03 June 2010

Story, Content or Creative?

The other day the word "story" kept coming up.

The first mention of "story" came when a former colleague described his new startup, which writes content for brands that publish editorial related to what they sell, perhaps in a lifestyle magazine, social media app, or even simply a website. An agency that does this is actually called Story. It's fascinating when you think of all the content these initiatives require. Similar to what I posted about online media, content requires constant care and feeding.

Later the same day I interviewed a strategic planner candidate who, coincidentally, brought up "story" as the basis of all marketing communications. You hear this in advertising agencies. A great copy test researcher once told us his definition of great advertising: "A good story well told."

Lastly, someone tweeted about a book offering a "storytelling manifesto for change-makers and innovators".

This made me think about three overlapping words: story, content and creative. Are they the same thing?

Try this: story is strategy, creative is an idea, content is what we produce to put in all the appropriate media or channels.

How would you distinguish among these? Let me have your POV below.


  1. I tend to look at the story as the architecture (or structure), the creative as the concept (or idea or vision) and the content as the raw material (or loose information).
    In other words, a content without a story is a succession of words or thoughts without an aim. One can easily jump from one chunk to the next -which is typical for web content- without missing much.
    It is far more risky to move away from a story before "the end" as you never know if you've reached the true climax or touched the intrinsic meaning before you get to the conclusion.
    And, finally, creative without content or story is an abstract art. It may be beautiful but it is often totally hermetic.

  2. I think it's a great question. My two cents is that story is made up of strategy told in the form of creative (that includes content and artwork).

    One of the main indictments I have of new media channels (though I love them) is that the rapidity is applauded but that strategic thinking is sometimes left behind because there's not enough time.

    I just wrote a blog post and did a vlog on what we can learn from old Mercedes Benz design philosophy and how they used to design for a 30 year product lifecycle... I wish we did that as marketers!

    Best Regards,

    Parissa Behnia
    Idea Chef
    678 Partners

  3. Steve
    Check out an agency here in Chicago called ESW. They're planning process is called "StorySelling"

  4. Steve: thought I should weigh in here as I play a role in your 'story' above!

    content (with a small c) is virtually anything one can create on behalf of the brand/company. To use a Capital C Content, it must relate directly to the customer's higher-order needs, not just selling what you peddle, but what you stand for...entertain, sure, but educate, inform, inspire. Capital C Content raises a brand's trust level, and by giving it away as part of what you stand for, a brand will become noticed, considered, tried, purchased, favored, bonded, and ultimately evangelized.

    Creative is really an agency's term; it can relate to anything produced on behalf of the brand, and may or may not include Content.

    Story is the creative application of Content, and is truly customer-centric. Jane Q. Public may not see 'creative' as the noun we do, and may see content as an adjective ("I'm content just sitting here dreaming") -- but a story (well told) engages its audience and brings meaning to a brand and a basis for a relationship. Better yet, a story can be re-told, engaging others through sharing.

    To wit: Once Upon A Time, there was this practice called "advertising," and.....