The Blake Project, the brand consultancy behind Branding Strategy Insider, delivers interactive brand education workshops and keynote speeches designed to align marketers on essential concepts in brand management and empower them to release the full potential of the brands they manage.
Category: Brand Storytelling
If brands tell stories, it might be useful that those stories are informed by the universal myths that recur over time and across geography and culture. These myths resonate with people at a very deep level. They are about coming to grips with our mortality, making sense of our lives and reconciling the individual experience with the infinite. So, what are the myths that emerge in one form or another again and again?
- Creation Myths: Why are we here? Where did we come from? How did it all begin? What was the first cause? What is our place in the universe?
- The Earliest Times: What are our roots? What is our lineage? Who were our ancestors? What were their customs? What were their lives like back then? What trials and tribulations did they have to endure? What can this teach us about our lives today?
- Flood Myths: Was there once a great earth-wide tragedy? What was its nature? What caused it? Why did it occur? Could it happen again? If so, what could we do to minimize its probability of recurring? How fragile is our existence?
- Great Loves Stories: What is perfect love? What is divine love? What ecstasies and traumas are associated with true love? Can two people that love each other ever really be permanently separated? Can love conquer all?
- Morality Tales: Are there moral tests? Would I pass them? What can an immoral person expect? What are the consequences of immorality? What are the consequences of specific immoral acts? How does an immoral person’s life end?
- Hero Myths: How does the hero save someone or something from disaster or destruction? What bravery and courage does the hero exhibit? What is the hero’s reward? In what ways am I a hero? Can we all become heroes, at least in some small ways?
Great products sell themselves. No they don’t. But equally, people don’t just buy brands either. Today’s customers are for the most part far too sophisticated and informed to buy generic-quality products with a nice or familiar name attached to them and a decent media budget.
What people buy, and pay for, is stories – and in order for those stories to resonate, everything that reaches customers needs to ring true. Product, service, distribution … All are inseparable components of the brand story because they collectively contribute to how people feel. They bring the story to life. They give it credibility. They provoke engagement and emotion. And ultimately build brand equity.
Sometimes companies with iconic brands forget that. They somehow believe that because the branding process can add margin, brands must equal margin. So they figure they can nip or tuck one area, two areas, three areas, and still everything will be OK. The margins will hold if they still have brands. Wrong. So wrong. Brands can only add margin when everything else is right.
Make a promise. Deliver on it.
Get it right and the circle is seamless. Get it wrong and the circle is vicious. Because when you don’t pay attention to delivering on every detail of your story, the story itself is compromised. Your brands degrade. To names.Read More
What makes a brand story engaging to customers and effective in motivating them to buy? In our experience, there are eight fundamental characteristics of a motivating brand story.
1. It’s relevant: Brand stories that aren’t meaningful to people will have no impact. Thus, companies should make sure they know what’s important to their customers—whether by conducting traditional customer research, using analytics, or monitoring the chatter on social media—and build their stories around what customers are thinking. Often that can mean creating different versions of the same story, each tailored to a particular need, concern or area of interest.
2. It’s credible: While people love to be entertained by the stories coming out of Hollywood, that’s typically not the case when it comes to corporate narratives. People asked to consider buying a product or service, however subtly, want to know that they’re not dealing with smoke and mirrors. They generally don’t like to take a leap of faith in their dealings with product or service providers, but rather, want proof that what they’re buying “works.”
3. It’s compelling: If a brand story can’t grab the intended audience and hold their attention, it’s either not worth telling or it’s not being told in the right way. What makes a brand story compelling is generally a combination of factors—subject matter, words, imagery, sound and others—all working together to create an experience in the minds of readers, viewers or listeners.
4. It’s persuasive: Great stories don’t simply keep people interested. They also excel in motivating people to do something—and for companies, that typically means ultimately buying something from them. Similar to the previous hallmark, persuasiveness is not the result of any one factor. But imagery and words generally play a dominant role in making a connection—emotional, intellectual, or both—with customers and moving them to action.Read More
Facts feel right. They portray the sharer as informed and aware. They give a sense of pragmatism. They quantify and substantiate. But they seldom motivate us to shift from where we are now and what we like now to somewhere new.
That’s one of the roles of stories. And yet stories themselves are now such a commonplace feature of brandspeak that they are in danger of losing their magic. Increasingly they are becoming a catalog of features – a parade of facts – in a narrative format. Shawn Callahan, a marketer whose expertise in this area I very much respect, goes further. When I asked him about this recently, he told me, “Many branding specialists are talking about stories but are not telling any. You have to know what a story is and what it is not. A story has some basic features such as a series of causal events and something unexpected happening. Stories have characters doing things.”
Four things I think marketers need to realize about stories:
1. Storytelling is more than just writing. Increasingly marketers are telling themselves that anything they transcribe is a story. Not so.
2. Content is an expression of story, it is not the story itself. A brand story forms the common reference point that all branded content should report to. The same words or even ideas spread across a range of channels is not a story, it’s a script. Content must collectively capture the breadth and depth of a story if it is to be more than just a collection of common reference points. In that sense, a story is a prism and the content is light. What consumers see at any one point is an aspect. Stories invite discovery.Read More
Yes, that kind of born again. And while I don’t mean that we all literally should start talking about Jesus, brands can learn a lot from people who have found meaning and deeper relevance in time of crisis. After all, the social media revolution has brought crisis to anyone relying on traditional branding tools.
The brands that have taken the path of higher purpose like Chipotle, Dove and Intel, have not only survived the transition from the age of broadcast to the age of social media, they’ve become more relevant and valuable than ever. The fate of the countless unconverted has not been nearly as enviable.
So what are the steps someone takes when they get born again and what can brands learn from the process?
First, you discover your values.
Religious people love the word “values.” It’s part of their everyday parlance. Why? The first thing that happens when someone undergoes an awakening is they start telling themselves a new story about who they are and why they are here. In this story, they stop defining themselves by what they own or what they’ve done. Their new story is about the values they hold and where they are going. Born again brands speak first about the values they passionately pursue and the world they’re inviting audiences to create. This is what allowed Chipotle to avoid irrelevantly advertising their burritos and instead create a viral firestorm with their magical invitations to create a better world by creating a better food system. Any brand can make this shift but not before they start telling a new story to themselves about why they’re on this planet and the values they serve. Ben Cohen, the founder of Ben & Jerry’s who famously turned ice cream into a values-machine gave me this warning about identifying brand values: “They can’t just be milquetoast, namby pamby middle of the road crap. You need to stand for something, so customers who believe the same thing can glom onto your brand.” Any brand can be an evangelist for universal human values. What are yours?
Next the hero of your story changes.Read More