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Jason Foo: A Storytelling CEO

We speak to creative agency BBD Perfect Storm‘s CEO, Jason Foo, on the importance of delivering stories effectively to an audience. As a key influencer within the industry, Jason founded BBD Perfect Storm with the belief that brands could build different and more powerful relationships with consumers. As CEO to a company that offers design, advertising, direct marketing and digital services, Jason has worked with senior clients across many different industry sectors on a local and global level. Upon speaking with him, we discovered that storytelling from an agency’s perspective can resonate with those who sit behind a camera, and perhaps our end goals don’t differ as much as you may think…

Storytelling CEOWhy do you think storytelling impacts an audience?

Frankly, I think the term ‘storytelling’ is horribly overused. What should describe the art of holding people in suspense, trepidation and delight, has all too often turned into a euphemism for things like turning a piece of data into an infographic. Not that there’s anything wrong with infographics, or data, but when a word is overused, it can undermine its impact and importance.

Since the beginning of time, storytelling has been at the heart of what makes us humans.  We use stories to teach children values and we use them to inspire adults to support causes. Great brands increasingly make you feel like you are supporting a cause—and if they are purposeful, you usually are.

Tell me how BBD Perfect Storm uses storytelling to establish a rapport with its customers?

We help organisations convey their brand purpose to their customers and employees alike.  Brand purpose is about why an organisation exists, not just what it makes.  It’s about the role and contribution that the organisation is trying to play in peoples lives and wider society.  That radically elevates the kind of stories you can tell customers and the sort of engagement you should achieve.  Let me give you an example: One of our clients is sportswear company, SKINS.  They make great sports clothing that has been technically proven to improve an athlete’s performance. But their brand purpose is to ‘fuel the true spirit of competition’ by campaigning for everyone to have an equal and fair opportunity to compete in sport. That means removing prejudice of any kind and unfair advantages others gain through the use of performance enhancing drugs or other methods. If you then consider the kind of stories SKINS can talk about to build a rapport with their consumers and audiences, we begin to see a plethora of storytelling opportunities emerge. Another of our clients is VitalityLife.  They are a life insurance company that helps and incentivises you to live longer and more healthily; as a result, they lower your premiums. Again, we see the potential of the rich, authentic stories that enable you to talk about more than just life insurance. This subverts your expectations and as a result, can enrich your experience.

Storytelling has the power to shape cultures. Which formats do you think best establish and maintain this power?

I believe film remains the ultimate storytelling format. However, whatever the format, it’s always about making something as emotionally evocative and memorable as possible. That’s what great storytellers do, whatever the medium. If they are speaking, they use language which entrances and entertains the audience. Take Muhammed Ali, who said: ‘I’m gonna float like a butterfly and sting like a bee’. He didn’t say: ‘I am going to dance around for a bit and then hit him on the nose!’
Ask yourself the basic question: whatever you are producing, would your target audience want to watch, read and experience this?  Will they find it remarkable?  Will they want to retell your story to others?

Storytelling does have the power to shape culture.  Particularly if you’re prepared to create the sort of stories that set society’s cultural agenda, rather than merely reflecting it.  At Perfect Storm, we call this being ‘Purposefully Pioneering.’ This means tackling the broad social issues that matter to your consumers and telling the stories that are viewed as challenging, controversial and outside of the mainstream. Doing this is what typically earns you media attention and, hopefully, customer adulation.

Do you think storytelling is an industry phase, or a powerful marketing tool to be used for the foreseeable future?

As I mentioned at the beginning, I do think that the term ‘storytelling’ is overused and, to some extent, this diminishes its value.  It’s used as a catch-all for many types of content marketing which really don’t deserve that description. Storytelling will be with us forever.  But only those that tell great stories will be there!