The Magical World of Soap Storytelling
Brands are constantly in search of a great story to tell, to entertain, to engage, to educate, to be discussed, to be memorable and off course, addictive.
Never ever did I think that I would be blogging about the merits of the Bold and the Beautiful and other Soaps, but then again never did I think I’d be blogging… I think it is safe to say that the Soap Opera has revolutionized the way we tell stories and has laid down the foundation for some of today’s best shows, Lost, 24, Prison Break and other addictive entertainment.
So what is it about Soaps that make them so extraordinary? 1 Multiple narratives 2 Intricate interwoven plots and 3 open ended formats.
Multiple narratives deepen the story
Traditionally most story telling involved a single protagonist or hero carrying a single narrative in a linear format e.g. Knight Rider, MacGyver or even Little Red Riding hood. Soap Operas on the other hand, have multiple storylines moving from ‘protagonistic’ to’ polyagonistic’. Multiple narratives give viewers a larger world to grapple with, more to discuss, more to do in terms of linking and theorizing.
Complicated Plot Lines instill the desire to reduce ambiguity
The average soap has anything between 5 to as many as 10 different plot lines co existing. Most will link somewhere in the overall story but storyline predictability is extremely difficult considering the combinations of possibility are innumerable. This ambiguity and the desire to reduce it result in conversation, thought, speculation and conjecture about the plot lines.
Open ended formats are participatory and addictive
Traditionally, most stories come with a basic format, a beginning, a middle and an end. The protagonist and context are established, a struggle introduced and finally transcendence of the respective struggle. Soaps on the other hand offer no such structure, no such closure. After each show the audience is left to participate in thought, theorization and water cooler discussion until the next episode. Open ended plot lines invite the audience to participate with the text itself. Compare the quantity and quality of conversation about a good one off movie in relation to a the dialogue generated by a single episode of 24.
Brands can learn quite a bit from these three traits that lay the foundation for much of today’s entertainment. Multiple layers deepen brand stories, intricate plot lines challenge people to reduce ambiguity and engage themselves. Finally open ended formats offer the consumer a participatory role as opposed to merely a receptive one.
It is the combination of these three traits the could offer the consumer a more sophisticated, interesting and engaging brand story that would lead them to want to spend time with.