Season 2 Episode 8
October 31, 2022

Creativity and Storytelling

Although the audience may change, storytelling is a human trait that is underestimated and very powerful for brands. BUT, how does a brand stay within the proper boundaries of who they are and who their audience is without overstepping into cringe-ville?

<iframe height="52px" width="100%" frameborder="no" scrolling="no" seamless src=""></iframe>

This Episode Sponsored by:

Infinite Shelf- Shopware
Infinite Shelf- Gorgias
Infinite Shelf - Triple Whale

How Much is Too Much?

  • The need for creativity and storytelling has exploded in the last few years and has shifted from idealism to realism
  • We still need a brand team to work on vision and cohesiveness but we’re adding on every day content creators to put a more accessible spin on stories
  • Consumers have gotten a lot more savvy and desire creators who can connect to their circumstances and lifestyle
  • What does Gen Alpha want to be when they grow up? Influencers and content creators. This is reminiscent of kids wanting to be actors except content creation as a profession is a lot more accessible.
  • In our consumption culture (or late-stage capitalism), the job of being the one to sell things is glorified and influencer culture breeds an unapologetic nature of identifying themselves as a brand or lifestyle
  • How much intimacy is too much intimacy? Peloton got into trouble for getting too intimate with their customers and overreaching on how they should interact with their customers
  • The human trait of storytelling is underestimated and very powerful across all platforms and within each role in any organization 
  • “Who are you and who is your audience is going to really drive what kind of stories to tell and how to tell them.” - Kiri
  • “Determine the boundaries for yourself and for your company and for your brands about how much creativity and storytelling and dialog is enough for your brand to remain relevant, feel connected, but not have to overstep that boundary.” - Ingrid

Associated Links:

Have any questions or comments about the show? Let us know on, or reach out to us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn. We love hearing from our listeners!

Ingrid: [00:00:10] Hello and welcome to Infinite Shelf, the human-centric retail podcast. I'm your host, Ingrid Milman Cordy, and I am joined by our guest host for the rest of Season 2, Kiri Masters. Hey, Kiri.

Kiri: [00:01:22] Hello. Happy Friday.

Ingrid: [00:01:22] Happy Friday. We made it. I was really looking forward to talking to you guys today. So I'm happy that we get to do that.

Kiri: [00:01:32] Me too. I keep adding stuff to our Google doc.

Ingrid: [00:01:36] What a great way to end the week.

Kiri: [00:01:37] Things keep popping up.

Ingrid: [00:01:39] For those of you who aren't caught up, shame on... Just kidding. So glad you're here. And just a lot has happened in the past few months. And so if you are interested in some of what has happened in the past few months, I'd suggest listening back to Episode 5 where we kind of came back on the air and let you know what was going on in my world, and then introduced the amazing Kiri Masters. And we also made some adjustments to how we were talking about the human-centric retail podcast. And Kiri had surfaced some really fantastic fundamental human traits that we are exploring. In today's episode, we will be talking about creativity and storytelling and how that has crept its way into our everyday lives as people who run commerce businesses, and as people who are consumers. I would really, really recommend going back to the previous episode, in case you missed it, which was us talking about community and belonging. I think that this episode actually is a really good partner to that, but that's a great foundation. So if you haven't listened back to the Community and Belonging episode, that was Episode 7. Please go ahead and join us for that and let us know what you think in the comments and your feedback. Also, make sure to write a review because we read them and we appreciate your time. So with that, I wanted to just kick off the idea of thinking about creativity in the context of content and commerce and how we live it as people who run brands and work in the CPG space. And frankly, in my experience, I don't know if you've seen this too, Kiri, the need for creative talent at every single level, super, super senior, all the way to someone who is editing copy has exploded even just during the ten or 15 years that I have been working on great brands. And I was just curious how creativity and storytelling have exploded in your world or if it hasn't. Have you been seeing similar trends?

Kiri: [00:04:05] Yeah, absolutely. I think it's a great point that you made about that evolution because once upon a time it would be Mad Men. Mid-century. It was Mad Men. There's an ad that we're going to put on TV and what is it going to be and what are the feelings? And that was the top-down media and advertising that we would see. And today I just came out of a big client strategy meeting this week and the content that we're talking about shifting to on eCommerce platforms like Amazon is real, every day, here's the struggle and joy of our target customer, which is moms and showing that in its raw, unbridled pain and glory rather than this sort of like glossy, idealistic vision of motherhood. It was like, "No, let's show what it's really like to be a mom." And this brand was moving from that sort of more glossy, idealistic brand vision creative output, to working with people on TikTok, creating content about what it's like to be a mom and really tapping into that every day and closer to the end customer at the end of the day. So I see it as being an addition to what we might have had in the past. We still needed that brand team to work on that vision and have something cohesive to talk about. But then we're also adding on these everyday creators and influencers who are coming in and sort of putting a more accessible spin on things.

