Once upon a brand... What's your compelling story?

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I’ve always liked the idea of storytelling. It’s a very human activity.

Stories are a part of our everyday life. Whether telling them, listening to them, reading or watching them, they help us experience the patterns of life, at a very emotional level. 

Indeed, stories have been passed down from generation to generation, long before books came along.

Once a brand is clear what it stands for, it should be turned into a compelling story. This will engage the employees, customers and communities the brand serves, so they start telling it themselves.

It doesn’t have to be complicated. The point is to inject what the brand stands for with a sense of dynamism. To turn it into a movement, that's worth supporting, or even belonging to.

The obvious example, as ever, is Apple, right back to its classic “1984’ ad, which cast its beliefs and culture in David vs. Goliath terms. This used one of the seven basic plots that underpin most stories, namely "slaying the monster".

Another useful plot for our purpose is the "quest".

This can be a quest to overturn current conventions. Take Whole Foods for example, who seeks to redefine the role of a supermarket, by bringing natural and organic food to as many people as possible, improving their health, and changing agriculture in the United States and the world.

Or it can simply be to improve society. IBM's "Let's build a smarter planet" captures this perfectly.

“Rebirth”, “journey and return”, and “rags to riches” are some of the other basic plots that can also be helpful in turning what the brand stands for into a compelling story.

It’s always tempting to make the brand the hero of the story. Indeed, this has been the convention of traditional marketing. But if you really want to positively engage your customers and employees, make people the hero instead, with the brand as mentor, helping them on their way.

For example, Nike seeks to inspire the athlete in everyone. Starbucks declares its mission “to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time”. Apple looks to enrich people’s lives.

What could be more likeable than a brand that wants to help and inspire people to be the hero of their own story?

None of this will be effective however, if it’s simply a communication campaign, a story without substance. The days of creating an external image for a brand, at odds with the company behind it, are long gone.

(Three "C's" In A Boat: A Brand Imperative For A Digital Age...)

But if it’s a compelling story, one that springs from the core purpose and culture of your brand, it evokes a more passionate response from everyone it touches: employees, customers, and communities alike. Grounded in improving people’s lives, it becomes dynamic, a movement.

By using the age-old power of storytelling, it makes your brand more engaging.

What could be more human..?