“West Philadelphia, born and raised.” The majority of people can recite the next line without thinking twice about it. That line comes the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song, a popular 90s sitcom that captured the attention of viewers across the globe. But how did it do that? By telling a good story.
Throughout this blog post, we’ll look at what the producers of the Fresh Prince did to keep viewers coming back for more, and how you can apply those storytelling principles to your brand and improve your content marketing strategy.
Define Your Identity
In the Fresh Prince, the main character, or protaganist, is Will Smith, a troubled youth from the projects of Philadelphia that gets shipped off to an upscale neighborhood in West Los Angeles. Almost everything that happens within the show is around Will, the central character. Whether it’s the episode where Will’s dad comes to visit, only to abandon him (the only episode of any show in which I willingly admit that I cried), or where an earthquake hits and Will gets locked in his aunt and uncle’s basement, the episodes revolve around the central character. Every scene the show produced was to grasp the attention of their targeted viewers, and viewers tuned in because they wanted to see what trouble Will could get himself into next, only to have it remedied by the end of the episode,.
This is how storytelling for your brand works, too. Through your storytelling, your brand’s identity should be defined, and your targeted buyer’s personas should be able to relate to it.
Build Your Story
It sounds obvious, but in order to be good at storytelling, you must have a story to tell. Each story has a model that it follows. Each piece of the model is explained below using the episode of the Fresh Prince that we mentioned above (where Will’s dad comes to visit, then walks back out of his life).
- Introduction – This sets the stage. In this episode, Will is at work when a random man is watching every move that Will makes. After Will asks the man if he can help him, the man reveals that he is Will’s father.
- Rising Action – This gets emotions going. Will and his newfound dad explore a theme park together and have the time of their lives.
- Conflict – This stirs up emotion and engage’s suspense. Since Will and his dad had such a great time together, they decide that Will is going to spend the rest of his summer on the road with his dad since they have so much catching up to do.
- Climax – Will’s dad shows up the next day and Will is ready to hit the road with him, but his dad breaks the news to him that there has been a change of plans and walks out on Will again. As his dad walks out, Will calls him by his first name, not dad.
- Falling Action – This is to settle things down before the resolution. After Will’s dad walks out on him again, Will begins to vent to his Uncle Phil (whom he lives with) about how his father was never there for him in the past, and he doesn’t need his father in the future.
- Resolution – This is how the story ends, usually leaving the viewer/reader satisfied. This episode ends with Uncle Phil, who is typically very hard on Will, consoling him and giving him a big hug as the episode ends.
So what is the point of going through an episode of the Fresh Prince when we’re talking about your brand? Because the same elements that are in play for an episode of a sitcom can be used in your brand’s storytelling. Obviously, your brand’s story doesn’t ever end, but the elements repeat cycle after cycle.
There are stories at every point of your brand’s existence. Great stories from your brand can come from:
- Your beginnings – Consumers love to see your roots and how you came to be. In the Fresh Prince, this is done in theme song each episode, as Will Smith tells the story about how he got in a fight in Philadelphia, so his mom sent him to live in Bel-Air with his aunt and uncle.
- Your challenges – This humanizes your brand and helps to engage your audience. Several of the challenges that Will endures in the Fresh Prince stem from adapting to a culture that is vastly different than where he came from. Within each episode, there is always a challenge that Will has to overcome.
- Testimonials – This validates what you are doing and helps to attract new customers. In the Fresh Prince, this is done when Will learns a valuable lesson from his aunt and uncle that he wouldn’t have learned back in Philadelphia. It validates that his move to Bel-Air was the right one. This example is obviously a little different when it comes to telling your brand’s story, but the correlation is there.
Storytelling is just another form of communication. Communicate experiences that your brand has endured. Perhaps you are a marketing agency and you want to publish a blog post about a new strategy that you tried with a client. Instead of writing out a step-by-step tutorial on the strategy, tell a story about it. You can explain the same concepts as a step-by-step tutorial, but you can explain them in a more compelling way.
At the end of the day, storytelling is a great way to improve your content marketing strategy. By employing the methods highlighted above, you can engage your targeted audience, and sit on your throne as the prince of content.
Which storytelling tactics have you seen brands use?