What does Crime Drama have to do with your business?

Even if you are not a fan on crime dramas their analogy to storytelling in business is powerful.

Today I'll cover three aspects of your favorite crime show and finish on some practicalities regarding applying to your business

  • The story
  • The narrative arc
  • Micro-narratives
  • Applying this to your business

The structure of a crime drama has much to teach us. And just like the resolution of a good mystery when you put powerful narratives to work for your business the audience (in this case your customers) can be very satisfied. Of course we all know that satisfied customers are loyal and come back for more.

The story

Think back to the last crime drama that you watched. How did it make you feel? Maybe you felt tense or frightened. You probably wanted to find out what happened and remained glued to the screen until the truth was revealed.

"The guy or gal in the lab who turns the tide of the investigation by uncovering an all-important fact"

The components of the story make up by everything that you are going to come across as you watch. There are the characters (including the victim), the investigators (including the cocky rogue), some distraction or comic relief, there is often the guy or gal in the lab who turns the tide of the investigation by uncovering an all-important fact that, often just in the nick of time. This then leads to the apprehension of the perpetrator who up until that point could have been a bystander or a flat out red herring.

The story is made up of all the nouns (people, place and things), essentially the ins and outs of the 'what' that happens to those nouns and when it happens.

The story is context. It's meta. It's a critical playground for show to unfold in.

The narrative arc

This is the journey through the story. It's the motion or action through the story-scape.

An arc includes any red herrings, switchbacks, and revelations. It's ups and downs represent tension, and rising action. It's the adjectives of the experience. It may rise, fall, or plateau at any given point (sometimes it will go up and down and back up again to create texture and engage you). It is how a written story flows as you read it, it is the energy in a acting or verbal delivery. When successful it should leave you feeling moved and entertained.

The narrative arc is your thrilling ride in the vehicle of a show. You want to be giving people a thrilling ride. Don't you?


These are the building blocks of the narrative arc. Micro-narratives bring us close to the details of the mystery and the characters involved in it.

"Things were rushed and skipped. It was horrible and I want my money back"

Furthermore they add richness and depth to the experience of the show.  Skip micro-narratives at your own peril. If you do so you will end up with poor character development and pacing that is off. At this point your mind will likely be drawn back to the last, awful, movie you saw. For me it was Independence Day: Resurgence. Straight from Act I to Act III. Zero development of the aliens motivation. No micro-narrative about the alien ship crashing into Earth. No sub plots. No character development. It sucked. Things were rushed and skipped. It was horrible and I want my money back - that probably won't happen but perhaps I can save you from wasting you money or time on it.

Beyond being building blocks for the narrative arc there is texture, interest and depth in micro-narratives.

Applying this to your business

You might have the most amazing product marketing team in the world. Your marcom and digital teams may have the latest and greatest tools. They may even be using the most modern approaches in growth marketing. Your story may be in good shape, all of the who, what, when, how, where and why. But that isn't the end of your journey.

"You need to land them, measure them and apply them for growth "

In fact it's only the beginning. You still need to identify, architect, and sequence that story across all of your your channels and to all of your priority markets. You need to land them, measure them and apply them for growth in an iterative manner. Answering questions about what resonates, what drives clicks to conversions, or when does someone say "where do I sign".

Doing this leg work will result in a payoff that will be an engaging narrative that results in happy employees with a sense of shared purpose, engaged customers who are more likely to buy and ultimately growth for your company.

"A shot rang out in the dark of the storm and the night watchman slumped, dead into his seat at the check point. The rain continued a pitter-patter on the thin aluminium roof".

Stories engage us and lead us to want to know more.

Matthew WoodgetComment