A 4-Year-Old Gets To The Heart Of Marketing

Is your brand delivering on all the essential elements of great storytelling?

Throughout the days and weeks of chaos in both our personal and professional lives, a much-needed reality check (and inspiration) can come from the most unusual of places.

While my previous posts usually focused on digital strategies and tactics, analytics imperatives, and the synchronization of paid, earned, and owned media, this week I’m compelled to infuse some personal influence into the conversation.

On a recent Sunday I had begun to develop a go-to-market plan for a client when my nearly 4-year-old daughter, Lily, came over to talk. Below is a true conversation.

Lily: What are you doing, Daddy?

Me: I’m writing a marketing plan for one of Daddy’s clients (assuming she wouldn’t understand and move onto playing with her Legos).

Lily: Why?

Me: Because they want to talk to more people, and I’m going to help them.

Lily: Why?

Me: Because they have something good they want to say.

Lily: Like a story? I love stories! Only good ones.

Me: Exactly, Lily. They want to tell a story.

With that she brought her favorite book over to me to read, and so work was paused.

The point is, I thought I was drafting a marketing plan, but I wasn’t. I was designing a brand's story-delivery plan–and it had to be a great delivery plan for a great story. I’m creating the architecture of a book whose pages get filled with the powerful words and images produced by our brilliant creative department.

The book, in its entirety, represents the multitude of digital and traditional channels, screens, and platforms where we tap into and leverage what the audience is thinking, what they are feeling–and then take them on a journey. And, then, using data, we improve our story and get more people engaged.

As marketers and advertisers, we are all storytellers. Whether you’re classified as “creative,” “media,” “account services,” or “planning,” we all have a role in creating and delivering the most powerful story we can. And we have to make that story great. We want our readers to keep turning the pages, metaphorically, and to become more and more interested with each passing section, leaving them sated. . .but still wanting what’s next.

And, finally, we have to tell that story in the real-world context of wherever we are reaching our targets, with whatever form, format, and interactivity level. Online? Print? Mobile? TV? Out of home? As you create and re-create your plans, remember: They are not siloed tactics; they are all parts in an evolving story. Each channel, platform, and venue, within a great plan, has a specific purpose and can deliver on various forms of interactivity and engagement–but they are all part of the same storyline. With the right multichannel, multitouch mix, your brand story can deliver on all the essential elements: informative, exciting, immediate, suspenseful, and entertaining.

At the end of the day, from a 4-year-old to a CEO, people truly love only great stories.

Ted Kohnen


Ted Kohnen

Managing Director, Americas and Asia


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