Tell Me a Marketing Story
Criss cross applesauce. These magic words meant one thing to my tiny, child-brain – storytime! My fellow kindergartener colleagues and I would scramble to the alphabet rug in the middle of the room and curl up for that day’s tale. One book in particular really had me catching feelings as a youngster – Matilda by Roald Dahl. It’s about a young girl who is exceedingly smart (couldn’t relate), but had a love for books and stories that I found so relatable. It was all very meta. Since then, I’ve devoured everything by Roald Dahl and I highly recommend him to all of my two faithful blog readers (thanks Mom and Aunt Holly!) That story sticks with me to this day with so many life lessons that I was starting to learn then, and, well frankly, that I’m still getting the hang of. There are mean people in this world, be one of the kind ones. It’s okay to be shy and introverted and that, in time you will find your tribe. And yes, in fact, you can eat a whole chocolate cake in one sitting. Important stuff!
There are no proper storytimes for us adults, sadly. But still, there’s no lack of stories in our lives – television and movies notwithstanding. Any commercial you watch is a company sharing their brand story.
Here’s a short and simple definition of a brand story:
“A brand story is a cohesive narrative that encompasses the facts and feelings that are created by your brand (or business, if you prefer). Unlike traditional advertising, which is about showing and telling about your brand, a story must inspire an emotional reaction.”
THE GOAL OF STORYTELLING FOR YOUR BRAND
I like this definition the best of those I’ve found because it specifically mentions an inspiring, emotional reaction. That’s what a brand story should do. Inspire. And create an emotional connection. It bears repeating. It should also be authentic to your values and have a driving call-to-action. Your brand is what differentiates you from your competitors. The goal should be more than bringing awareness to your products/services; it should garner customer loyalty. Ensure that they will come back time and again because they believe in said products/services and they’re invested in your story.
HOW TO TELL A GOOD BRAND STORY
So…how to get started? It’s worth noting that you alone will not determine your brand story. This maybe was the case when we were dealing with more traditional marketing mediums – when they relied on focus groups for input. But in the age of social media, your consumers are constantly interacting with your brand. These interactions could and should further inform the story.
IDENTIFY CUSTOMER PAIN POINTS
WHAT, WHY, HOW: Whether you’re just getting started and need a strong foundation to begin to build your brand or your band has been around for a while, start with the customer. A good brand understands where and how their product (or service) fits into the customers’ lives. Ask yourself, ”How does my brand help my consumer? What pain points does it solve?” Keep in constant conversation with your customer. Listen to them through social channels, or other mediums where you can collect feedback. When creating your brand story, use real people and real stories whenever possible.
EXAMPLE(S): Take Airbnb for example. Everything about their brand is about the community. That’s why it made sense for them to tell their brand story through their community’s stories. Literally called “Stories” Airbnb features Jonathan, Judith, Kiminari, Fabio, and so many more community stories. Notice the lack of last names? They’re playing to your emotional heartstrings by making these folks from across the globe familiar. Airbnb is practically shouting, “This could be you too!” as you start to build an affinity between you and their brand.
MAKE YOUR STORY ORIGINAL
WHAT, WHY, HOW: Your story should be original. What makes you different from the millions of other stories people are consuming daily? Look for what’s unique amongst your customer base. Much like Matilda felt like it was expressly written for seven-year-old Ardis, find that story that resonates deeply with your consumers.
EXAMPLE: I’m obsessed with this Organic Valley spot. In a stroke of brand storytelling genius, they turned the typical rushed morning’s story on its head. What makes this example so special is they crafted a story that speaks to their consumer on a personal (and clever) level. It’s that combination of finding a pain point and speaking to it in a unique way. Although, I REFUSE to get on the dry shampoo bandwagon.
FIND YOUR BRAND’S VOICE
WHAT, WHY, HOW: Y’all, I’ll be honest. I can’t get into The Voice. I have a deep, unabiding love for Gwen Stefani and I still find it unwatchable. Maybe I’m suffering from American Idol burnout. But I do think The Voice is a great metaphor for a brand story. It’s singers auditioning with songs that we’ve heard a million times and they have to find their own spin. OR sometimes the best performances (so I’m told) are when they perform a song in the classic, original style, but just SLAY it. And there’s something to be said for both.
Simply put, don’t be virtually monotonous. Find a voice. Whatever it may be.
Maybe it’s something absurd, or surreal (my favorite) – i.e., Snapple. Or maybe it’s a great take on a classic – i.e., the new KFC Colonel Sanders campaigns. Consumers respond to brands with a personality because it adds a level of emotional connectedness and relatability.
Think about it this way. Say the internet is a party you’re going to and it’s bumping. Millions of people are there. But you don’t know anyone. How would you get the people you want to interact with you to come your way? Would you be the funny person in the room? Or the socially conscious one? Maybe you want to be empowering or unifying. In this thinly veiled metaphor, you are your brand and your personality, your voice, is what will bring the right people your way.
Following college graduation I had a job at a large book retailer – you have two guesses. This huge chain store is still around. Does that help? My title was Community Relations Manager. I managed all in-store events – book signings, book fairs, school fundraisers, and most importantly, children’s storytime. It was a dream come true. I would carefully select the stories each week based on ones I loved as a child and new ones that were sure to be classics. I genuinely hope those children cherish those memories as much as I do. I don’t imagine a time in my life where I won’t love and appreciate a good story. I’m a marketer’s dream.
So… get started. Get creative. Get real. There’s a whole population of folks that are curled up on the rug ready to listen.