Ingrid: [00:06:08] Yes. And that's actually something that I am so in favor of. The medium and the message is always shifting, so when we were first starting to think about like you were saying in the Mad Men days, when we were first starting to think about starting to put messaging to brands and connect with consumers on an emotional level, not just saying, "This product will wash your windows," you now have this introduction to a Windex, and this is the type of house that uses Windex and why you would choose Windex and how it fits into your life. And those messages and stories were crafted like you were saying in these boardrooms that truly couldn't be more separated away from what the end user, in the case of Windex, would be. And they were just like sort of really far removed and creating this aspirational existence for the person that would be using Windex. And I think for a really long time that was accepted and it was taken as, "Oh, well, right. That's the reality. And if I use Windex..." And that's the dream that they're weaving. And then I think now that we've been exposed 24/7 via social media or programmatic ads or television commercials and all of those things, I think consumers have gotten a lot more savvy and are able to distinguish when a message is sculpted somewhere very far away from who is actually end recipient of that message. And when it's created by people who really do live their lives and really can connect. And I think that the pendulum has swung in a very different direction into, "Well, you don't know my lifestyle. And how could you possibly know what I need when you don't live my lifestyle?" And so that's where the content needing to feel more real has just become so much more prevalent. And I think for good reason. What do you think?

Kiri: [00:08:40] Yeah, definitely. Well, the other theme that we're going to talk about today is storytelling. And for me, [00:08:46] Tik Tok is a medium where sure, let's put the algorithm to the side because the algorithm is the other part of the ingredient of the secret sauce of that platform. But the format of the content is, is such that it's delivered in that storytelling format that we really crave as humans. [00:09:08]

Ingrid: [00:09:08] Yes. Yeah. And every single app, God bless their soul, is trying to replicate that same format. And it's so cringy to watch, isn't it?

Kiri: [00:09:20] Yeah.

Ingrid: [00:09:21] It's native to TikTok and they just created it and kind of own that expression that the other networks that are trying to incorporate that, understandably so, want to try to replicate it because of their success. But it just feels really alien.

Kiri: [00:09:39] Yes. Yeah, definitely. Well, and this is sort of like a shift. I was listening to the Future Commerce podcast from a couple of weeks ago talking about the vibe shift, which is such an interesting phenomenon, and someone who is a millennial and not the cool young things.

Ingrid: [00:10:06] Are you a geriatric millennial like me?

Kiri: [00:10:08] I guess. I guess I am. I mean, technically, technically, yes.

Ingrid: [00:10:16] Own it. Own it, Kiri. 

Kiri: [00:10:17] So the vibe shift in this space, I think it's been really cool to be an entrepreneur for the last ten years in this entrepreneur worship. And I think that that's actually shifting now towards being a creator. And being a creator is the cool thing to do. So seems like this is something that you agree with as well. And I wonder what's going to be next after Creator.

Ingrid: [00:10:48] I know it's so interesting. So I have the delight of having nieces and nephews that are in this up-and-coming generation. I don't even know if they've named this generation yet.

Kiri: [00:10:59] Gen Z. 

Ingrid: [00:11:00] But I think they're like younger than Gen Z because Gen Z now is graduating college. 

Kiri: [00:11:08] Right.

Ingrid: [00:11:09] Gen Z is older than them now. The kids in high school right now... Maybe. Maybe they're like the youngest part of Gen Z. Either way, they feel different.

Kiri: [00:11:17] Leave a review on the podcast and tell us what it is. {laughter}

Ingrid: [00:11:22] Let's name it right here on the Infinite Shelf podcast. But anyway, so that generation you talk to every girl, I think, but probably boys too, and when you ask them what they want to be, it's different than when we were in high school and we'd say, "Well, we want to be a lawyer," or "I want to be a veterinarian." And now they're all universally just like, "I want to be an influencer." And that didn't exist before. And well, growing up in the media culture that they grew up in and the social media culture that they grew up in, specifically, I can understand them aspirationally wanting to be an influencer. It's similar to all of the people who wanted to be actors when they grow up.

