The reviews of James Cameron’s Avatar were written before the movie premiered: Visually stunning, weak/derivative/borderline offensive story. I saw it over the weekend; my Twitter-friendly review: “Dances With Wolves meets The Lion King.” Maybe throw in a little Lord of the Rings. Is it a good movie? Sure. And if I were 13, I’d have been blown away.
But the more I think about it, the less impressed I am. When you’re making and selling a movie, that’s OK. Strip away the art (you can’t, I know, but stay with me for a minute), and you’re selling a 1.5-3-hour experience. If you can get people to the door, it needs to impress folks enough to get them to tell their friends so that they walk through that door or buy that DVD.
As a communicator and marketer, “looks pretty but dumb story” is just wrong. It doesn’t work for brands and it doesn’t work for reputations. What works? Smart stories about what you do to make yourselves valued. Real stories about the good you do, told by the people and businesses who benefited. Long-term commitment to your customer’s cause.
“Looks pretty” is just a short-cut unless the organization has a strong brand story to tell at its core. If you have that story, and know how to tell it…well, then you can move people.