New York Times “Tomato Can Blues” – a lesson in B2B storytelling

Combining written prose, kinetic comic book style illustrations, storytelling techniques and a memorable audio version – what can the New York Times’ Tomato Can Blues teach B2B content marketers about case studies?

New York Times "Tomato Can Blues" – a lesson in B2B storytelling

The tale of Charlie Rowan, once a small time cage fighter in Michigan, has been beautifully reconstructed on the New York Times website. Offering a feast of narrative, it is the kind of slick and engaging story that B2B marketers can learn a lot from.

KO content

It’s quite easy to get blown away by just the presentation – the moving comic panels (achieved through the use of parallax scrolling) and the pull quotes in comic book style font. But what really draws you in is the story that unfolds on the page.

To see that it isn’t just the way the story is laid out that draws you in, listen to the accompanying audio version read out by Boardwalk Empire cast member Bobby Cannavale. The content is compelling due to its depth and not just its appearance.

In their shoes

Mary Pilon manages to put you right there in the story – you are in Charlie Rowan’s shoes. This is one of the key cornerstones of storytelling, and something we’ve discussed previously: putting your audience in the position of your protagonist.

Now, I’m not saying that effective content marketing needs to put its intended audience in the boxing shoes of a felon. However, it should contain characters (real or fictional) that they can empathise with.

Go the distance

The humble case study is one tool in the marketer’s arsenal that could benefit from some of the techniques used in Tomato Can Blues. Three moves worth bringing out of the cage:

  • Putting your audience in the shoes of the people whose story you’re telling
  • Offering more than one way to experience the story by using multimedia elements
  • Complementing the written story with integrated and engaging design

This New York Times piece has taken what could have been just another long-form journalistic piece , and made it interesting and engaging. Case studies don’t need a primetime actor to make them interesting – they just need to tell the right stories in an appealing manner.

Let us tell your story

Do you need B2B case studies that put your customers first? We can help you. Get in touch with us today.


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