Kiri: [00:12:12] Yup. Pop stars.

Ingrid: [00:12:13] But it feels more prominent than that. The people who would want to be something at one point that was not like an actor or a pop star, all now want to be influencers. And it's just a very, very strange, like you said, vibe shift.

Kiri: [00:12:29] Well, interestingly, it is a vocation that's a bit more accessible now as well. When I was a pre-teen, it was all about the Spice Girls. And so how many... The space available to be a Spice Girl was...

Ingrid: [00:12:46] Only five. {laughter}

Kiri: [00:12:47] Really, really narrow. It's only five. But if you want to be a TikTok influencer today, I mean, there are thousands of them, hundreds of thousands who can eke out a living doing brand partnerships and things like that. So in a way, it is more accessible to be a creator than ever before.

Ingrid: [00:13:12] Yeah, and I think you're right. And I also think that  [00:13:17]where we are at in our consumption culture is this whole like, people keep calling it just like late-stage capitalism, where the job of being someone who just like sells things has become much more glorified and glamorized than I think it was before. Children didn't aspire to become a sales rep. I think being in sales is incredibly difficult and lucrative and all of those things. But I think typically it wasn't always the aspiration, but now I think like there's this unapologetic nature to people wanting to be themselves brands and like identifying as their own, like individual brand and then selling brands as part of this aspirational lifestyle, which to me does feel genuinely different than before. [00:14:23]

Kiri: [00:14:24] Yeah. And there's only so much space for that. So there will 100% have to be a vibe shift away from that at some point in the future where there's a response to this manufactured grassroots support, and I wonder where it will go. But we're too early into the current vibe shift to know what that's going to be.

Ingrid: [00:14:47] Totally, totally. Okay, now I'm just thinking as someone who works inside of a brand or inside of multiple brands. I'm constantly thinking about keeping my head above water with the amount of creative content, storytelling, and things that I need to maintain this dialog with my consumer. And I keep thinking about how did we get to this place? What was the impetus? When did we really shift into having a brand that tells you, "Hey, I'm this brand and I'm fish oil and you should take me because I have Omega3s," and all of those things? I'm looking at what's on my desk right now. Versus, "Hey, we are a brand that understands you and the things that drive you and we sell fish oil, but we are so much more than just fish oil. Come. Come follow us on Instagram and have this dialog with us." And just creating this whole space where brands need to come to life and be this like entity that is expected to respond to a comment about an image that they post on the Internet. All of these things never existed before. And [00:17:03] I had this moment where I realized that it was very much this like combination of the evolution and explosion of social media, but also the DTC brands. They actually are the ones, I think, that and I don't know if you see it this way too, they're the ones that took the conversation out from, "Hey, I'm at Target," and Target merchandises their shelves in a way that I trust. So if I can buy something at Target, I know that it's been vetted and there's someone who made some consideration into having it put in this very limited shelf space versus having a DTC site that's like, "Oh, well, all I need is a Shopify log in and then I can start this conversation. I don't necessarily, at least at this point, need Target to have that conversation for me." But then what that opened up was this floodgate of a door to now every single brand, including Target themselves, need to become this human being that you now have this relationship with. And it's just created this conundrum for people who own brands and have lived and sold brands and products to consumers before the age of the DTC explosion. And I was just curious, where does it end? [00:18:28]

Kiri: [00:18:28] The curse of customer intimacy.

Ingrid: [00:18:31] Right. Yeah. So where do we go from here? Do we get more intimate, less intimate? How can we possibly keep up with this huge Indiana Jones boulder that just keeps following us, needing more and more and more content from us as brands?

Kiri: [00:18:48] Yeah, I see your point that there is maybe a little bit of overreaching that some brands are trying to do in assuming a lot of aspects about someone's personality and the way that they view the world just because they bought some makeup off the internet. 

Ingrid: [00:19:11] Right.

Kiri: [00:19:13] Yeah, it is interesting. There is like you said we know so much more about our customer today because of that direct relationship. Total tangent, but in the last few weeks, in particular, there's been a lot of questioning of that DTC model and like just the economics of it and the sustainability of it. And is this whole sort of aversion to having a middleman, like a retailer or a marketplace, a fad? I think that's a whole separate discussion.

