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
The temptation when you’re working with a brand is to continue to treat it just as a product or service. It’s simpler to do so. It’s contained. You can add features to it or introduce a variation to it. But I’ve wondered aloud with marketers in the past whether treating a brand as the personification of an idea – one that needs to develop and evolve – is not only more interesting but actually vital in a world where story is king and great content is rarer than one might think.
Taking the concept of brands as ideas further, what would happen if marketers acted more like television producers and creators? How might that change the way brands tell their stories? This fascinating interview between Jon Bokenkamp, the executive producer and creator of Blacklist, and Jason Evans points to some interesting possibilities for where brand storytelling might go.
Brands would have a writers’ room. There would be a group of people whose role in the organisation was to create and regulate the release of the brand’s storytelling around a pivotal idea. Right now, ad agencies would claim that role and some brand consultancies. But I think it’s interesting to speculate on what would happen if the long idea was resourced, developed and managed by the brand itself, and then captured and expressed by its marketing partners.
Brands would take consumers on journeys – long, involving journeys that inspired and intrigued and that were well signposted within the brand itself so that things happened with deliberation and care. Brands might start to treat each year as a season of the series and build in plot turns and reveals to keep people looking for more. Sure, there have been long running ad campaigns but these have tended to be focused on mainstream media and been told as episodic commercials rather than as rich, deep stories in their own right. (More on how brands might fit into such an approach below.)Read More
Too many brands continue to fail at convincingly placing what they have to offer inside the lives of the people they are trying to reach. A lot of that seems to come down to a simple mis-alignment of priorities: while marketing teams ponder data and speak earnestly about really understanding their buyers as individuals, those interests are not reflected as clearly as they should be in what they end up saying.
Brands often seem most interested in talking about:
- Who they are
- What they sell
- What it retails for
- Their size and geographical spread
- Their ownership
- Who their customers are (usually in demographic terms)
- Their financial performance
- Their innovations/news
- Their CSR and what they sponsor
- Their social media/content marketing initiatives
Contrast that with the priorities that play on the minds of consumers:
- Is the brand desirable both aesthetically and functionally?
- Does the brand’s image and reputation fit with who they are? Is this a brand they will be proud to be seen with?
- Is the brand well made?
- Is it well supported across a range of channels? Can it be easily accessed? Does it respond?
- Is it made by a company that behaves ethically?
- Is the brand interesting? Is it in the news? Do people talk about it?
- Who’s the brand associated with? Who speaks for the brand? Are they someone the buyer admires?
- Is the brand consistent? Do consumers get what they think they’re getting?
- Is it easy to find? Is the choice set manageable and not overly-complicated?
- Is it priced right?
So while companies focus on what they are doing and think about that quantitatively and in terms of deliverables (because that is how they are judged internally), consumers focus on how the brand makes them feel and which of the many brand options available to them feels most like them (because that’s how they make their decisions).Read More
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