Adjacent Storytelling

Often when I speak with other marketers, they complain that their brand, products or services are just not “sexy enough”. They are interested in social media and in producing content but simply cannot find the angle to make their brand shine. But this is not a problem of social media. And it’s not a problem of branding. It’s a problem of storytelling. And the only way to attack that problem is not with demographics and data (as much as I love them both). It’s with imagination.

Take a look at this “best job” video connecting a bunch of brands from the P&G stable. Not only is it interesting to see P&G stepping out from the long shadow of their powerful brands – it’s fascinating to see how “adjacent storytelling” can really showcase beauty and triumph in the mundane existence of our everyday lives.

So, what is “adjacent storytelling”? To me, it’s secret sauce.

How many times have you been asked to make the “logo bigger” or “more prominent”? How many times have you been pushed to mention a product or brand name three or more times in 30 seconds? This infantile understanding of branding comes from the triumph of data over imagination.

Adjacent storytelling is not about naming your brand. The adjacent story is there – the one that you see out of the corner of your eye. It’s the story that stays with you long after you have forgotten the wording. It’s the feeling that reminds you that your experience is not singular and that we are connected more by our commonalities than by our differences.

The adjacent story is the story of your brand in the hands and lives of your customers. Someone, somewhere, once had a problem that needed to be solved. This too, is the adjacent story. It’s the story of the problem, not the story of the solution.

Every brand – every product or service – has this story buried within. You need to scratch the surface to find the beating heart of your brand. But don’t stop there. It’s time to go deeper. Let’s hear less about you. Let’s hear how, together, we can change lives of those around us. Of those most important to us. Let’s explore how we can change this world.

That’s the adjacent story. And here you were thinking this was a blog post on social media!


  1. It’s a lovely job by P&G and well articulated by yourself.
    Too many times we see the focus on the organisation trying to push a singular notion of who they are towards people and they seem to forget to ‘see out of the corner of their eyes’ at the stories that surround them and impact the lives of people.
    Great post Gavin. Not much more to say other than you’ve hit the nail square on the head.

  2. Great post and better articulated than I could.
    That said, the heart of the campaign is simple.
    P&G’s have always had – always will have – a relationship with Mum’s that transcends their connection to sport and so by accepting that and letting it flourish, it allows you to create communication that builds a different – and more meaningful – relevance to their Olympic sponsorship than making a ‘campaign’ that say’s something like:
    “We’re passionate about making [insert product here] and athletes are passionate about [insert sport here]”

  3. That ad was a great example of “adjacent storytelling”: thanks for sharing it. Wondering how that applies to social.
    So often the social media content is the thinly veiled press release or poorly-adapted TVC or other campaign: that ad provides a chance to think about how to connect that universal narrative with a series of posts that back up the connection from the brand to mums (sorry, moms).

  4. Tim Sewell says:

    P&G have nailed it with this and captured just what it means to be a parent whatever our children achieve. I’m convinced such story telling has much more power to get brands to enter an remain in our subconscious. John Lewis have been experts at this in the UK with the Christmas ads for the last few years.

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