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Author's Note:
The thinker

david altschul

David is president and founder of Character. He has been running the business for almost two decades during which he has presided over nearly 200 story framework explorations for some of the world’s largest brands and companies. David has a degree in history and economics from the University of Chicago but started his professional career as a filmmaker. 

He gaffed, shot, edited and produced on everything from feature films (like Scorchy with Connie Stevens) to rock and roll documentaries (he toured with Heart through West Texas and New Mexico) to television commercials (he produced the blockbuster Nissan “Toys” spot starring Barbie, Ken and G.I. Joe) and even an animated feature (The Adventures of Mark Twain). 

David joined Will Vinton Studios in 1982 and built their commercial production business into the longest running and most successful animation company in commercial production by focusing on superb character animation. The California Raisins and the animated M&M’s are just a few of the wildly popular characters that came to life during David’s stint at Vinton. In 1998, as part of the continuing effort to bring unique value to the studio’s clients, David began the focused synthesis and exploration of his experiences with successful characters that eventually resulted in his invention of this business.

David is a frequent speaker at corporate and industry events, has taught a popular class on Story as the Key to Engagement at Procter & Gamble’s Brand Manager College and has been a repeat speaker at the TED Conference in the TED University forum. 

In his spare time, he climbs mountains.

Is it better to be loyal or honest?” Ted Conference 2010

“For B2B businesses, Character is a powerful tool. I have used Character three times in my leader marketing roles, 2x were in B2B businesses. The Character work was the foundation of a transformation in product innovation/commercialization, rebranding, M&A, sales growth, and employee engagement. Character’s work helped us take dead brands and make them relevant again and helped us establish lesser-known brands with high share in a B2B market. What’s so unique is that you don’t create something that the ‘marketing talking heads’ think the company needs, you use the history, culture and DNA that is already part of the company to bring out the true story that is unique to only your brand. The Character team is so special, genuine, and has the perfect mix of creative and business knowledge to lead cross-functional executives through this process. ”
—Melissa Minihan, Head of Digital Commerce & Marketing, Veritiv Corporation

“Character gets to the heart of what good storytelling is all about. They’ve helped Wendy’s focus on what makes us unique, different and special and that’s helped us to get people’s attention, keep their interest and keep the business growing. We compete with much larger brands, but by being overt about how we want to attack those differences, we’ve been able to have a lot of tension and conflict in the story that we are telling. That allows us to keep the story fresh and to fuel it. The more we do that the more positive attention we get as a brand and the more the brand continues to grow, which, in turn, builds our confidence in our storytelling and keeps the courage level high.”

—Kurt  Kane, President U.S. & Chief Commercial Officer, Wendy’s Corporation

“I’ve been through Character’s story framework process four times in my career, and it has always added extraordinary value. It was a central piece of Walmart’s rebranding effort in 2006, as we sought a new articulation of our brand narrative and our purpose. It’s an equally powerful tool for us now, as Walmart defines its place in a rapidly transforming retail environment. And we are currently using it to do the same for Sam’s Club.”

—Tony Rogers, Chief Marketing Officer, Walmart

“Character’s approach to brand building is unlike any other in the business. Jim and his team use the timeless truths of human storytelling to unlock story potential and connect deeply with brand audiences. I’ve worked with Character throughout my career, and my experience with Tabasco was as fascinating, inspiring, and productive as ever. 

Character worked with our team not only to help us re-examine and re-articulate the elemental truths of our iconic global brand but also to develop and apply practical tools that make the brand story framework user-friendly for our entire organization. 

I whole-heartedly recommend Character to any brand marketer who is looking to make intuitive and durable connections with their consumer.”

Lee Susen, Chief Sales & Marketing Officer, Tabasco / McIlhenny Company