‍‍‍500 Words... ‍‍‍Are you ready for an adventure?

Image of a old fashioned typewriter

Anyone who regularly listens to the Chris Evans Breakfast Show on Radio 2 in the mornings will not have missed the recent call for entries for‍‍‍ the annual 500 Words competition.  

The competition was started 7 years ago by the DJ in a bid to get children excited about reading and writing.  Over three quarters of a million children have written and submitted a story since the competition began with nearly 132,000 entries in 2017.  Impressive statistics.  

All the stories submitted since 2012 have been passed onto the Oxford University Press (OUP) and they now have the biggest collection of children’s writing in the world - over 328 million words.  

Access to the stories helps the OUP to understand the language children are using and how it's developing over time.  The stories also provide valuable insight into what children are interested in and their findings help to shape the way that English is being taught.

From a marketing perspective the competition is promoted really well.  Lots of coverage on Radio 2, endorsements from top children’s authors like David Walliams, Francesca Simon and Charlie Higson. Then there is the amazing venue for the finale, last year it was held at the Tower of London and this year’s event will take place at Hampton Court Palace.  Throw in a few celebrities, such as Ollie Murs and Niall Horan, and you have all the ingredients for a highly successful campaign.  

Everyone loves a good story. From lullabies to nursery rhymes, pop up books to trilogies and heptalogies, and finally eulogies – our lives from beginning to end are full of stories.

Using storytelling in our marketing can be a highly effective way to connect with our target audience.  There are some fantastic resources on the 500 Words section of the BBC website that are well worth looking at – videos, blogs, activity packs.  

In essence many of the secrets of a good story apply equally to a good marketing campaign.


No one is going to be inspired by the type of marketing where you could just replace the name of the company for any other business. We have all seen those ads in the local paper or the same tired old website content shouting about good quality and good service.  Get the basics sorted and coming up messages that are different to every other company out there will be a lot easier.  


The characters in a story are what draw us in, whether they are “goodies” or “baddies”.  A good character creates an emotion. Think Harry Potter, Voldemort – the good and the bad but both totally unforgettable. In a marketing campaign your character is your brand.  How memorable is yours and are you a “goodie” or a “baddie”?


A good plot in a story will have a beginning, a middle and an end. The same goes for our marketing. Our beginning is often our headline, it needs to grab attention.  Our middle is what creates the interest and the end is where we compel them to take action. That could be to make a purchase, request more information or simply sign up for a newsletter.


The words and tone we use need to be carefully crafted to elicit the desired response. Words can bring us to tears, make us laugh, even take us to war – they are incredibly powerful, use them well.

Are you ready for an adventure?

Are you ready to take a different approach to your marketing, to be more adventurous?  If you need some help give us a shout – email [email protected].  In the meantime…

Once upon a time in a land far away resided a delinquent marketing consultant and her loyal assistant…

To be continued.

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