My favourite teacher at school was Mr Dowse. A stocky, earnest man in his mid-50s, Mr Dowse taught French; needless to say, expectations were fairly low when our 13-year-old selves first entered his classroom. Once at our desks, however, Mr Dowse exploded to life.
His lessons were full of evocative tales of washing down plates of confit de canard with bottles of Bordeaux, skiing in the crisp Pyrenees in the morning before sunbathing on a golden Mediterranean beach the same afternoon and (particularly appealing to our curious teenage minds), the illusive mysteries of French girls.
What an impact this had on our desire and ability to immerse ourselves in all-things French. Alongside many of my fellow pupils in his class, I went on to secure a university degree in French, spending years dedicated to learning about this fascinating and contrary country.
Such inspiration came through Mr Dowse’s undoubted ability to tell stories, to evoke images of an exotic-seeming land – and this inspiration didn’t just make us think, it persuaded us to act; staking our own precious futures on his passion for France. Mr Dowse sadly died a few years ago, but he left behind a true Francophile legacy through his inspirational stories.
If effective storytelling is proven to persuade people to act, why then does storytelling struggle to permeate the world of consultancy? Why are research reports often so lacking in persuasion, so unable to hold attention?
Too often constrained by the need to ensure credibility in the rigour applied to the methodological design and execution, market research often appears academic, dry and detached from reality.
While the industry has (moderately successfully) rebranded as “insight” (rather than research) in the past decade, this semantic shift still doesn’t fully convey the fact that even the greatest insight will struggle to cut through, if it’s not communicated engagingly and memorably.
The proliferation of digital media means that stories of some type are now everywhere – from Facebook status updates to audiobooks; from Tweets to blog posts – and while these are of vastly varying quality, our hunger for stories has never been better catered for.
It is within the context of this digital era that Kadence has observed the positive impact of approaching our reports and presentations from a truly creative, storytelling perspective. While the narrative arcs, pacing, conflicts and incidental details of memorable stories are inherent to all research reports, Kadence explicitly amplifies these constructs to make three-dimensional heroes and villains out of the business issues, micro and macro influences and brands that inhabit our research stories.
This may sound like hifalutin hyperbole for a mere research report, but at Kadence we take great care to bring our reports to life, not just aesthetically, but structurally. We appropriate the conventional storytelling theory for our purposes.
Our lead protagonist can be a product, a service issue, an ad campaign, a brand; our business issues become our secondary characters; we attempt to build and dissipate tension throughout, before restoring order with clear, well-considered conclusions and recommendations.
Beyond this, we introduce visual props to support elements of our stories – ranging from audio-visual vox pop interviews with customers, to tangible products brought in from consumers’ homes – to better immerse our audience in the story, and generate a greater sense of occasion. And all of this is underpinned by our award- winning infographic-style output.
I’m sure we’ve all experienced the drama inherent within the business world, so it’s perfectly natural to expect some theatre within market research. Kadence understands our obligation to entertain as well as educate if we’re going to succeed in an increasingly competitive world.
We aspire for our stories to live on past the formal presentation, to be retold within our clients’ organisations, generating a viral enthusiasm, much as in previous generations with the oral tradition. When our presentations are spoken about within our clients’ organisations we’ve achieved our first goal, but having our clients take action based on the story that they’ve heard is our true measure of success.
Our raison d’être therefore is to ensure that at the dénouement of our presentations, our clients are impressed by the tour de force that they’ve received.
Mr Dowse would, I hope, be proud his legacy lives on … Vive Le raconteur
The writer is Greg Clayton, Managing Director, Kadence International
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