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Category: Brand Storytelling

Brand Storytelling

7 Ways To Craft A Brand Counter Story

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Brand Storytelling Sega Nintendo

Stories add to the humanity of brands. They help consumers think through and act upon a narrative that is fundamentally rooted in human truths. Stories generate empathy. We see ourselves in the tale. Or we see a side of ourselves. Or we see the ‘me’ that we would like to be. Without that narrative, everything is dominated by features, data and discounts.

Consumers compare offers and in so doing they inevitably compare stories. They look for how brands fit the story of their life that they are telling themselves. Sadly, the stories that brands tell often focus on the world as they see it. They are a narrative shaped around their history and their vision for the days ahead, and they take their reference from the thinking and planning that have taken place internally.

Inevitably in most sectors, the stories of market leaders dominate. These brands set the rules and the expectations and as such they can have an undue influence on the stories that their competitors tell. They decide the market norms for the industry. That’s frustrating if you have a different brand approach and if you don’t want to be labelled as just another participant with the same attitudes and limitations as your rivals.

If your brand is struggling to get its story told in the face of a highly articulate and motivated competitor with strong market presence and plenty of resources, simply trying to out-shout them is a waste of time. One option to seriously consider is generating a counter-story; a narrative that deliberately sets out an alternative perspective in the minds of the people you want to reach. Challenger brands are ideally placed to use this strategy: in so doing, they can put distance between themselves and an incumbent and introduce new expectations into the market that they are best placed to fulfill.

Avis did this with Hertz. By introducing the idea that they try harder, they implied that their competitor was complacent and slower to act. More recently, Uber did the same to taxis – tell the story of an alternative way get from A to B that struck at the heart of a long-presumed narrative (although their story has since hit reputational and regulatory hurdles that they have yet to overcome). Sir Richard Branson is the master of this strategy. He doesn’t introduce another offering into a market without contextualizing it as a very different approach to the one that everyone has got used to. He uses counter-story to weave a tale of what could and should be.

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Brand Storytelling

Every Brand Price Point Needs A Story

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Brand Storytelling Strategy

The temptation is to see story as a luxury item: something that brands implement to lift their margin. There’s nothing wrong with that of course – it’s powerful and it works. At The Blake Project we don’t think that story is just a top-end nice-to-have. Our view is that most brands, no matter where they are priced in the marketplace, need a storyline.

To understand why, first let’s think about the alternative. Without a storyline, a product is just that. It has everything it needs (hopefully) to do what it’s being bought for but that also means it’s just another detergent, car oil, computer, whatever …That makes it highly vulnerable to house brands and to cheaper versions of what amounts to ‘the same thing’. It also means markets get packed very quickly with variants of the same idea that rapidly diminish the value equation –  think of Groupon and its 425 competitors.

This problem of course only becomes more acute as you move down the value chain – meaning that at the very points in the market that are most crowded and where competition is highest, the chances of finding differentiation are diminished, and much of the marketing amounts to little more than a rowdy discounting squabble based on ‘unbeatable pricing’. Case in point, of course, those positioned in middle and lower markets should be upping their back story to compensate for this lack of differentiation.

The real power of story is that it provides context, in two senses. First of all, it helps consumers differentiate an offering by attaching more than just functionality to a product. It can also help them understand why a product is priced the way it is – up or down. The discount airline Ryanair are masters of this. Their price is a clear call to the market – don’t expect much, because you’re not paying much. And everything they do revolves on that premise. They do have a storyline, albeit an unusual one, based it seems on minimalism.

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Brand Storytelling

Telling The Short Brand Story

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Brand Storytelling Strategy

Everyone has a story to tell. Not everyone feels they have the time to listen. Which is why brands need to become adept at the short story form. Increasingly, the messages that pass between brands and their customers will need to be articulated in 140 characters, 6 seconds, a shot, an update…

But brevity is not the full answer – and those who believe they can communicate exclusively in such formats will risk selling themselves short.

