Storytelling in business: how to use analogies from popular movies

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —June 19, 2011
Filed in Business storytelling

Storytelling in business using movies.

An effective tactic for storytelling in business situations is to tell a story from a movie as an analogy. Just pick a film scene that conveys your message and tell it. My walking buddy, Darren Woolley, shared this nice example with me.

Darren’s company, TrinityP3, helps marketing departments of large companies around the world solve the trickiest problems. This is how Darren describes what they do.

“Do you know the film Pulp Fiction? Remember the scene when Vincent (John Travolta) and Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) are driving and they accidentally shoot their back seat passenger. They drive the blood-splattered car to their friend’s Jimmie’s house to clean up the mess and get help.  Before they know it the door bell rings and Winston “The Wolf” Wolfe is there to save them. Well, at TrinityP3 we are your Winston Wolfe.”

Here is Darren’s description of the Mr Wolf analogy with the film clip. Tip for the squeamish, don’t click through.

One of the reasons why this film analogy works for Darren is that the film is well known. I noticed that Peter Guber advocates the same approach in his book Tell to Win but then uses films such as High Noon. Unless you are a film buff these old classics are just not going to cut it. So how do decide which films to use?

Here is a simple approach.

Visit the IMDB top 250 and select the top 100 records. Copy them into a spreadsheet. Sort by number of votes, because this gives you a list of the most popular movies as well as the top 100 best movies. Popularity is more important.

Here is the top 15 by votes:

  1. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
  2. The Dark Knight (2008)
  3. Pulp Fiction (1994)
  4. The Godfather (1972)
  5. Fight Club (1999)
  6. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
  7. The Matrix (1999)
  8. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
  9. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
  10. Inception (2010)
  11. Forrest Gump (1994)
  12. Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)
  13. American Beauty (1999)
  14. Se7en (1995)
  15. Gladiator (2000)

Notice Pulp Fiction is number 3.

I’d love to hear what analogies you come up with.

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About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one of the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:

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