Ingrid: [00:19:56] Which I'm so... So let's do that. Let's make our next episode the DTC...

Kiri: [00:20:01] We'll have to discuss how it ties into a human trait.

Ingrid: [00:20:07] I mean, all of them. It encompasses everything. 

Kiri: [00:20:11] But yeah. I'm so excited. Yeah, let's definitely talk about that on another episode.

Ingrid: [00:20:16] Stay tuned, everyone.

Kiri: [00:20:17] Stay tuned. That is a teaser. But yeah, that was the promise of DTC. And I think that is an area where DTC really delivered. But how much intimacy is too much?

Ingrid: [00:20:33] Right. Do I need to have a personal relationship with my window cleaner?

Kiri: [00:20:37] Mm hmm.

Ingrid: [00:20:38] Is that actually necessary? I think it is this strong correction from really feeling completely divorced from your products and having someone who's never cleaned a window in their life. I keep picking on Windex. I just find it to be a hilarious example. But someone like a mad Mad Men type of marketer.

Kiri: [00:21:03] Well, this is where Peloton got into trouble, right, with that ad of the husband buying his wife the gift. And it was I think that is an example of overreaching.

Ingrid: [00:21:19] Yes.

Kiri: [00:21:20] Like this is how you should feel. And that ad got criticized for a lot of different reasons. But it was really kind of overlaying an assumption on these customers about how they should think, feel and behave. And it was wrong and it was icky. 

Ingrid: [00:21:41] Big time. And that's like a very, very tight rope. I was so interested in that story because I did keep asking myself, "Had I been in that boardroom, would I have realized how icky that commercial felt?" Like in creative review. I think I would have, to give myself credit, but I think seeing everything and seeing when you're kind of like in the trenches and building and writing these stories, there's such a delicate balance between feeling relatable... And as Peloton, you really do have to be emotionally connected. Their whole magic is they live inside your home, already very intimate. They tap into your internal and external motivation centers to get you on it. And then they have you form these intimate relationships with the instructors. It's one to thousands of these relationships, but they really feel intimate because they tap into that so well.

Kiri: [00:22:57] Very. Yes. 

Ingrid: [00:22:57] They tap into your motivations and the things that, if you own a Peloton and you haven't like cried on a Peloton ride, you're not a real human. I'm sorry. {laughter} And so there is this intimacy that is so natural to Peloton. But I think that the commercial felt so misaligned with that true intimacy that it does create in the way that it does make you feel and how it can impact your life in such a positive way. It just felt so superficial to that.

Kiri: [00:23:36] Yep, definitely.

Ingrid: [00:23:39] Power of storytelling, man. It's just it's everything. But you teeter so quickly.

Kiri: [00:23:43] Yes, 100%. I'm wondering, bringing this back to a sort of practical level, creativity and storytelling... Are the things that you wish you knew earlier in your career that you would tell young Ingrid?

Ingrid: [00:25:39] Oh, man, so many things. I don't even know where to begin. I think that I did underestimate how important storytelling was or would be in this stage in my career. Regardless of whether you're a CMO or even a CFO or in finance, which I keep thinking is like the polar opposite of being the storyteller, really you're kind of using that human trait of storytelling throughout your whole career. I mean, the clearest example is you're on a job interview, but a less clear example is, well, things went wrong, for example, on a project, and you need to be able to weave a cohesive story and explanation and learn from that, while also understanding all of the systems of accountability and learning and things like that to your manager and your manager's managers. And so storytelling is so important in every way, even in finance, think of investor calls and people who have to deliver earnings to the street. It's storytelling. Like budgets, like all of those things. And so I think I never really appreciated or understood that as a young professional in my career. And I definitely think that starting to weave that muscle of storytelling would be something that I would have started investing in much sooner. What about you?

Kiri: [00:27:30] Yeah. Really? It's everything you said plus one. That was a great point. Underestimated skill. I've gone seven years, and now I have a boss again. And there is the storyteller to your boss. But prior to that it was storyteller to my employees. It was storytelling to potential clients. And so I never stopped, but who I was telling the story to has changed over time. Today I spend a lot of time telling stories on LinkedIn and to the organization about why we need to consider this and why this is an opportunity. So it never goes away. The audience might change a little bit. The audience might be an audience of one like your boss. The audience might be thousands of people. And if you have a public persona, so 100%. It is a really special and powerful skill when you can command it.

