Henning Mankell, one of my new favorite writers, wrote an Op-Ed piece in The New York Times yesterday (12/11/11) discussing how, thanks to the storytelling culture he’s experienced by having a second home in Africa, he’s learned how to truly listen. Google it, it’s a worthwhile read.
An interesting point he makes is that people confuse information with knowledge. Information, he reasons, is just content. Knowledge is something smart learned form that content…and hopefully applied.
Brand and strategic planners who write a lot about “storytelling” these days — it’s quite the topical marketing concept — would do well in their brief writing to recognize the difference between content and knowledge. I was once scolded in anthropology class at Rollins College for doing otherwise (Oh, the scars) but in brand planning it’s important.
Farrah Bostic, a smart planner, did a nice piece entitled “There are no such things as insights” which I would recommend. Her point is not dissimilar to Mankel’s. But I interpret it a bit differently. My view is that every good story has a moral. It’s the center of gravity of the story – its reason for being. Every good brief should also have a moral. Let’s start adding one extra line to our brand and creative briefs: “What is the moral of this story?”
If Ms. Bostic’s point is that insights are content, and storytelling is knowledge applied, I agree. The moral takes the idea one step farther though. Content drives insights which create knowledge. The application of that knowledge through story creates a moral. And a moral at the end of the story is a nice bow on the package. A bow that, well-wrapped, moves consumes closer to a sale. As my Norwegian aunt might have said “Tink about it.” Peace