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In the perpetual search for the next big thing, the branding buzzword of the day has arrived: story.

You can't read a magazine, listen to a podcast, or open a bestselling business book without encountering the author's lofty claim of being a storyteller.

Fortune 500 companies hire "chief storytelling officers." Retailers and store designers describe their establishments as "story experiences." Global conferences cover the revolution in storytelling. There are claims that each new technology, gadget, and invention has revolutionized forever the way we tell stories. Everyone is a storyteller, and every company, television commercial, video game, theme park attraction, and outlet mall now claims to tell a story.

There's just one thing wrong with this. It's crap.

Why is everyone trying to make a quick buck off stories?

Because real stories are powerful. They possess the unparalleled ability to connect people and forever change those people for the better. Great stories exist outside time. They live beyond the realm of the commercial. They live in people's hearts.

That love of storytelling is why, for example, millions of people from different generations lined up on opening day for the latest Star Wars movie. As a story, "The Force Awakens" just works: The Force—the binding energy of the universe—seized the world's imagination. Forty years later, the world is still captivated by that emotional journey.

Just as a great movie can change people, so, too, can successful brand storytelling. When done well, brand stories transcend pure messaging or user experience. They engage the audience's emotions and senses, and reflect their hopes, dreams, and desires—taking them on a journey of discovery and self-reflection.

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image of Brad Shelton

Brad Shelton is a creative director at BRC Imagination Arts, an experience design agency that turns brands into destinations.

LinkedIn: Brad Shelton