Who's starring in your brand's story?

Published Mar 08, 2019 | Written by Osian Barnes

It is a truth universally acknowledged I am hard-hearted, cynical and generally unpleasant to be around. 

At Christmas, I am routinely left unmoved by the pared-down acoustic versions of mawkish ballads which accompany those tear-jerking retail ads. I know they are intended to remind me of the importance of shopping in my family’s quest for happiness but, quite frankly, I couldn’t give a monkey’s.

Last week, though, I encountered a marketing message that chimed so perfectly with my current state of mind that I immediately went out and obeyed its unstated injunction to buy.

And the amazing thing was, the ad was nearly as old as I am.


This vintage Lego ad was the one that popped up on my Twitter feed and the one that turned my steps towards the toy shop (and yes, I went to an actual shop, just like in the dark ages).

As the father of a young daughter - the gaze of the child, the expression of pride in her achievement, the implicit assertion of the ‘let toys be toys’ mantra - worked a kind of magic on me.

It reminded me of the real objective of all great marketing - to turn the viewer into the hero of the story it asks us to imagine.  And it made me go back to the theory of story telling offered by Joseph Campbell in his classic description of the “Hero’s Journey”.

This lego ad cast the brand as my mentor giving me the gift that could open doors on a journey towards the fulfilment of my most fundamental hopes and desires. 

As inbound marketers working in B2B it’s clearly more difficult to create such a visceral reaction to the content we’re creating.  

But, in some ways, we have greater opportunities to create long and sustaining narratives with customers involved in a more weighty, considered and in-depth research process than the purchase of toys.  

For me, though, this ad is a reminder of the objectives of a great marketing campaign. Success starts with an intimate understanding of our target audience - our ultimate aim should be to draw them into a story where they can truly visualise their own happiness and success.


Storytelling is in vogue, a phrase which here means ‘brands and agencies are all talking about it without taking due time to appreciate what it means’.

Published by Osian Barnes March 8, 2019
Osian Barnes