What Shape Is Your Brand Story?

Some people talk about the “arc” of a story. Others talk about “coming full circle” and “forks in the road.” When we think about the emotional ups and downs inherent in a compelling story, our minds quickly form images of physical lines, curves, and other shapes.

Marketers and business owners would be wise to familiarize themselves with this infographic. Graphic designer Maya Eilam has given us all a gift by taking the time to beautifully render Kurt Vonnegut’s thinking into an illustrated model of 7 story archetypes.(Good-Bad-Good, etc.)  I’m already a big fan of how Vonnegut distills a story down to its essence, and have previously shared this video of him teaching story structures.

Understanding the shapes of stories is more than an exercise for lovers of literature. Story shapes are relevant to every business owner, to every leader and teacher in an organization, and to everyone in sales and marketing who wants their message to resonate with human beings. To understand the shape of stories is to understand how to communicate effectively and move people.

Eilam has given us examples from literature for each of the seven story shapes. This got me thinking, “What are some comparable business brand stories that match the shape, if not the circumstances?” I’ve taken the liberty of suggesting a few examples from the business world. What shape is your brand story?

What do you think? Are story shapes meaningful in professional communication? Are there other examples that you’d suggest in each category?

  • Man in Hole / Boy Meets Girl  – Detroit Auto Industry & Apple Rebound
  • From Bad to Worse – Edsel
  • Which Way is Up?  – Zynga, Twitter



* Eilam shows how Cinderella stories share the same shape as New Testament stories. Although it is a different way of looking at stories, it’s interesting that the number seven matches Christopher Booker’s theory that there are only 7 Basic Plots. Seven plots, seven shapes, seven days a week. The number seven keeps coming up in regard to stories.

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