News and Insights

On Wes Anderson and storytelling techniques in B2B marketing

April 5, 2013

For the uninitiated who needs a quick introduction to the lexicon of Wes Anderson’s intricately woven films, here’s a little help from a television commercial the American filmmaker shot for American Express.

Whimsical doesn’t even begin to describe the fully-formed vision that infuses the seven films Anderson has made thus far. Ranging from the picaresque family drama of 2001’s The Royal Tenenbaums (for my money, still his best work) to the disarming runaway romance of two precocious teenagers in his most recent Moonrise Kingdom (2012), Anderson has blended richly choreographed visual flourishes with a highly idiosyncratic brand of narrative so consistently that his films are, by now, instantly recognizable.

“My life is about telling stories… Are those my birds?”

And what makes Anderson’s signature filmmaking style so uncanny and singularly remarkable? Some might say is the meticulous attention paid to every detail and vignette in his filmography. He created his own miniature world , a self-contained universe inhabited by a revolving cast of daydream believers, lovable screw-ups and underdog heroes — and in Anderson, there is always this deep sense of affection and empathy for each of the delightfully offbeat characters he created.

Cinephiles would indulge in the inner workings of a genuine film artist flexing his imaginative powers while exploring his pet obsessions through his body of work. For these are films saturated with wry literary references (choice cuts of Salinger and Scott Fitzgerald), the influence of his cinematic precursors (the likes of Francois Truffaut, Federico Fellini and Louis Malle come to mind), and the use of evocative pop music.

I would argue that the one quality that has always set his films apart is the strong storytelling voice that Anderson possesses — his intuitive grasp of how to make his fictional tales feel more real and easy for the viewers to relate to the deadpan humor, sublime sadness and bittersweet nostalgia inherent throughout his films.

In the same vein, knowing how to tell a concise and compelling story is an important skill that every B2B communications professional needs to develop in order to successfully connect with readers and prospective customers. It’s about recognizing the effectiveness of the most basic storytelling arc — setting the context, introducing the conflict/problem, and explaining how it is ultimately resolved — and how this approach can be used to improve how a marketing message can be delivered.

Stories create a more distinctive voice. Very often in B2B marketing, it is the uniqueness of your voice or brand personality that can make all the difference in sustaining your target audience’s interest. Purposeful storytelling is the vehicle for content creators to leave a more memorable impression — either through the sheer command and originality of your writing style or enabling you to experiment with more creative approaches to differentiate your messaging.

Stories entertain. By painting a more vivid picture, storytelling techniques tend to resonate more immediately with the target audience, as compared to straight-up presentations of hard facts and figures. A strong and consistently executed narrative helps to drive meaningful connections with the audience, opening up conversations about a company or its products and services for future engagements.

Stories are satisfying. It has been said that storytelling is purely about emotional appeal. In B2B marketing, it’s also worth considering how best to make use of the storytelling medium to inject credibility into the narrative and illustrate how you are able to effectively address a specific need or challenge faced by the audience — and how to top it off with a simple, persuasive call-to-action.

To recap, storytelling in B2B is not about drawing up elaborate narrative schemes or fictional personas. It’s simply about leveraging the power of storytelling techniques to keep your intended audience engaged, and taking a more personable approach to communicate your marketing message — for sometimes, all you need is a dash of storytelling ingenuity to continue plotting your way forward.