The elements of storytelling

Corporate storytelling is where organizations tell about their past, present and future. They are translating their values into a story. (Michels, 2010). When I think about storytelling, I immediately think about the commercial of Johnnie Walker- the men who walked around the world. In the seven minutes commercial, Scottish actor Robert Carlyle walks through Scotland telling the story of Johnnie Walker.

There are four elements essential for storytelling (Fog, 2005). Storytelling must have:

  1. Message: the main message.
  2. Conflict: there is a struggle.
  3. Characters:  heroes and villains.
  4. Plot: the progress.


What message does the brand want to tell to the audience? This must be one, very clear message. But there must be only one message. The message can something about the values or the morals of the brand. (Fog, 2005)


In the story there must always be an obstacle to overcome. Every story needs a conflict, without the conflict there is not much to tell. But the conflict must not be too dramatic because then the story becomes  chaotic. To know if the conflict is of ‘the right size’, it can be measured with the conflict barometer. How higher the barometer walks to chaos, the more dramatic the conflict is.(Fog, 2005)

conflict barometer


In the story the characters play a role in a fixed structure. The roles are:

  1. Goal: what does the hero want?
  2. Adversary: the villain of the story, who is most of the time the cause of the conflict.
  3. Hero: the good guy
  4. Support: the person who is loyal and supports.
  5. Benefactor: the kindly helper
  6. Beneficiary: most of the times the same as ‘hero’.


How is the story going to progress? Traditionally, most stories have three parts: beginning, middle and end. In general, when a conflict gets solved the story has ended. (Fog, 2005) For example, this image on the right shows the plot of the story of Cinderella. First she is miserable but she is ecstatic when she goes the ball and dance with the prince. But after that she is miserable again because she had to leave when it was 12 o’clock. But she is ecstatic again when her prince finds her and they live happily ever after. (Gray, 2013)


In the book: seven basic plots, Christopher Booker explains that there are seven archetypal plots a story can have (Nudd, 2012).

  1. Overcome the monster: the story of the underdog
  2. Rebirth: the story about regeneration
  3. Quest: the story about innovating
  4. Journey and return: the story about changing perception after the journey
  5. Rags to Riches: the story of from being poor and simple to being rich and successful.
  6. Tragedy: the story about the dark side of life.
  7. Comedy: the fun and amusing story.

Wulp, v. d. (2013, 02 04). storytelling lessen: wat leren ons de klassiekers? Opgeroepen op 11 10, 2013, van storytelling matters:

Fog, K. (2005). four elements of storytelling. In K. Fog, storytelling: branding in practice (p. 35). Berlin: Springer.

Gray, M. (2013). Kurt Vonnegut on cinderella and writing. Opgeroepen op 11 10, 2013, van Outtakes:

Nudd, T. (2012, 10 03). 7 basic types stories: which one your brand telling? Opgeroepen op 11 10, 2013, van adweek:

Michels, W. (2010). concerncommunicatie. In W. Michels, communicatiehandboek (3e editie ed., p. 47). Groningen/Houten: Noordhoff Uitgevers.


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