Bryan Taylor

Show, Don't Tell

I am constantly reminding myself of the importance of the adage, “Show, don’t tell” — because, ultimately, we’d all rather hear a good story that resonates than some long-winded directive.

     Once upon a time...
     Remember when… ?
     A picture is worth 1,000 words.
     Can you give me an example?

Our memory works is a variety of ways. Sometimes, we can download manuals full of information, but often that information doesn’t stick. Sometimes, the sing-song devices that we endured in school stick (annoyingly) with us for far too many years. And sometimes, when we’re trying to remember something, we recall the stories that we’ve been told — perhaps because they not only present the factual accounts of events, but also how they smelled, what they sounded like, looked like, felt like. Stories allow us to build multi-sensorial memories.

Instead of telling Rexius's customers (and potential customers) that using their products will result in a beautiful, healthy, and enjoyable outdoor space, we showed them. Photo: Trask Bedortha/Drawn

I will be the first to admit that I can’t remember almost anyone’s name — it’s a character flaw, for sure. So, instead, I find myself referencing people not by their names, but by their stories.

“Remember that guy in Austin who had the pictures of the dog on his phone?”
“You know, the woman who was wearing the blue scarf to support the Dodgers.
“Let’s ask the bus driver who is always whistling.”

Or, I just give people story-founded nicknames:

Tennessee Jack (Daniels) (A developer in Nashville named Jay, or J.? Not sure.)
Roommate Ben (My college roommate from 25 years ago.)
Daven (the maven) (Drawn’s developer, Dave, whom I met at the same time as Contractor Dave.)
Enron (A young intern who asked me what Enron was after a presentation.)
The Ryans (The video crew led by two guys named Ryan.)

"Brands communicate directly and indirectly, with words, with visuals, with sounds and scents and stories that help us remember them."

Beergarden is a place where people gather for good beer and good conversation with good company. Photo: Trask Bedortha/Drawn

Stories help us recall a more complete context than facts alone can sometimes provide, and that is why they should be a regular part of our arsenal when we’re looking to communicate who we are and what we value.

Communication is far more nuanced and complicated than a collection of simple words. How I deliver them communicates plenty about how confident I am, how relational I am, and whether the words feel natural to me — or like I am reading someone else’s pitch. In the same way, how we communicate visually is far more complicated and nuanced than most realize. Clean and simple tells me something. As do visuals that are retro, distressed, ugly, busy, slapped together.

Brands communicate directly and indirectly, with words, with visuals, with sounds and scents and stories that help us remember them. The more all of those are in alignment — from the direct to the indirect, from ads and websites and signage to reputation, working culture, and social responsibility — the better the story sounds, the more memorable it becomes, and more often than not, the stronger and healthier the business becomes.