At the center of every brand story is a hero. The hero could be an idea, a person, or a thing– to be effective at brand storytelling, it’s critical to know what attributes define the inner character of the hero. The hero, of course, is the brand itself. Like any good story that teaches and informs us about a higher ideal, brand storytelling is about the higher purpose of why the hero exists and why we should care.
The notion of brand storytelling is one that is growing in popularity among marketers these days. Yet so much “storytelling” continues to be nothing more than outbound messaging and selling. That’s no surprise because it’s the job of every marketer to message and sell. If you’re not selling something, then you’re not marketing right?
For this reason it’s in the marketer’s self interest to “message” out directly, rather than engage people in the ideas and lessons they care about.
Improving our condition
Every enduring story is based on a transcendent idea bigger than the story itself. The elements of any story – characters, plot, and environment – can clarify, focus, and influence the idea’s expression, but it’s always the big idea that drives the brand story.
The hero of the story is the character who possesses the big idea. And the heart of that idea “teaches us to improve our condition”. And it’s our “condition” we care most about! Creating value is about improving the condition of people’s lives. From the dawn of language, stories have taught humans how to improve the conditions of life.
To break through the clutter of messaging bombarding the mind, every brand must represent a single idea that improves the condition of the customer. Our hero the brand has committed to embarking on that journey. Through the hero’s example we are more in touch with what makes us all the better for it.
Brand storytelling defines the hero character, not the message.
Brand storytelling begins with a clear understanding of who the hero character is, what attributes define the hero in differentiated and relevant ways to specific audiences. It’s not about advertising the features and benefits of products or services.
In working with marketing teams in our brand storytelling workshops, many are seeking an anchor point or a foundation on which to build their brand story. Not surprisingly this can quickly turn into a functional conversation about the specific content and form of outbound messaging– in effect advertising creative direction.
Brand storytelling defines the character of the hero not the message. The hero brand has a purpose, beliefs, core values and sacred truths that will not bend to the whims of the marketplace.
And because the brand hero is steadfast in holding to this true north while on the journey, we the audience will care because we see ourselves in the narrative.
Mapping the brand’s story
Stories of course are linear…they all have a set-up, a middle and an end. Screenwriters will tell you there are specific components of the story that must be in place for the story to engage the listener (customer). The technique of story mapping is a useful tool to gain a “big picture” level perspective on all the elements of the brand story.
Use these brand storytelling components to map the outline of your brand story. Fill in the components with your brand as hero and you’ll have a fairly accurate perspective on the story of your brand and why it’s worth telling…
What the audience (customer) needs to know about the lead up to where the brand story begins.
Who is the brand and what does the brand stand for (purpose, values, sacred truths) that will never change.
Define the conflict for the brand that is preventing the brand from achieving or improving its competitive position
Why the hero is committed to the struggle
Define the motivation for the brand to bear the struggle (out to win something, stop something, find something, cure something, escape something).
The Dynamic tension
Between the issues the story plays from and the struggle, there is an underlying tension that adds direction and momentum to the brand story. For example the desire for “mastery over stability”.
When the brand overcomes the struggle an opportunity will present itself and be associated with the brand’s arc of transformation.
How does the brand grow or change (inwardly) during the story (i.e. farm-boy Luke Skywalker to Jedi master).
Why we care
How will customer’s lives be improved, how will they empathize with the brand (sympathy, jeopardy, likeability, trust, badge, etc.).
What deeper issues, revelations, and cultural references are surfaced and incorporated in the brand story for greater relevance.
The Blake Project Can Help: The Strategic Brand Storytelling Workshop
Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education
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