An interview with renown Hollywood producer Brian Grazer was this year’s TMRE closing keynote session. Now. I’m not sure if I should admit this publicly (you won’t tell anyone, will you?), but looking at the program Grazer’s name meant nothing to me. Rather the session title, ‘The Secrets to Storytelling & Human Connectivity,’ sparked interest. I’m all for learning a few secrets.
Within moments of Grazer’s rather impressive bio reel starting, I sat a little more upright. This Oscar-winning producer and writer has one or two films under his belt that even I’ve heard of: Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, Frost/Nixon, Da Vinci Code, and Splash to name just a few.
Even with this small audience, Grazer entertained, delighted, and, most of all, was an outstanding storyteller. He drew you in, leaving you wanting to hear more while soaking up his energy.
I will admit that for much of the session, I was thinking: “okay fella, I love your tenacity, ability to strike up a conversation with anyone, and general golden touch, but how does this relate to me and customer insights?” After all, I’m an introverted, quiet(ish) researcher who preferred to tweet about how great he was rather than head to the post-interview book signing to tell him in person.
That said, there were learnings to be had. I left feeling inspired, not just on a personal level but also for what we do within insights. We all hear and talk about the ‘Experience Economy.’ But if you step back for a moment, we can think about this as the ‘Human Economy.’ The interactions, exchanges, and experiences that connect us. The elements that tap into our emotions and leave us feeling satisfied or otherwise.
Grazer told us, “I learned I’m in the feeling business. The stories are maps that lead to an emotional experience. A memorable, emotional experience.”
We, too, are in the feeling business. We strive to understand how our customers feel in order to help our organizations craft relevant experiences. At the same time, we also need to understand our stakeholders’ feelings to deliver insights that evoke a response in them, one that leads them to act upon the findings.
This is where our version of storytelling comes into play. When Grazer said, ‘You have to understand where the peak of curiosity stands for the consumer,’ we can substitute stakeholder for consumer.
One of Grazer’s concluding stories talked about the initial challenges he had with getting studios to embrace the movie that would become Splash – his early pitches led people to believe it was a mermaid story, rather than a love story. So he shifted the perspective and, as we know, a massively successful film ensued.
Reframing the story can change everything.
Similarly, this applies to the insights we learn about our customers and to the way we communicate those findings to the stakeholders. Sometimes telling the story in a different way makes all the difference.
We can be so laser-focused on the immediate nuances within our industry – and perhaps even our particular specialty – that we feel the answers need to come from ourselves rather than elsewhere. This lively and refreshing interview was a keen reminder that inspiration in how we think about our challenges can come from any source, and often it can shed light in unexpected ways.