The Art of Storytelling: selfie vs sonnet

What on earth can a reality star and The Bard teach us about storytelling for brands?

Evans…“Kim keeps talking about Kim and Shakespeare wrote a whopping 154 sonnets about love”
Evans…“Kim keeps talking about Kim and Shakespeare wrote a whopping 154 sonnets about love”

Shall I compare thee to Kim Kardashian?
Kim Kardashian West and William Shakespeare are 400 years apart in time but akin as storytellers whose influence is unavoidable in today’s culture – Shakespeare has featured in ads from Levi’s to dating app Huggle and Kim Kardashian’s Marriage is the title of a recent poetry collection. You don’t need to follow Kim on social or read Bill’s complete works to know their stories and in turn who they are. So what can we learn from them? And how can we take that into the future?  

Both of them work in tiny rectangles
Shakespeare wrote all his poems in sonnets, which are 14 lines long and form small rectangles on the page that are said to reflect the Golden Ratio. Kim fits her stories into the mobile and rectangular form of Instagram. Both play to the media their audience engages with, and their attention spans – which hasn’t changed much over 400 years. This is like a mobile-first philosophy (or as we say at MBA, "smartphone-first"), which ensures websites pack a punch as they’re beamed up from someone’s palm. 

We imagine our audience crushed on their commute, and ourselves in competition with Kim’s Instagram. 

The popularity of tiny rectangles has endured over 400 years and they’re not going away. Every story should be designed for them – be it a website, blog, video or image.

They ignore the ‘Beginning, Middle, End’ rule
You can start anywhere you like on Kim’s social-media feed. Shakespeare crafted his plays so they could be picked up anytime someone might walk into a theatre – perfect for short attention spans visiting theatres today. 

And today people do not take ‘linear customer journeys’, through the web, for example, from display ad to homepage. People’s behaviours are random acts of random. So at MBA we build around "people moments", where you need a brand story built into every digital touchpoint to be told whenever and wherever someone decides to join us – we call this "total UX".

For example, the focus for our digital B2B work for O2 is their expert support, so every story is told by these experts. People’s patience is declining – studies of studies have shown that site bounce rates are rising year on year, so you need to grab attention and tell your story quickly so people say yes to you. 

Each web page you create, each image or video you send into the world needs to work independently of every other piece of content you create.

Every tiny story tells the big story
Back in the day, love was the subject of everyone’s sonnets – like ‘self’ is the subject of everyone’s selfies. Kim keeps talking about Kim; Shakespeare wrote a whopping 154 sonnets about love. 

They have both created worlds of tiny original stories people can explore to build a bigger picture of what they stand for. Riffing stories off a main (brand) purpose helps people understand who you are, helps sustain and refresh your story and allows you to flex to different situations, be it an Instagram post or a 404 page.

Imagine how much bigger 154 sonnets feels compared to being told "I love you" 154 times.

Keep your brand story fresh – riff it.

Be more like William and Kardashian
All the world wide web’s a tiny rectangular stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their random exits and their entrances, and one brand in its time plays many parts.

Caitlin Evans is senior account planner at MBA


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The Art of Storytelling: selfie vs sonnet