Storytelling Principles: Character Arc (#2)

By Wilmar Alex Tax, 21 October 2020

A lot of brands, companies are in transition in some way shape or form. Using Robert McKee's storytelling principles and with three diverse examples we want to give you some inspiration on how to cope with transition whilst at the same time making sure your brand/company does not lose its soul.

The finest branding not only reveals true character and consistency, but arcs or changes that inner nature over the course of brand's life cycle. (inspired by Robert McKee's Story)

Brands are living entities, they evolve. As a young marketer I thought this went against brand consistency, but of course it doesn't. Consistency is not the same as being static. It's about being true to your core and at the same time being part of the ever changing world you're in.

JAY-Z - from old school New York hiphop to a business man
One of my favorite examples of human brands with a great character arc is Jay-Z who turned himself from old school hiphop star from New York into a business, man without losing its soul or swag. His evolution is influenced by collabs with a very diverse group of strong names such as britpop formation Colplay (Lost+), rockband Linkin' Park (Collision Course), his life partner Beyoncé (APES**T) and most recently Pharell (Entrepeneur). And that's only the music. Worth a mention are his own sports agency, Roc Nation Sports, his live music streaming service Tidal, owner of the Armand de Brignac champagne brand, known primarily for being sold in gold bottles.

H&M - from fast fashion to full transparency
An example from the world of fashion, courtesy of my talented colleague Myrthe Spall. Today, clothing has become a disposable product, which leaves a significant negative impact on the environment and workers in the clothing industry. As one of the largest fast fashion companies in the world, H&M is focused on selling affordable clothing according to the latest trends. How to lead the change in sustainable fashion? The basis of a sustainability strategy is transparency. Being as open as possible about how products are made. H&M is open about (i) The materials used to make the product - and the durability of those materials (ii) In which countries the product was made (iii) Which supplier(s) they have worked with for the production (iv) In which factory(s) the product is made (v) Information about fashion recycling. That's how formally controversial fast fashion H&M now tops the 2020 fashion transparency index.

Royal Grolsch - from brewer from the east of Holland since 1615 to C02 neutrality in 2025
Grolsch has been brewing since 1615. Using ingredients and resources carefully - thus minimizing waste - has always been part of the company, but in the past decade it has been increasingly focusing on sustainability and its ambition to be C02 neutral in 2025. Grolsch has been proactively reducing its energy consumption and CO2 emissions for many years. As of 1 January 2020, Grolsch uses only 100% green electricity generated by European wind turbines, which reduces CO2 emissions by 46% (6,700 tons) per year. Plus their front-running brand on sustainability Kornuit has been working with crates 100% made of consumer waste, is supporter of clean up initiative trashpackers and last week the brand launched a campaign to grow their own forrest in their home region.

So embrace transition and ask yourself what your character arc is and define a believable road to an evolved brand with respect for its inner soul.

We wish you the attention that you deserve to earn.


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 - like my honourable fellow strategist Frank van de Koppel - 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, the first one was 'Premise'.