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Brand Storytelling

Crafting Brand Stories That Inspire And Resonate


Crafting Brand Stories That Inspire And Resonate

Consumers are no longer expecting brands to deliver value beyond the product. They are demanding it. The current geopolitical climate has seen many brands rising and falling as they take stands on a variety of issues and social causes. With attention shrinking, and availability at an ever-growing premium, finding ways that extend brands into new conversations these days is paramount.

What seems often to be missing is a discipline around crafting unique harmonies and counterpoints to the brand story that resonate as pleasing, inspiring or provocative. A musical analogy is appropriate: The brand idea is a melody, a single unaccompanied line or theme. A composer can strengthen a melodic line by having other instruments play the same thing in unison. They may also make it sound sweeter by crafting a harmonic accompaniment, or give it more intrigue by writing a counterpoint.

Because brand stewards and managers are the composers and arrangers that orchestrate a brand’s experience, they would do well to consider this dimension of storytelling.

UK retailer Marks and Spencer has launched a “radical’ new campaign that seems to signal a shift in their brand strategy. Speaking to the Daily Mail, Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne, executive director of customer, marketing and M&S.com, said: “Our Spend it Well campaign is a radical departure from where we’ve been previously. It speaks to deep truths about our customers, based on a huge amount of research and listening, and celebrates their lives in a way which is new and innovative for the brand.”

‘Spend it Well’ reminds viewers that life is short and that nobody should settle for less than the very best. This is the first time the M&S food and clothing divisions have been advertised under the same slogan and the brand is likely hopeful that the quality and innovation (and performance) associated with M&S food will help lift the clothing division.

But the more fundamental problem with this, and many ‘radical departures’ is that they seem to be out of tune with the brand idea. Kate Jones, a brand consultant and retailer offers, “The new M&S campaign feels less like an ad and more like a manifesto for the empowerment of British women, inciting them to rise up and start a mild, middle-England style revolution. Set to the soundtrack of David Bowie’s Rebel Rebel the message is clear: “You have one life so spend it well.” In this case, spending it well also means spending your cash at M&S, because you deserve something better. But better than what?”

She goes on to say, “To live up to the manifesto being set out, M&S will have to take a deep look into the way the business is run and deliver on the promises being set out, or else it just becomes a nice to look at ad campaign and nothing more. Clearly M&S does know how to do this, because, as said previously, food does it so well.”

In contrast, outdoor retailer REI was able to extend its brand into the conversation associated with the excesses surrounding retail’s ‘Black Friday’ with its wildly successful Opt Outside campaign. Pairing perfectly with REI’s values, offerings and perceptions, the brand was able to both take a stand and inspire in a way that was absolutely natural and pleasantly surprising. Now that’s good harmonics.

For brands looking to leverage their brand idea to enter new conversations, consider the following three questions:

1. Is the conversation harmonic to the brand idea? M&S may yet shift their brand idea to match the aspirations outlined in their ‘spend it well’ positioning, by offering second-to-none products, but currently that is not the case.

2. Is the conversation inclusive to all customers? With subtle overtones toward life purpose and mindfulness, M&S seems to focus only on women living life to their fullest. Imagine if REI’s Opt Outside campaign was equally exclusive.

3. Is the conversation a topic customers welcome a brand’s input? While preliminary sentiment around M&S’s efforts are positive, the brand will have to follow-through with more than just attractive products and pricing. They will need to create experiences in which consumers want to spend their most precious resource of all, time.

Considering these questions, brand stewards can more effectively introduce harmonious, well-orchestrated storylines that will resonate with consumers as real and authentic.

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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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