To master short form storytelling, marketers will need to know the long form version of their brand story better than ever. (You can’t edit what you don’t have.) And they will need to judge duration and relevance with greater accuracy. The ability to distill and disseminate bursts of interest, and to mix those short forms with longer, deeper, richer forms of expression, will decide who flourishes and who withers.

Sponsored By: Resonate. Reach audiences based on why they choose brands.

Sponsored By: The Brand Storytelling Workshop Series

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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Brand Storytelling

Brand Storytelling And The Mind

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Brand Storytelling Strategy

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” (Joan Didion)

Our actual life experience is far too much for our brains to take in, and so, with great efficiency (and often bias), our memory (which is where we find life story), compiles a series of snapshots we string together by a narrative line. Ralph Waldo Emerson was absolutely correct when he said,  “There is no history, only biography.”

Marketers that tell the best stories realize that the only story we ever listen to is the story we tell ourselves. Reality is in the mind of the beholder.

In his book, The Business of Belief, Tom Asacker writes, “Our desires and evolving personal narratives focus our attention. We choose people, things, information and experiences that reinforce our world-view and bolster our self-esteem, and we look for, and find, evidence to help us rationalize those decisions.”

Brand storytelling works when the story being told by the brand is more akin to staging a scene, which invites us in, and serves as a platform upon which we can continue to build our evolving personal narrative. We need story to tell us something about the scene. We need to understand something about the brand’s purpose to know if it is compatible with our choices.

Coca-Cola’sShare a Coke’ campaign (Wunderman/Ogilvy Australia) is an example of great storytelling because it sets the stage for experience to happen. Seeing our own names, or names of those we care about, reflected on the product triggers memories. And a call to action on the product to share might activate a change in behavior, like saving bottles with friends’ names as a novelty. In this story, Coca-Cola is an ornament, compatible with an infinite number of stories. It knows enough about authentic storytelling to not even try to tell us what the story should be. Coke embraces an experience mindset in realizing that the sensation of sharing is more important than the stuff being shared.

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Brand Storytelling

8 Keys To Telling A Competitive Brand Story

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Competitive Brand Storytelling

Everyone has a story now. Or at least most brands claim to have one. But having a story in many ways is like having a product. Really it means nothing if it is not competitive as a narrative and personally relevant to each recipient. So your story must be distinctive from the other stories that are in play in a market and it must continue to be so. That’s challenging in fast moving sectors where there is always something new to look at, another brand tale to try.

That’s why you can’t set and forget a story. Anymore than you can set and forget your business strategy. As your business adapts and responds to changes in the market and the initiatives of your rivals, your story must change too if it is to remain competitive. What that means in effect is that your story is subject to eight ongoing forces, all of which influence what you tell in different ways:

1. Your story must be long (in terms of scope) – you need a story that is capable of being told over an extended period of time, meaning it must have enough aspects (threads) for you to push your storytelling forward, developing, introducing and twisting as the story goes to keep people involved and wanting to know more.

2. Your story must be deep – you need a story that allows you to delve into the detail of different aspects to intrigue, to prove expertise, to demonstrate detail, to highlight a facet, to deliver a backstory

3. Your story must be competitive – there is no point in telling a story that is similar to that of your biggest rival, or in telling the same story as the rest of the industry. You need an angle – a perspective that is refreshing and different, that sets what you have to say apart from what others are talking about. It must be more relevant to the people to whom it is addressed than the story your competitors want to share with them.

4. Your story must be social – it must be more shareable across a full range of social media. So it must invite contribution and input. It must share ownership with the community that forms around it. And it must take its cues, through data analysis and analytics as you collect information on customer shopping habits, customer interests and customer concerns in terms of areas of accent, aspects to explore further, ideas that need to be brought forward. As you gather insights, you need to find ways to inject those ideas into the conversation in order to immerse people further in the storyline.

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