Soph Reads Stuff – Storyategy: Unlock the power of your brand with a story based branding strategy
Welcome back to Soph Reads Stuff!
In a shocking turn of events, I’ve found a book I didn’t like. That’s not to say it was terrible – there were definitely some good bits – but there were so many issues with the book that I have to give it the lowest rating to date.
Now, you might be wondering whether it’s worth reading the rest of the blog if you know the book is bad, but here’s why you should: humans are psychologically programmed to trust and enjoy negativity. We’d much rather read a bad review on Amazon than wade through the 407 5* reviews that say the product is perfectly good. So, here’s my negative review for all the book people who are tired of viral favourites being over-hyped on TikTok.
This instalment of Soph Reads Stuff is focussed on Matt Davies’ Storyategy: Unlock the power of your brand with a story based branding strategy. It’s a sleek, slender stroll through story-branding, complete with exercises for you to do with your leadership team at the end of each chapter. Sounds great, right?
Lots of Storyategy’s content is incredible, if you can see the forest for the trees. There are lots of good references throughout the book, from touching on Jungian philosophy and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to Star Wars analogies. The book also includes practical guides and workshop suggestions to do with your leadership team, making it almost like a workbook for marketers.
There were also a couple of sections that I particularly enjoyed, including a description of the 12 archetypal characters and 7 major plotlines. In fact, I enjoyed those bits so much that I’m incorporating them into my own work. Just in case you’re curious, here are the said archetypes and plotlines listed in the book:
These sections were really engaging, with interesting breakdowns of each character and narrative to help people and brands find which stereotypes they align with. Personally I think I’m a blend of the Innocent, Lover and Caregiver archetypes, and it’s been said several times that my life should be turned into a sitcom, so I can definitely vibe with the Comedy storyline.
I was also inspired by a couple of the activities that Matt suggested and ran a workshop for the Search Stack team to decide which character we are as a company (we’re the Heroes, obviously). We also talked about which story we’re taking you on, and how we can translate that into our copy (we’re Defeating the Beast by saving you from boring and outdated recruitment marketing methods – you’re welcome). It was a really fun session, and has informed some exciting new content that you’ll see in the coming months!
Sadly my issues with the book started almost immediately. It kicks off with some harsh truths for leadership teams, with scathing condemnations of lacklustre branding. There’s nothing quite like a roast on page 4 to get your reader’s attention, but it wasn’t a welcoming start to the book.
Storyategy is littered with visuals, which range from helpful to ‘Huh?’. I think the book would be just as helpful if the graphics had been taken out, and in my opinion about 40% of them should have been. Nobody needs a page 23 that’s just a blurry portrait with the caption ‘Can your customers and your people see your brand clearly?’. There are diagrams sprinkled throughout, and while some of them are helpful for illustrating Matt’s points, several of them are totally unnecessary and just disrupt the flow.
And then there’s the writing. While the bold, black pages make Storyategy feel sophisticated, powerful and dynamic, sadly the copy inside is anything but. For a book that is proclaiming the power of stories, the writing inside was depressingly lacklustre. The sentences were awkward lengths, the punctuation was *funky* and it felt like I was stuck in stop-start traffic. Just the full stops and commas were enough to rile me, as they wandered beyond the Cambridge/Oxford debate and stumbled into a bewildering mess of erratic pauses and nonsensical structure.
Matt advises companies to consult with professionals when writing up their brands’ stories, and I can’t help wishing he’d taken his own advice. The book is self-published… and it shows. I scoured the acknowledgements and found that the author had thanked someone for “proof-reading and sense-checking” the book, but there wasn’t an editor in sight. It’s a shame really, because I think it could have been so much better if I wasn’t irritated by every other sentence.
So, I’ve teased you long enough. What’s the verdict?
I’m giving Storyategy a two-star review because I just can’t get past the bad structure, both in its text and its visuals. While it has some redeeming content that saved it from a single star, the book is riddled with problems, and probably would have made a better PDF or eBook with less verbal padding and unnecessary graphics.
I will hold up my hands and say that the majority of my criticisms are coming from a purely copywriting perspective. If you’re not a word nerd like me, you might enjoy the book a lot more. It could also be a cultural difference as the author is an American and therefore has different grammar rules to adhere to, but I haven’t had an issue with that before.
It was also fairly reminiscent of the content in Founder Brand, with familiar content such as saving your customers from an ‘evil’ in your industry and using your company narrative to sell your services. That’s not necessarily a flaw, it just means a large amount of the book felt more familiar than fascinating.
Rating: 💜💜 🤍🤍🤍
This is the worst marketing book I’ve read so far. It has a dodgy structure and fairly aggressive start which put me off the majority of the book. It has some interesting workshop ideas inside to help you establish your own storybrand, but you could just get in touch with me instead of wading through some fairly lacklustre copy.
Want to chat about books? Find me on LinkedIn –> Sophie Colclough 🥰