Say it Differently to Reach Your Audiences: How Lars and the Real Girl Shot Straight through to My Consciousness

Say it Differently to Reach Your Audiences How Lars and the Real Girl Shot Straight through to My ConsciousnessHave you heard about the film Lars and the Real Girl?  It’s a strange tale of a shy, lonely young man in a small town. Although he’s universally liked, and worried about, by his townsfolk, he just can’t connect. Eventually, he orders an inflatable girlfriend with whom he works out his issues. Of course, his neighbors–like me when I heard about this film and probably like you–think he’s crazed and perverted.

And crazed and perverted as it may seem, what happens to Lars and his blowup girlfriend, Bianca, is a real and moving process. The townspeople (portrayed as cautious and conservative) come to understand that the doll is helping Lars. Since they care about Lars, they’re willing to embrace Bianca too. At the end, when Lars is ready to move into the world of real relationships, his neighbors mourn Bianca’s "death" by his side.

My point is this. Here’s a 100% unconventional story that, in being told in a radical way, makes a strong impact on audiences.  Because I was prepared to hate this  movie, and zip it right back to Netflix the moment I wearied of it, I didn’t anticipate getting drawn into Lars’ life. When I was, and moved even by its very strangeness, that movement was much more powerful than the expected could have been.   

Not that you’re going to feature a blow up doll in your next fundraising or advocacy campaign. But think about how you can share your stories in unexpected ways. Those are frequently the ways that make the greatest nonprofit marketing impact. Thanks, Lars and Bianca.

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Nancy Schwartz on July 9, 2008 in Branding and Messages, Nonprofit Communications, Unique Approaches | 1 comment
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  • Thank you! Great story and post. I’m working on my organization’s FY09 communications calendar, so I’ve been thinking of storytelling among other things. I really appreciate your message here. Thanks!

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