July 18, 2013

The Four Benefits of the Pixar Pitch

2 minute read, in Marketing

Screen shot 2013-07-18 at 4.28.03 PM

Call it Finding Your Nemo.

In his latest book To Sell is Human, Dan Pink offers up pitch strategies to take the place of the ubiquitous “Elevator Pitch.” The version I like best is what he calls the Pixar Pitch based on what he calls the “source code” behind every Pixar film you’ve ever seen.

It looks like this:

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Based on the code Finding Nemo can be retold as:

  • Once upon a time there was a widowed fish named Marlin, who was extremely protective of his only son, Nemo.
  • Every day  Marlin warned Nemo of the ocean’s dangers and implored him not to swim far away.
  • One day in an act of defiance, Nemo ignores his father’s warnings and swims into the open water.
  • Because of that he is captured by a diver and ends up in the fish tank of a dentist in Sydney. Because of that Marlin sets off on a journey to recover Nemo, enlisting the help of other sea creatures along the way
  • Until finally Marlin and Nemo find each other, reunite and learn that love depends on trust.


I decided to give the Pixar formula a whirl on Hypenotic. The results are pretty fantastic. Take a look.

  • Once upon a time there were good organizations, working hard to change how people think and act.
  • Every day they would try to talk to people but struggled to break through all of the noise made by those with more money, power and influence who sought personal gain at any cost.
  • One day a company that was good like them gave them the tools they needed to be relevant to more people.
  • Because of that these good organizations were heard by more people.
  • Because of that their ideas spread: they became better understood and adopted by people who saw that they too could think and act differently.
  • Until finally these small changes added up to big systemic shifts that made the world a better place for everyone.

There are a couple of good things about using this approach:

  1. Using the storytelling format creates a kind of distance that allows the story to reveal itself more clearly. I’m not talking about myself or my company, I’m telling you a story with a narrative trajectory.
  2. It forces you to tell the story simply, without all the jargon that usually makes pitches muddy and too complicated to process. Once upon a Time just doesn’t work with clunky but convenient words like galvanize
  3. Like all good structures, the Pixar Pitch helps to organize your thoughts in a succinct way
  4. It’s fun

Try it with your brand and let me know how it goes. I’d love to collect your attempts here.

If you get stuck, remember what Dory says: “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.”

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