Storytelling Principles: Character (#6)

By Wilmar Alex Tax, 30 September 2021

A brand is not a human being, but can have character. Creative writing instructor and Robert McKee's hands us useful metaphors for branding en communication.

"A brand is not a human being. A brand character is no more a human being than the Venus de Milo is a real woman. A brand is a work of art, a metaphor for human nature.

True character can only be expressed through choice in dilemma. How the brand chooses to act under pressure is who/what the brand is - the greater the pressure the truer and deeper the choice to character."
[free after Robert McKee’s Story on ‘Character’]

We all feel the pressure, pressure when it comes to climate change, pressure when it comes to diversity, inclusivity, pressure when it comes to animal welfare. Humans, organisations, brands alike. And then dilemma's strike us.

Should I say something, do I dare? Should I take action? What will people say? What about the other(s) brands?

Talking about pressure: when Covid-19 entered our lives less than 2 years ago lots of brands and organisation stood up, some right away, some a bit further down the way. Lots of organisation showed their true character by helping those in need, whether it was the on trade as an industry with #helpdehoreca or creating handgel by perfume brands, etc.

The same goes for climate change: brands like Patagonia have been talking to us about climate change for a long time, and now as the pressure is rising others join in. Circularity, clean energy and transparency diversity and female empowerment, are hot topics in our industry. You might even feel ashamed if you have nothing to say and do on any of these topic.

And of course there are still those only focused on making money, but let's not join the cynical, but join the change makers, let's be the change.

Show your character in these pressured times and let's make earned first Magic.

Storytelling has been around for a long time. It’s been overly hyped, booed off stage and recently it seems to have picked up traction again. Some say this may even be called the Netflix effect as in Netflix has propelled storytelling into everyday life like no other. At HPB we’ve always respected storytelling as a way to emotionally engage and connect with audiences, culture, people. The foundation of the Art of Storytelling - as we’d like to call it - are its Principles. Personally I am a great admirer of the way Robert McKee - a creative writing instructor and former professor at the University of Southern California - has written about storytelling in his book Story. Here’s my take on his principles and their relevance in the context of today’s Earned First Era. Over time, I will try and touch on all Story Principles McKee’s calls out, #1 'Premise' #2 'Character Arc', #3 Inciting Incident, #4 Controlling Idea and #5 Antagonist.