What's the character that the audience sees? And then what's the character of our audiences? How do they partake and these types of things? There are multiple characters that are happening here, just like a normal story. Often times we can find what the core of our story is simply by going through character development. We develop the character that the audience sees our brand, the way that our brand sees it, and then the audience members. How they interact with one another. What happens in between is really what we should be serving from a story stand point. And often times we can find those patterns that exist between that circle. And that ends up being the core of our story. This is a story about blank, whatever that happens to be. I thought that was a pretty good example of that. Any questions? How do you suggest compromising the brand character, for when you need to push promotions, for example? Well, there doesn't have to necessarily compromise the brand character to do so. The idea of promotion, most cases your dealing with a financial promotion. In most cases, that's not always the case. But sometimes your dealing with "Hey I'm gonna give you 50 percent off." It's not necessarily a betrayal of the character of the brand, especially if the brand is about value. And in most cases most brands are about value. I want to give you value, I want to make it easy for this world to exist, so therefore, for today only, 50 percent off, right? Urgency has been a device we have used from a marketing stand point for years. Competition leads to urgency. So the more competition exists in the space, the more I'm trying to push. Where that promotion starts to impact the brand, is the frequency of that promotion. There are certain brands that are known for promotion. Give you an example, Walmart. Walmart is known for low prices. That's Walmart's brand. That's what it does. So it can promote all at once, and it fits within the context of it's brand. But if Sax Fifth Avenue has a sale every three days, for 75 percent off, at some point they're gonna stop being know as high end, and start being known as promotion. So as long as that promotion doesn't take over the brand character, it doesn't necessarily betray it. As long as the value that's being communicated with that promotion, fits within the context of that brand character. So if you know that our brand is about this, it's known to be, this is where the value exists, the promotion is hopefully to accelerate that value. So let me give that to you. And it could be just a line that exists within a coupon, it could be an image that exists at the top of an email, that's simply connecting itself to the value, and then providing the promotion. If it's reoccurring, and it's happening all the time, from a business stand point, then you have to start asking yourself, how come we have to keep incenting financially? Maybe our value isn't where we thought it was. But usually folks like me and you don't get to make those decision. It's usually made above us.

Class Description

We are all storytellers. Few of us are storybuilders, capable of not only understanding the structure of story but able to use it to connect to the people that consume it. Story has a form, one that Stefan Mumaw, the Director of Creative Strategy at the well-known story shop Hint, is going to break down for you. He’ll lay out the structure of story and use real-world examples to show how each story component is used to build an emotional bridge. Bring a few tissues, story has a knack for producing both tears of laughter and empathy and Stefan will use both to show just how powerful story can be.

In this class you’ll learn:

  • How to create emotion
  • Story structure
  • Character development. Associating characters of a brand with characters
  • Rational and emotional purchase drivers

Stefan reminds us that target audiences are made up of individuals, and for the message to be effectively received, it needs to be couched in a story that speaks to what motivates people, thus awakening a response.



GREAT CLASS!! Loved the content. Engaging speaker and wonderful examples shared. Took a lot from this class that I will bring back to my daily creative work!


Stefan was an amazing speaker... He provided great detail in explaining the structure of a story, and his example/videos really drove home the points he was making... He had wonderful real-world professional experiences to share.


Stefan's a truly compelling speaker. I listened to the free online version of the course a couple of times (with some breaks when I had to leave). It's a good commentary on storytelling principles and what makes a good story. His examples come from big brand packaged goods (such as beer), which are sold more on emotion. They're a good way to see story structure and his video examples are entertaining and spot on.