Brand Storytelling And The Mind

Chris WrenSeptember 24, 20146262 min

“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.

The idea that sensations are more important than stuff is happening everywhere. Starbucks has a new campaign “Sometimes the best way to connect is to get together” in which they are selling nothing but the idea of ‘sharing a coffee’ with someone in which Starbucks is offered as the platform and ornament for the sharing.

Authentic brand storytelling is about the scene and the props, and leaves it to customers to decide what they, the real heroes, do.”

Contributed by: Chris Wren

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  • Tom Asacker

    September 25, 2014 at 10:52 am

    “Authentic brand storytelling is about the scene and the props, and leaves it to customers to decide what they, the real heroes, do.”

    Spot on Chris! And yet, quite difficult for people to understand and appreciate. I also tried to make it clear here:

  • Chris Wren

    September 29, 2014 at 10:30 am

    Beautiful anecdote, insightful analogy, Tom. The message (or dialogue) is only part of the theatrical performance. “Stories R Us” is a great article btw.

  • Marketing Company in Chicago

    September 30, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    Great post, Tom. Storytelling for brands is not only a great thing to do now but it always has been. Look at Coke, they have been storytelling for decades.

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