Storytelling emerged from the mists of time with cavemen recounting tales of bringing down mammoths around flickering camp fires. Now those fires flicker in our living rooms, and on screens of every size and shape, anywhere. The medium has changed, but the human hunger for great stories hasn’t. Branded storytelling is just the next evolution.

Somewhere in there, commerce was born too. Buy these pistachios! How about a hunk of meat?

And then somebody got wise and crossed commerce with storytelling. This tonic grew hair on Max’s head. VW: Think small. This revolutionizes everything.

Then people got sick of hearing commercials, so those who trade in messages had to up their game. Product placement was born. Think of Wayne’s World: with these little yellow pills. Then advertisers got more sophisticated: Up In The Air was filmed in Hiltons.

But what’s far more innovative, requires far more imagination, and has seriously more potential, is the quiet revolution that’s happening in branded storytelling. For example, think of BMW’s “The Hire,” a series of 8 short films by directors like Ang Lee, John Woo, and Tony Scott, starring Clive Owen. This is branded storytelling.

Sure, you have a car, a great car, a fast car, but now the Beemer is as much a part of the story as Clive Owen’s secret agent. This is a paradigm shift from storytelling to branding, where the story is being told through the brand filter.

What does this mean? Simply that you can tell the story of your brand in ways that viewers will find absolutely compelling. They don’t have to sit through commercials anymore, and won’t. Not when they can watch the story of your brand unfold without feeling like they’re being sold to. They can follow an intriguing story, your story, without ever wanting to tune out.

That is no small revolution. It opens up the whole world to getting your message across in as compelling a way as your imagination will allow it.

This will require you to open your mind. And your eyes. And most importantly, your imagination.

Where will you let it take you?

The Dayton Dry Goods Company let it take them to Target. That’s hard to argue with.