The Magic Behind “Be like Bill” Meme Structure

 In Story Structure, Storytelling

“Be like Bill” meme has exploded on social networks on Jan.7th, when “Be like Bill” Facebook page was introduced, and since then has grown at an unprecedented speed, driving numerous variants and translations.

But, why is it so powerful?

People who follow me know that I talk a lot about stories and the power of narratives in marketing. In those talks I always like to mention “Freytag’s Pyramid”, also called the Dramatic Arc. According to Gustav Freytag’s analysis made more than 150 years ago, all narratives, from Greek mythology to Shakespearean drama, are built within this five-part structure.

The resemblance between those two formats is striking. Essentially, this “Be like Bill” format is the most basic story creation tool one can invent. No wonder almost anyone can write a dissent story under this format.

It’s all in the brain

In the last decade researchers, from the emerging field of neuroeconomics, have found that stories that follow the Dramatic Arc evoke powerful empathic responses in the brain. Specifically by releasing two neurochemicals – Cortisol and Oxytocin. While Cortisol helps focus on a story, Oxytocin creates empathy and trust that, in turn, facilitate action.

There are, of course, other reasons for people to like this meme, such as the amusing passive-aggressive intonation, and quick expansion via meme-generating websites, but those are not the reasons for its success. What actually drives people to take action and to create their own “Bill” stories is its magical engagement-facilitating format.

What about your marketing narratives, do they have the Dramatic Arc?

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