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From Toy Story to Tech Story: How to Use Pixar’s Storytelling Techniques to Stand Out in a Crowded Market

Pixar Toy Story, Unsplash
Image credit: Unsplash

Tech companies, this is your wake-up call to start using storytelling in your branding and content marketing!

Oh, I hear you say: “What do you mean?! We write code, we build cool gadgets and stuff…we have no freaking idea how to use storytelling.”

To which I respond with the famous words of one Woody from Pixar’s Toy Story who once said: “This is the perfect time to panic!”

No, no, no, I’m totally kidding. Don’t worry, I got your back.

In this piece, I’ll tell you how you can take a page from Pixar’s book, namely the Pixar storytelling techniques, so you can elevate your branding and positioning to a whole new level (might I say ‘to infinity and beyond’?). Giddy-up!

Storytelling is a timeless art, and Pixar has mastered it to literal perfection

What do ancient Greece and modern-day Hollywood have in common? The answer is pretty simple – a fascination with the art of storytelling. 

Both ancient Greeks and modern-day Hollywood talents have demonstrated an enduring legacy of captivating audiences with their ability to craft compelling narratives that transport viewers to new worlds and leave a lasting impression on the human psyche. 

So what makes storytelling so important? And why has storytelling been an integral part of human communication for thousands of years? 

Well, for starters, stories are arguably the most effective way to make connections with people on an emotional level. And (in a modern-day context) emotion is what drives consumer behaviour. As neuroscientist Paul Zak noted, “Stories that are personal and emotionally compelling engage more of the brain, and thus are better remembered, than simply stating a set of facts.”

You get the point – those who manage to master the art of storytelling will most certainly get the biggest piece of the pie. So the question becomes: “How can I learn this valuable skill of telling stories? Is there a school for that?”

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There is a school for that, actually. But not in the traditional sense. Here’s what I mean – have you ever watched a Pixar film? Yes? Well, congrats then – you’ve basically attended a crazy-good storytelling class probably from the comfort of your couch.

I truly believe that Pixar is the master of storytelling. Nobody does it better than them. From Toy Story to Up, their films have consistently been praised for their storytelling, character development, and emotional depth. Talk about real tear-jerkers.

You’re probably thinking: “Ok, but how does that help me? I work in tech, not in the animation industry.”

Well, I have good news for you – regardless of your industry and niche, you can use some Pixar storytelling magic to elevate your brand. Enter Pixar’s 22 storytelling rules that can be translated into the world of branding and content marketing for tech companies.

The origins of Pixar’s 22 storytelling rules

The Pixar storytelling techniques were developed over many years by some of the world’s most talented writers, directors, and animators. These techniques were compiled into a list of 22 rules for storytelling, which have become the gold standard for storytellers across industries. These rules were created by Emma Coats, a former storyboard artist at Pixar, and they offer a roadmap for creating compelling stories that resonate with audiences.

Now, 22 is a big number so I’ve decided to bring your attention to the 5 rules I believe can bring the biggest benefits for tech companies. Let’s dive straight into them!

*(If you’re curious, you can check out all 22 rules here.)

Rule 2: You’ve got to keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience. Not what’s fun to do as a writer. The two can be very different.

One of the biggest mistakes that tech companies make when creating content is focusing too much on their products and services. 

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While it’s essential to showcase what you offer, it’s more important to understand what your audience is interested in and what they want to know. 

Your content should be centred around their pain points, their goals, and their values. Understanding your audience is key to creating content that resonates with them and keeps them engaged.

Rule 4: Once upon a time there was______. Every day _______. One day________. Because of that,______. Until finally______.

This rule is all about structure. By following this simple but powerful storytelling framework, you can create a clear and concise narrative that takes your audience on a journey. 

The best part is that this can be applied to any piece of content, whether it’s a blog post, a video, or an ad. Start by establishing the problem, then show how your product or service solves that problem, and end with a call to action.

Rule 5: Simplify. Focus. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff, but it sets you free.

When it comes to content, less is often more. Tech companies can get bogged down in details and technical jargon, making it difficult for their audience to understand their message. 

This storytelling rule by Pixar is a reminder to simplify and focus on the most important parts of the story. By cutting out the fluff, tech companies can create content that is easy to understand and digest.

Rule 13: Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likeable as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.

Characters are the heart of any story, and they need to be relatable and interesting to keep the audience engaged. This Pixar rule reminds us that characters need to have opinions and be active participants in the story. 

The same applies to tech companies and their content. By creating content that showcases the opinions and personalities of their team, they can create a human connection with their audience.

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Rule 14: Why must you tell this story? What’s the belief burning within you that this story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.

This rule is particularly relevant in the context of branding and content marketing for tech companies. 

As I already said, in the world of technology, it’s easy to get lost in the features and functions of a product and forget about the emotional connection that people have with technology. However, if you can tap into that emotional connection, you can create a powerful bond with your audience.

So when you’re creating content for your brand, it’s important to understand the beliefs that your company holds and what message you want to convey to your audience. Finding the heart of your story is an absolute must.

Make a real impact in the tech industry by using the power of storytelling (and make it Pixar-style)!

The tech industry is a tough gig. I know that. And in the crowded tech market, standing out can be a real challenge.

Thankfully, though, you can use the Pixar storytelling techniques to create a narrative that connects with your target audience and builds a loyal following.

Remember, the key to successful storytelling is finding the heart of your story and using it to create a message that is both authentic and memorable.

As Pixar’s own Andrew Stanton said, “The greatest story commandment is: Make me care. Please, emotionally, intellectually, aesthetically, just make me care.” If you can make your audience care, you’re well on your way to creating a powerful brand story that will resonate for years to come.

Now, what are you waiting for? Roll up your sleeves, and set the course to infinity and beyond!


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Snezhana Simeonova is a creative marketer who believes that storytelling is the key to engaging customers and driving demand. Drawing inspiration from some of her favourite brands like Disney, Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars, she specializes in crafting strategies and copy that capture the imagination and build lasting connections.