Big Stories, BIGGER Canvases

Published by: Jeff Day

Do you know anyone from Detroit? Ask them where they're from and almost instinctively they will respond with our endeared, shortened version – the D! The D is blazing hot right now amid an epic transformation. In the words of Sekou Andrews at the Little Caesar’s Arena (LCA) ribbon cutting, “…if Detroit were compared to Rome, we (in the D) would be the little Caesars!” His reference played well in multiple ways of course, and lest anyone from the D think contrary, the LCA is the house that pizza built! 

Of the many things swirling through my mind on that historic day, aside from the shared pride we felt at Bluewater for having participated in a fine “slice” of Detroit history, was the story being told! Pizza, Red Wings, Pistons, Tigers, or the bigger story…a family with a vision of philanthropy and contribution that goes so deep it defies logic and demonstrates hope, optimism, and doing good! BIG stories, BIG messages, BIG platforms, BIG emotions…something I’m now calling, “BIG, BIG." 


Small stories can be BIG.  BIG stories can be small. Come what the story may be, how it gets told can be a really, really, big deal. My marketing and sales friends get this well. Others, not so much.  You know when it’s working well…and hopefully, you know when its not.  Don’t get caught in the trap. You need high communications EQ to sense when its working and not. 

Where you tell the stories matter! Lunch meeting? Office? Subway? How about demos? Tours? Are your stories geographically triggered? What’s the context? Can the BIG story be understood quickly or does it require a PhD in your brain’s collaboration style to get it? Where stories happen for your brand can have a massive impact on amplification and retention.

Anciently, BIG stories were reinforced architecturally. The colosseum served the purpose of function (lots of fans) and message (hey, check us out…we’re Rome). BIG stories played out in ingenious ways. How about those Nazca lines, or those crazy crop circles? I mean, how’d they see those things from 10,000 ft. up anyway? BIG stories told on BIG canvases do something special. They incite wonder and awe, which in turn drive the lasting value of message retention.


There is a movement afoot today to do the same thing! Architecturally, just like the colosseum, we see this again with stadiums and arenas. Recently in telling the story of our beloved, “D” we just lit up the Detroit Central Train Station on behalf of the Detroit Homecoming. Larger than life words:  Re-invent, Re-Imagine, Re-invest…DETROIT. BIG stories, BIG canvases! Millions of impressions telling big stories.

Not everyone has access to the same outlets and tools, but let me share 5 ideas to BIGGIFY your story and canvas.

  1. Go where others aren’t. Think of the most unexpected destinations. The last place on the list. Now re-imagine your story there!
  2. Simplify your story. One-word statements work great. Pictures and videos are even better. If you can capture the essence of the story in a word or two…you got it! Now think about where to turn those words up. The BEST ones use incredible, creative guerilla tactics.
  3. Reimagine space. Consider all the physical surfaces. Not just walls, think about air and water. How about everyone’s cell phone as pixels in a bigger screen display? Break the rules.
  4. Be responsible. I’m not the message cop but the message should be socially responsible to our communities. Keep the language and images clean for all. We don’t need hate, only love. Take the opportunity to contribute to positive messages and movements. Your brand will be better off for it.
  5. The biggest miss in old execution is predictability and lame execution. A Goodyear blimp that advertises tires…too obvious. Blimp with LED board on the side…getting warmer. How about blimp with an ARROW pointing to the place to go with a, “tune to channel x” to hear the sound that goes along with it?

And so, we come back to the BIG story! Whether its our beloved D, or the message you are wrestling with right now, step back, take a deep breath, and think. GO BIG, OR GO HOME 😉! Rise above the clutter in unsuspecting and ingenious ways. Excite and delight! MOVE people!

Have fun!


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