Kiss it. It’ll stick better.
A few years ago while returning home from a trip to San Francisco I had a short lay over in the Salt Lake City airport. I browsed through the airport book store and picked up a copy of “Made To Stick.” I had read some very positive reviews and I loved the design of the cover. Glancing over a few pages, I found the writing simple and strong. I bought a copy and finished it on the flight. When I landed I purchased copies for everyone in my office; all storytellers can benefit from the Heath brothers explanations of what we do. At the time, my team at Red Hat has just finished the first of many short animations we created in-house that we titled “Real Technology Lessons.” As part of our Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 launch, we wanted to show that Red Hat understood the most basic problems our customers faced every day. Red Hat was the leading Linux provider in the world. Which meant we worked closely with the open source community to develop software for the Linux operating system. We delivered enterprise-ready, open source solutions. We supported and serviced these solutions using a subscription model. Very abstract and unfamiliar ideas for most IT purchasers.
We began by locking in a room one our brightest technical marketing guys— Joel Berman— with Jonathan Opp, a wonderful writer who I have longed referred to as Red Hat’s poet laureate. Together, they began to create the basic idea of a series of very simple stories. The team quickly grew as additional writers, designers and animators (Tim Kiernan, Rebecca Fernandez, Bascha Harris, Josh Gajownik, Adrienne Yancey, Chris Grams, Greg deKoenigsburg) joined in the open collaborative process. Soon ‘servers’ became characters with personalities. Everything— the design, animations, voice overs, soundtrack— created internally. We kept it simple, true to the KISS principle.
One of the earliest lesson I learned in design school (thank you again, Michael Pause) was the KISS principle— Keep It Simple, Stupid. It works, of course. Made to Stick does a wonderful job explaining why. In their terms, we at Red Hat turned our large, complex, abstract stories into parables— simple, accessible and memorable stories easy for others to repeat. That’s how an idea passes from one person to another. In this case, we made our videos ‘sticky’ so people would want to watch it. And share it.
That’s the simplest storytelling— and branding— there is…
I continue to recommend Made to Stick— one of the best books I’ve ever read on the power and practice of storytelling. If you want to see great examples of great storytelling, take a look at Real Technology Lessons. I’m still proud of this work.