Top 7 Storytelling Formulas for Video Marketing

  • Harry Hayes

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The Top 7 Storytelling Formulas for Video Marketing

These Proven Storytelling Formulas for Video Marketing Can Make Your Content More Powerful and Effective. 

Okay, I get it—some people hear the phrase “storytelling formulas for video marketing” and roll their eyes. Especially creative people. Anything formulaic must be bad, right?

But the truth is, these formulas are proven story structures that have worked time and time again.

They’ll help you rethink how you tell stories, organize story elements, and save time in the process.

Storytelling Formulas for Video Marketing

From Apple to Nike to Elon Musk, the world’s best marketers and storytellers are using these formulas right now to connect with their audience, whether it’s future investors or potential customers.

Let’s see how those formulas work.

Formula #1 - The Three Act Structure

1. The Three Act Structure

This first formula can be traced all the way back to ancient Greece. Aristotle once wrote that a good story must have a beginning, middle and end.

And that’s the formula for a Three Act Structure.

In Act One, you set the stage and introduce the characters of the story. Then in Act Two, you present a problem faced by one of the characters.

The tension continues to build, until in Act Three, the character resolves the problem.

This basic structure can be applied to just about any type of story, from a Broadway play to a two-minute video.

Obviously, the ancient Greeks knew a thing or two about storytelling.

2. Before After Bridge

The next formula on my list is also a three-part structure. It’s also one of the most effective formulas in copywriting.

Describe what it’s like living with a specific problem or disease.

Then describe a world without that disease, how much better life is with that problem solved.

End with a bridge that connects the two—the product or organization that makes the solution possible.

Formula #3 - Features Advantages Benefits

3. Features Advantages Benefits

David Ogilvy, famous adman and founder of the Ogilvy & Mather agency, has a lot of memorable quotes about advertising. This is one of them:

“Consumers do not buy products. They buy product benefits.”

That quote forms the basis of the third storytelling formula on the list—Features Advantages Benefits. It’s a formula that works best for product stories.

Describe a specific feature of the product.

Explain what that feature does.

Explain why people should care.

That leads us to the fourth storytelling formula on the list…

Formula #4 - The Golden Circle

4. Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle

Simon Sinek’s TED talk, How Great leaders Inspire Action, is one of the most watched TED talks in history, with over 50 million views.

The main point of his talk: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy WHY you do it.

To illustrate his point, he draws three concentric circles, and labels them WHY, HOW and WHAT.

The most important circle, the bullseye, is WHY. When telling a story or crafting a sales pitch, Sinek describes WHY as The Golden Circle.

Inner Circle: WHY
Why does the company exist? What is it trying to accomplish? What gets them out of bed in the morning?

Middle Circle: HOW
How does the company do what they do? What makes them different?

Outside Circle—WHAT
What does the company do? What do they sell?

According to Sinek, the most effective sales pitches start with WHY, then treat HOW and WHAT as secondary information.

In fact, “Start With Why” is the name of his bestselling book on marketing.

5. Problem Agitate Solve

The next item on my Top 5 Storytelling Formulas for Video Marketing list is Problem Agitate Solve.

It’s based on the universal desire to avoid pain. As any great salesman can tell you, avoiding pain is one of life’s greatest motivators.

In this formula, you start with describing a problem, and end on the solution. 

Introduce a common problem that your target audience can relate to. Something they’re all experiencing.

Next, add emotional language that intensifies the description of the pain.

End with the solution—this is when you introduce a product that solves the problem. 

Formula #6 - The Pixar Formula

6. The Pixar Formula

The next storytelling formula on the list is the basis of Pixar’s hugely successful movies, including “Finding Nemo,” “Toy Story,” “The Incredibles” and “Cars.”

Also known as “The Story Spine,” this formula was created in 1991 by playwright Kenn Adams, and has helped Pixar win 13 Academy Awards.

It uses a fill-in-the-blank format:

Once upon a time there was _________. Every day, ___________. But then, one day, _______________. Because of that, ____________. Until finally, __________________. And ever since then, _______________.

Formula #7 - Elon Musk Pitch Formula

7. Elon Musk Pitch Formula

The last storytelling formula on the list is from Elon Musk. It’s the format he uses to craft each sales or business pitch.

This is a guy who has won over countless investors and business executives, first as a co-founder of PayPal, then as founder of Tesla, and SpaceX.

And now, as the new owner of Twitter.

So how does he do it? With a pitch formula he uses to sell people on his ideas.

It uses five steps:

Don’t waste time talking about yourself or your product. Instead, name the thing that’s getting in the way of people’s happiness. Paint a detailed picture of why the world currently sucks for your customer, and who’s to blame.

Next, explain why now is the time to solve this particular problem. Convince the audience to get started.

Describe what the world will be like once this problem is solved. Everything will be better.

Anticipate potential obstacles or objections, and explain them away before anyone actually objects.

Stay strong. Conclude the pitch by introducing evidence. Let the audience know you’re not lying. Show them what’s already being done.

So which of these storytelling formulas will work for you? There's no wrong answer—each and every one of them has been used countless times to organize content and present ideas in a compelling way.

About the Author: 

Harry Hayes is the owner and executive producer at Content Puppy Productions, a corporate video production agency based in Charlotte. Before starting Content Puppy, he spent 20+ years as an advertising writer and creative director.


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