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Category: Brand Storytelling

Brand Storytelling

Leveraging Brand Heritage For Stories And Strength

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Brand Heritage Fuels Stories and Strength

Everyone loves a good story, and the critical strength of heritage brands is that they have such stories in abundance. Little wonder then that as American consumer confidence starts to look up, the brands that remind consumers of what they have, where they are and where they’ve come from are doing well. It’s a timely reminder of just how much the story of a brand links to the narrative that buyers run in their own minds of the lives they lead and the lives they would lead if they could.

While we often think of heritage brands as one genre, they exist in a range of sub-categories with different emphases and visual treatments. Natural heritage branding for example is all about ruggedness, generational history and of course the great outdoors. Contemporary heritage brands take some of their cues from what has been but place the marques firmly in today, interweaving old references with bold contemporary visual themes to deliver brands that are both respectful and immediate. Craft heritage brands tell a deep artisan story – slower, older, more patient, perfectionist.

Heritage brands, it strikes me, are brands centered on legend and mythology. They deliver because they carefully work their history to link buyers to an often romantic view of the world as it was or as we would have liked it to have been. There’s an authenticity and a simplicity of spirit that consumers find intriguing and beguiling, in a world where today everything seems so rushed and artificial.

The biggest learning for storytellers from these brands is that they pace their stories, and more specifically, the recounting of their histories to the ‘speed’ of the brand’s appeal. Heritage is a slow moving story. It requires constancy first to give the brand authenticity, and adaptation second to stay current with the changing aesthetic and priorities of buyers. A Timberland boot is not as much about this year’s colors as it is about continuing the Timberland legacy. The appeal of the brand lies in the careful selection of what is spoken of, and what is not, of what doesn’t change and what does.

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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.

Talking about this with Shawn Callahan, he made two excellent points. Firstly, he said, you can’t beat a story with facts, you can only beat it with a better story. So if a competitor has a better story, listing the facts of your product only makes their story stronger. And if you do decide to tell a counter-story, you can’t have one that is only a tiny bit better. You should aim to tell a story that is 10 times better and more compelling. This often means having to do something differently. Secondly, timing is everything in his view. Not only do you need a story to beat a story but the first counter-story has a distinct advantage in terms of effectiveness over any others that may be created.

While many challenger brands focus their battle on a nemesis, a counter-story doesn’t need to take its cue from, or act in response to, another player. In fact, focusing on a rival brand can block challengers from seeing what consumers are looking for because they are too busy trying to score points. That’s what happened in the war between Sega and Nintendo. They were so engaged in their own tit-for-tat that they overlooked the arrival and ascendance of Sony as a gaming force. Instead, the counter-story itself can focus on a manifesto-like articulation of what should be possible and the articulation of that future through a story told in social media, video, interviews, data, graphics, case studies and narrative to add depth, context, ownership and insight.

7 Ways To Craft A Counter Story

  1. Challenge what everyone takes for granted. Explain why the status quo came to be this way and, possibly, who was influential in making that happen.
  2. Talk about why it must stop or change. Focus on what everyone stands to gain if that happens.
  3. Develop a narrative that revolves around your brand and that sets out an alternative to what has been the norm up until now. This will form the backbone of your counter-story  strategy. Answer these six questions.
  4. Use personal experiences to bring the counter-story to life and to prove it will work.
  5. Offer simple ways to tell and spread the story – e.g. hashtags – and encourage people to do so.
  6. Incentivize people to try the alternative you are promoting – through free trials, money back guarantees, freemium models.
  7. Celebrate adoption as it happens. Show that there is inclination and momentum for change.

The Blake Project Can Help: 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

FREE Publications And Resources For Marketers

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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

FREE Publications And Resources For Marketers

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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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