Storytelling has become a core skill that brands have to master. And for good reason.
A strong brand story can engage people, be memorable, and help them believe in what the brand stands for.
After all, stories have been a part of humanity from the very beginning. They help us experience the patterns of life, at a very emotional level.
Of course, storytelling is hardly new to marketing. The Volkswagen advertising of the Sixties and Apple’s famous 1984 ad are often cited as classic examples.
But in recent years it has taken on a much higher profile. With so much competition for attention, storytelling has taken center stage as the way to stand out from the crowd.
There is no end of content available about the mechanics of storytelling, as well as experts and agencies eager to help. However, before putting the proverbial pen to paper, there are some realities about brand storytelling in today’s environment that make it quite different from the campaigns or messaging of the past:
1) The experience is the story
The brand story isn’t what the brand says it is, no matter how well it has been crafted. It’s what people experience when they encounter the brand. Their impressions, their feelings, the assumptions they make, all help them make sense of the brand. The story a brand wants to tell needs to be woven into the customer experience.
Take Trader Joe’s, for example. The playful branding of their own products, the store design, the hand-drawn signage, the employees in their Hawaiian shirts together tell a strong story. And it continues on, through their Fearless Flyer, and their website.
2) Actions speak louder than words
Trust in businesses, and indeed in pretty much every institution, is at an all time low. Just telling someone what the brand believes in, even if it’s couched in a beautiful story framework, isn’t going to be believable. It has to be demonstrated by the actions the brand takes.
For example, Red Bull’s Stratos jump, CVS’s decision to stop selling Tobacco, and REI not opening stores on Thanksgiving, weren’t just brand messaging. They were happenings in their own right that spoke to the brand’s ethos.
3) Real people are better storytellers
However, while trust in companies may be low, trust in people is high. Employees, customers, and experts are trusted far more than any communication from the brand or the CEO.
For a story to be effective, it needs to be told by real people. And not from a script, but from their own experience. GoPro, for example, was built on their customers uploading their own GoPro videos to YouTube. Warby Parker encouraged trial wearers to post photos of themselves under the hashtag #warbyhometryon.
The underlying point is that brand storytelling in today's world is not about dressing up the brand with a story, to make it seem something it’s not. Rather, it has to be the story that the brand lives, that’s embedded in the very culture of the business. Only then can it be experienced, demonstrated, and told by real people...