The Company that Broke The Internet: A case study in storytelling.

I want to be a ninja in the storytelling department, but telling stories, well, it’s hard. So I’m doing The Story Skills Workshop with Akimbo and Bernadette Jiwa at the moment. It’s awesome and is making it easier.

Why does storytelling matter?

Human beings have lazy brains that are highly social. So your stories (yes, including web copy, social media etc.) need to have conflict — something happening that gives the reader or listener a reason to feel empathy and to care. A reason for the audience to be emotionally engaged in the story.

When you showcase this conflict—a problem, challenge or obstacle—it captures attention, creates connection and gives your audience a reason to care. It creates emotional resonance for your audience, meaning, they want to do what the characters in the story are doing. Your audience buys into the mission or vision of the Founder, product or brand, and wants to get on board. They may even buy your stuff or fund your campaign and become lifetime customers or brand champions. The dream!

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In the spirit of learning by doing, and learning in public, here’s my version of how this Aussie startup, well, got started, using Bernadettes 5C’s of storytelling.

The Context

Sets the scene: The Backstory + Event.
Introduction to the hero’s world and something that changes in his world.
The Founder and our hero Mike Smith, unemployed and in need of a shave, and his girlfriend Alyssa, go travelling, adventuring, camping, and exploring far-flung corners of the world.

The Catalyst

The trigger for the Complication.
Introduction to the hero’s world and something that changes in his world.
They are off-grid in remote locations; it is here that they are stunned to find single-use plastic trash in abundance, junking up the oceans. They won’t stand for this.

The Complication

It drives the need for the hero or heroine to change.
The Obstacle: The hero is faced with a problem and a choice.
They decide to tackle the global plastic problem, but how? Where? What to focus on? What industry is in desperate need of innovation, can they make traction in, and have an impact, now?
They travel back to Australia & have a shotgun wedding, and Alyssa arrives in a poncho with cow poo on it.
Mike convinces Alyssa to move back in with his parents — into his childhood bedroom — so they can save in rent and tackle the single-use plastic problem; that’s how all in they are. Much research and investigation are done.

The Change

The Transformation.
The hero decides on a path and a plan to overcome the obstacle.
Mike gets clear. The mission comes first, then they will decide on the solution.
The Mission is twofold: To untrash the planet by simultaneously (1) stopping the production of new single-use plastic and (2) cleaning up the plastic junking up our oceans. After more research and deliberation, Mike puts his life savings on the line to get Zero.Co started.

Zero Co launches a Kickstarter campaign to raise $251,313 to help fund its first production run. A month later, they list on Birchal and break the internet, becoming the most funded Aussie brand in history.

The Consequence

It is brought about by the hero or heroine embarking on the journey to change.
The Resolution: The hero’s character, fate, world, and worldview are altered.
From landfill to refill; Here’s how ZeroCo is stopping the production of new plastic.

They focused on where they can have an impact, now, today.

Their reusable refill pouches are made from plastic waste diverted from landfills and are designed to be refilled and reused over and over and over again. Every refill equals one less new plastic bottle being made, used once and thrown away.

Zero.Co source plastic from the ocean! Ocean trash becomes treasure by having their reusable dispensers made from plastic rubbish that they’ve pulled out of the ocean, beaches and landfill. So far, they have removed almost 6,000kg of plastic rubbish from the ocean. That’s the equivalent of more than 500,000 water bottles worth of plastic that they have already pulled from the sea.

It’s an enthralling tale of romance, adventure and an unrelenting passion to do good for the planet.

They fully engaged their users from the get-go with Kickstarter, Birchal, social through their witty banter, making sustainability and being purpose-driven fun.

How did I do this story breakdown?

Funnily enough, the content came from the Zero.Co website—and my application of the 5C’s of storytelling. I may not have gotten this quite right, but I’m giving it a go.

Life is short, why on earth break down someone's website like this?

Creating compelling web copy can be hard, especially when you’re getting started. Creating from a place of purpose, and certainty of mission and impact, well, that makes it easier.
Knowing your users inside out makes it easier again.
Let’s say you haven’t got that sorted yet (like moi, I’m doing mine from scratch ATM, writing about yourself can be hard!).
Going through someone else's website and applying the 5C’s REALLY helps.

In their story, you might see your own story, and it gives you a path to get started. If you want to learn more, I highly recommend The Story Skills Workshop.

Question: Would more breakdowns of websites like this be useful? Pop a comment in the feedback below.




I help people unlearn stuff that isn’t workable and design behaviour which guides them towards fulfilment, freedom & flow.

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Kristy Bertenshaw

Kristy Bertenshaw

I help people unlearn stuff that isn’t workable and design behaviour which guides them towards fulfilment, freedom & flow.

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