Brand Hard 2: Brand Harder


OK, here’s the pitch.

So your brandstory, right, it’s like Bruce Willis meets Harry Potter onboard Battlestar Galactica.Ker-ching. Thanks. (shakes hands vigorously, lights cigar, leaves in red convertible from the lot of the studio to watch waves lapping against the veranda of the Malibu beach-house until dream-effect wiggly lines return me to my desk in Oxford where I’m writing a blog. This blog. Right, back to the blog.)

Yes, I think your brand narrative is like that most-lucrative thing – a big beautiful Hollywood franchise. Because the franchise isn’t any single movie. It’s the overarching idea. The storyworld. It contains the characters, personas, motives, values, and the source of dramatic tension. The nature of the struggle, the challenge, the quest.And your brand storytelling – that content plan – it’s episodic. It’s non-linear. It’s a serial narrative. You don’t tell your whole narrative in a single epic cinema blockbuster.Instead, it’s as if your brand’s storyplan is like the product of the writers’ room for Battlestar Galactica. (Sorry if you don’t know Battlestar Galactica. It’s a masterclass.)Battlestar Galactica is famed for creating ‘tiered episodes’ that operate at many levels – offering satisfaction to the dedicated fan gorging on the drama, and casual viewers tuning in periodically. As Mike Jones, screenwriter, notes:

Each season has a clear set of macro-level series story-lines that are contributed to incrementally. In tandem are self-contained story-lines that offer closure at an episode by episode level. Operating amidst this are clusters of multi-episode arcs that deliver a third form of closure to a story-line played out over several episodes grouped together.

These clusters, mini-arcs, seasons are the campaigns and flowing content which add-up to your brand’s big narrative.  Here’s Ronosaurus, aka Ronald. B. Richardson:

A serial narrative is a story broken up across time, delivered in pieces rather than as a whole. Battlestar Galactica, the television series launched in 2004, is typical of a serial narrative: it has an overall narrative arc which stretches across four seasons, but, as is common for serials, especially in film and television, each episode has its own beginning, middle and end, so in effect we have many smaller stories making up a larger narrative. But these do not make up the entire tale of the Battlestar Galactica, not by a long shot. The recent TV series is itself an episode in a series of series, which extends into film, books, comics, games and webisodes, the whole of which is part of still larger traditions of science fiction, genre and religion. In fact, it is almost impossible to establish the limits of the story Battlestar Galactica, a serial within a series of series.

And your brand storytelling is multi-channel.Like every Marvel narrative – you get the movie, and you get the platform game version, the sequels and prequels, the TV series, the interactive website, the graphic novel. It allows the audience to return to the main narrative through different channels. And all the time the  involvement, empathy – the connection – grows. If it’s done well.If your thinking and storyplanning considers what storytellers and scriptwriters call the Returnable Elements. The things that bring you back each time.So, I’ll talk about the Returnable Elements in the next episode. (ooh, cliffhanger.)**Spoiler alert**. Cliffhangers are one of the Returnable Elements.**Spoilers aren’t one of the Returnable Elements. Though maybe they should be. I’ll think on that one.

BlogColin Cather