Ingrid: [00:27:47] Totally. Yeah with wonder I mean like we should pitch corporate storytelling to colleges as a class.

Kiri: [00:27:53] Yeah. I'm actually doing... I found LinkedIn to be very powerful. Ingrid, I know you are almost a... "Is Ingrid Milman Cordy a real person?" is a question you might ask if you Google Ingrid. {laughter}

Ingrid: [00:28:18] There are YouTube videos of me talking to another human being. I hate posting on social media. I'm so sorry.

Kiri: [00:28:26] It is so interesting because you are a great storyteller. I'd love to armchair psychologist you about why you're so absent. Anyway.

Ingrid: [00:28:43] I'm allergic. {laughter}

Kiri: [00:28:45] {laughter} I think that we can close right there. I forgot where I was going with that.

Ingrid: [00:28:56] You were saying LinkedIn being a good resource that I need to...

Kiri: [00:28:59] Oh, yes. So I'm doing like an internal training at my company about how, I guess, how to tell stories on LinkedIn, because it can be very powerful. That's where my customer is hanging out. And that's the platform for me. And I know all the Twitter people are going to say, "That's so lame. LinkedIn is so lame." It's so interesting seeing all the animosity between the different social media followers.

Ingrid: [00:29:30] I know. We talked about that in the last episode too, where it's just like every little medium has its own subculture, which I super love. Wait, you're totally making me think of... I mean, I have to do this. Did you ever have you come across the viral post generator dot com? 

Kiri: [00:29:47] Yes.

Ingrid: [00:29:48] Fantastic. It's literally everything that I love and hate and avoid vehemently about LinkedIn. But keep going.

Kiri: [00:30:00] That's a really good point because who are you and who is your audience is going to really drive what kind of stories to tell and how to tell them. So if you're Gary V, viral post generator dot com or whatever it is, is perfect. It's like it was a big day. It was a big moment for me. You know, the broetry. 

Ingrid: [00:30:25] The Broetry. Oh my God. That's so good. 

Kiri: [00:30:27] That's going to work for your audience because you're talking about pretty general career themes and it's a big audience. And then in my little corner of the Internet, it's a lot more specific. If I started writing Broetry, I think people would say something nasty.

Ingrid: [00:30:54] Or they'd think your account got hacked.

Kiri: [00:30:57] Yeah. Yeah, maybe. Yeah. So I've got a different type of storytelling, which is here is some news, here is my opinion, and here's what I think you should do. And you could apply that with a different style to almost anything. If you're talking about personal finance, here is the college loan forgiveness. Here's what I think. Here's what you should do if you can't get your loan forgiven. You can kind of rinse and repeat for different audiences and different subjects.

Ingrid: [00:31:33] Totally, totally. I do see that if I give it... It's garbage in, garbage out, or you get what you give. Both of those things I think exist. And so until you're able and willing to put in the time to find that corner, cultivate that corner, understand that that does require investment on your part of time and thought and energy, you're going to then have the experience that I have as it relates to these social networks and the storytelling within the social networks and the creativity. And I actually think that all of this comes back to the boundaries that we have to evaluate and establish for ourselves as humans and individual brands, if we will, and even brands. So my advice within this whole really complicated world of creativity and storytelling, that is, to your point, just like table stakes at this point to a certain extent, is to just [00:32:45] determine the boundaries for yourself and for your company and for your brands about how much creativity and storytelling and dialog is enough for your brand to remain relevant, feel connected, but not have to overstep that boundary into just feeling like a parody of yourself or overly intimate where it's unnecessary, [00:33:17] like you were saying with the Peloton example.

Kiri: [00:33:19] Yep. Excellent. We came full circle. We did it.

Ingrid: [00:33:25] Yeah, we did it. Well, I'm so glad that we were able to touch on this topic. I have been thinking about creativity and storytelling within the context of consumer products and brands and companies, and I just I feel like I am just glad that we were able to get this off of our chests. What about you, Kiri?

Kiri: [00:33:46] Yeah, absolutely. It is one of the ten human traits that we're covering in this series. Make sure that you tune in for our episode next week as well.

Ingrid: [00:34:01] Yeah, like and subscribe, Smash that like button, y'all. Just kidding. See you later. Bye.

Recent Episodes

A Season of Moments

Don't Ignore Your Fans

What's in Your Closet?

Recent Episodes

Latest Podcasts
By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.