4 Lessons From Pixars Rules Of Storytelling Every Marketer Should Know


Marketing professionals know that it’s not always easy to get their content in front of their audience. Especially with the tremendous surge in content marketing we saw over the past few years. Audiences are currently swimming in content; content that’s not always welcomed or of the highest quality. The result is that much of the content we deliver ends up being ignored.

So how do we set ourselves a part from the rest? How do we create content that gets seen?

The answer is good storytelling.

As marketers we know storytelling is one of our greatest tools. It’s also a tool that isn’t frequently used. The truth is, we need to be doing more of it and we need to be doing a much better job at it.

The single greatest thing you can do today to help maximize your marketing impact is to tell remarkable stories.

To inspire you, I’m turning to the talented folks at Pixar who do storytelling really well. You know, the folks who brought us Buzz Lightyear and the classic Finding Nemo. In every Pixar film, they’ve been able to craft beautiful and captivating stories that can act as inspiration for any content creator. So let’s tear a page out the Pixar writing handbook and put some of their writing rules to use.

Here a four of my favorite rules of storytelling from Pixar..

1. Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.

As is true with all marketing tactics, having a clear and defined objective is critical to achieving success. Without knowing your end goal, you can easily get lost in the sparkle of your tactic.

The same is true when you’re writing marketing content. Pixar story artist Emma Coats encourages writers to develop the ending at the beginning of the story. Knowing in advance where you’ll end up will help you create a more interesting journey for the reader. It also gives you (the writer) focus and guides you through the creative process.

2. Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.

We don’t always get it right.

It’s a hard lesson for many marketers – it’s just not in our blood. We’re obsessed with having the best idea, driving success for our clients, and making a mark in the industry. We all strive for greatness, and that’s a great thing. But it doesn’t always come easily. Sometimes it comes after many unsuccessful attempts.

Writing can be a tedious and frustrating process. Sometimes the ideas and words come flowing out beautifully and other times it’s a struggle pulling them from the depths of our brain. I know – I’ve been there.

But, the right thing to do is to finish the story even if the story…well, sucks.

Completing the process is important because it maximizes your opportunity to learn something from the experience and gives you closure at the end of it all.

3. No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.

Over the years I’ve compiled a pretty substantial collection of blog posts, presentations, and e-books that were never published or fully completed. Every now and then I’ll have a really good idea and halfway into the execution I hit a dead-end. It happens to the best of us.

However, just because it didn’t make it’s way to the public the first time, doesn’t mean there isn’t gold in there somewhere. No matter how you feel about these pieces, never throw them away.

I’ll often revisit them a few months later…or even longer. Sometimes I get inspired to finish them, sometimes they transform into something completely different, and sometimes they make more sense in the context of a new client. The point is, no work is ever wasted. Keep the drafts that didn’t quite make it today because who knows what they’ll turn into tomorrow.

4. You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.

You know what your best work looks like, and you also know what your less-awesome work looks like. When it comes to creating gold, you need to trust your gut.

Writing remarkable stories requires you to test your skills every time you sit down to write. You have to be comfortable and flexible enough to test various approaches to your writing, taking different angles and arriving at different outcomes. It’s not about stressing over the final product and fussing with words every step of the way. It’s simply about enjoying the creative process and the journey you take to the final destination.


The moral of this story is that perfection is the result of effort. It might take you a few tries and you have to be flexible and willing to change course at any time. But, when you have your destination or end point in sight, you give yourself the freedom to create something remarkable for your audience.

This is the big difference between content that gets skipped and content that gets consumed. Your audience wants to receive content that they can connect with, that inspires them to take action, and makes them feel something.

Implementing some of Pixar’s writing rules is the first step to transforming your content into something that leaves your readers wanting more.

Now Test it

Put these rules into practice – apply some of these rules to your own content. Try it and let me know how it goes.

What rules do you live by when it comes to writing remarkable stories?