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Storytelling and Gladiator: The Historically Backed, Forever-Proof Way to Capture and Keep Your Audience

Garratt Wooton
Garratt Wootton
Business Development Manager
Write to Garratt

Storytelling is one of the oldest practices and professions in human history. From ancient ruins housing histories carved into stone or painted into frescoes, to the birth of books, radio, and television breathing new life into our stories, storytelling is how we’ve communicated most effectively forever. 

 So, if you’re not using it effectively for your business, drop everything for our quick reminder of why you should start (or restart) implementing this ancient practice. 

How Gladiator reminded us that good storytelling trumps everything else

Any marketer worth their salt knows that in order to sell effectively, you need to fulfill a need or provide a solution to a problem. But sometimes you can have the BEST solution or show up at the BEST moment, and still fall flat. That’s because the vehicle of said solution or need isn’t there, as was demonstrated in one of the best action movies ever, Gladiator

In Gladiator, Russell Crowe plays Maximus Decimus Meridius, an army commander to the ‘good’ emperor, and who’s son and wife are killed by the generals of the antagonist, the Emperor’s son (played by Joaquin Phoenix). In one scene, after becoming enslaved and forced into the life of a gladiator, he demonstrates his “solution” or “need” to escaping his new chains to an audience of nearly 80,000: his solution or need being his expertise in killing many and quickly.

Another character, Proximo, the master to Crowe’s slave, teaches that you can win your freedom and shed the slave’s shackles not by simply killing quickly, "I wasn’t the best because I killed quickly, I was the best because the crowd loved me"

In other words, you can have the best skill in the ring, you can even kill lions, tigers and bears, but if the crowd (customer) doesn’t care about you, they won’t care how many problems - or animals - you’re slaying for them. 

Shifting your storytelling technique to great results 

Maximus proceeds to reinvent himself (implements good storytelling techniques):

  • wins over fervent fandom from the crowds (customers) 
  • earns the disdain from the emperor’s son (competition) 
  • and breaks free of his slave chains (useless marketing methods) 

He also ends up doing a few more impressive things, but that would require a disclaimer over spoilers… 

Here are two more modern examples of how effective storytelling sells more

Tik Tok 

Do you know how Tik Tok managed to create a billion dollar ad business during a time where ads are failing? 

The best Tik Tokers are expert-level storytellers: they can share a complete story in 3 minutes. How? By understanding the elements of good storytelling

  • Tension
  • Conflict
  • Resolution

Good Tik Tok creators are not only excellent at all three under a time cap, the overall pull of their storytelling has been documented repeatedly as creating “joy”. 

Thanks to storytelling creating intrigue, excitement and enjoyment, Tik Tok  generated $11B of ad dollars by the end of 2022, blowing literally every other platform out of the water. 


LinkedIn’s most effective posts show relatability, empathy, perspective and a respect for time. 

LinkedIn is an excellent place for thought leadership and B2B growth, no question, but understanding how to best utilize the platform for business has many companies stumped. That’s because, once again, it comes down to great storytelling: people want to hear from individuals in a way that they can relate to in an immediately implementable way. 

The posts that excel are just like this:

  1. Lead gen: You tell your personal story of how you lost your job, struggled, persevered, and founded your own marketing company, followed up by value-added tips people can implement immediately based on your new business. This leads to a sale.
  2. Thought Leadership: Asking your audience questions and bringing them into your story. Demonstrating a shared interest, opinion, joke, or anything that makes people go “me too!” will generate a following in you, which will always naturally lead to an interest in your business. 
  3. Tips for mobile: Almost everyone reads majority of things on their cellphones. The posts that do the best offer interest, value, and time-saving hacks. I.e.. Headers, subheaders, bolding, emojis and an ability to gain key value from lists and bolded headers alone. Demonstrating a respect for people’s time and energy through adapting your storytelling methods translates to repeat business and increased sales most of the time. 

Data is the tool; storytelling is the result

Companies pour money into data collection, management and analysis, but here’s the thing, if you can’t create a story from the data you pull, then all you have is numbers. So next time you’re wondering why your approach isn’t working, take a look at your storytelling methods.

The power of good storytelling has been around forever, and will continue to reign supreme in one way or another far into the future. 

And if you need a little extra inspiration, Gladiator is always a great choice… 




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