We all love to hear stories and sit spellbound with an open mind of wonder when we do. Pixar capitalizes on this and so should you by honing your story-telling skills for your personal as well as your corporate brand.

The way the famous animation studio (with Steve Jobs as its “guiding light” and majority stockholder) structures its highly successful stories has been referenced widely in magazines,blogs and books, such as Daniel Pink’s To Sell is Human.


While the 13 features from Pixar have grossed an astounding average of 585 million dollars each, what made them work so well is not just their brilliant animation, but the enthralling, universal stories they told.

The Six Sentence Story

The simple and practical way Pixar structures stories in six straightforward sentences is as follows.

Once upon a time _______. Every day, ________. One day, _________.

Because of that, ________. Because of that, ________.

Until finally, ________.

Taking the two “Becauses” together, you basically end up with the classic five act play of human drama. Telling the story of modern marketing could go something like this.

The Marketing Story

Once upon a time marketers spent lots of effort and money on outbound marketing, such as traditional advertising, without really knowing the effectiveness of their efforts. Every day, they labored over product brochures, advertising campaigns, trade shows, PR pitches, missed deadlines, and budget overruns.

One day, the CEO said, “enough of this aimless spending, I want to see bottom-line results”.

Because of that, the marketers had to find new, more effective, and quantifiable ways to generate an ROI. Because of that, they took the brave step to connect with their sales staff – who after all talked to customers – and started working together on a solution.

Until finally, they integrated sales and marketing using a measurable online method that grew their business while paying for itself multiple times, which made the CEO very happy and got the marketing and the sales teams off the hook so they wouldn’t get fired.


Your Corporate Marketing Story

You are trying to move from traditional marketing to the modern consumer paradigm: online, mobile, well informed, in control. So here goes that story.

Once upon a time we spent (and wasted) a lot of money on outbound marketing, then on a new website that doesn’t do much, tried SEO and expensive AdWords campaigns that were limited in their effectiveness. Every day, we tried to improve what we were doing, but it was frustrating. One day, we heard about an unified approach to online marketing that would leverage all channels and directly connect with sales. Aha!

Because of that, we investigated what that could be and how it might work for our company. Because of that, we decided to look into the increasingly popular inbound marketing, its vendors, and agencies.

Until finally, we found the right solution with a partner that helped us form our strategy, and delivered campaigns that quickly produced more traffic on our website and gave us new, qualified leads, which our sales team effectively converted to customers for remarkable, cost-effective business results keeping our CEO from nagging us and cutting the budget.


Your Brand or Personal Story

Now write your brand or personal story as concisely as you can in this structure and communicate it to your peers for a test run. Honing it down with pithy, accurate wording in a simple yet provocative style will grab your listener’s attention while vastly increasing their retention, I guarantee it. That is branding, the basis for content marketing and keyword optimization all in one.

Once upon a time I was wondering what to do with myself…

Written by
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Stephan Burckhardt

This marketing vet is based in Greater Vancouver, Canada. He has worked in B2B marketing in Silicon Valley and Europe, was CEO of a large agency serving B2B startups, trans-nationals, and everything in between. Focus: technology, healthcare, professional services.
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