Welcome to the world of brand storytelling. Once upon a time, storytelling was performed in front of a roaring fire; a captivated audience would be gathered around with eyes gazing upwards in eager anticipation, ready to drink in thrilling tales of heroes and monsters, imagining themselves as the championing force for the moral of the tale.
Nowadays, our audience are separated from us by a computer, mobile, or tablet screen, but our connection with the world is greater than ever thanks to a powerful online community that extends across the globe in a transnational social network of sharing and engagement. Just one tweet to a business from a disgruntled customer can set off a snowball chain of negativity where shoppers with similar experiences will band together in dissatisfied unification. It is therefore critical to never underestimate the power and influence of your consumer.
In the marketing world, appealing to your customer comes down to more than just offering sporadic discounts and sending out an email or two to remind them about your website. The not-so-secret secret to standing out from your competitors? Powerful brand storytelling.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of competition out there from brands such as Apple, Nike, and Dove – the unquestioned giants of their respective industries. The reason why these brands are so loved and easily identifiable across the globe is because they have created their own community of loyal customers – everyday people who have invested both emotionally and financially thanks to extremely effective and unique brand storytelling. Therein lies the crux of the point – you need to differentiate yourself; demonstrate your uniqueness; persuade your audience why they should care and invest in what you have to offer; promote long-term commitment as opposed to short-term gratification.
Let’s take a look at the brand storytelling of the three powers we mentioned above and see what we can take from their examples.
In a previous blog post we discussed how this first example have created their own culture and forged an excellent brand movement.
If you have a body, you are an athlete. This is the thinking from sporting brand Nike, who from their famous ‘Just Do It’ campaign to the ‘Make It Count’ campaign encourage people to fight their inner demons of self-doubt and defeatism and believe that we are all capable of greatness. Perhaps one of the more well known examples of their ethos – particularly for millennials – is the viral Youtube video by Casey Neistat and Max Joseph, which shows their ten day journey across the world through stunning countries and breaktaking scenery. With over 20 million views the whole brand storytelling experience resonates a poignant message to be active and live in the moment. The #makeithappen campaign also brought together athletes of the world to show how much work and commitment goes into their sport, each pledging their fitness goals with Nike asking their customers to do the same. What was the end result? A kinship of professional sports people, novices, and those in-between who encourage, support, and motivate each other in their fitness endeavours.
I don’t even really need to say the name, I could just show you a picture of the logo and you would recognise this company instantaneously. From the outset of 1997’s ‘Think Different’ campaign, Apple have continued to push the boundaries of what is possible in technological advances. Brand storytelling for this tech powerhouse is more than just a marketing technique, it is a living organism that is constantly weaving together the promise of bigger and better with the involvement of the individual consumer and their everyday experiences. The ‘Shot on iPhone 6’ clips that appeared throughout our online browsing were sent in by real iPhone users and demonstrate our capability for creativeness in the most spontaneous of moments. Apple directs its effort on helping us to capture those magic moments, thereby promoting their products as not just a commodity but a necessity to improving our everyday lives. This is no more evident than with this year’s announcement that iPhone sales had reached the billion mark.
‘Beauty is not just skin deep’: a philosophy that is deeply embedded in the brand storytelling for Dove and its umbrella company Unilever. Dove promote themselves as a driving force for positivity and self-worth, with a specialised Self-Esteem Project that moves past commercial incentive and gives back to their customers by emboldening young people to love their bodies and themselves for exactly who they are. For over 12 years the company have focused on ‘real beauty’ with a diverse range of models appearing in their campaigns and adverts including ‘Real Beauty Sketches’, another viral campaign that cleverly plays on our emotions to make us realise that we are – and shouldn’t be – our own worst critics.
So what do all of these businesses have in common? It’s that their brand storytelling moves beyond simply pushing a product. Instead, they constantly engage their audience and build a foundation of trust and loyalty through a clear and consistent brand vision, offering solutions to problems and showing that they actually care about the impact their products have on their customers.
Be Clear on Your Brand Mission
Understanding and effectively conveying your brand voice and ethos is the foundation upon which your entire brand storytelling will develop. A great springboard for this is the mission statement, which will pinpoint the fundamental values of your company. Let’s imagine you sell food goods that use only wholesome and organic ingredients. Is this because you want to help people live a purer and healthier lifestyle, or are you looking to improve the environment and fight climate change thanks to the use of natural pesticides and fertilisers?
It’s all well and good having a catchy slogan but if these are just empty words designed to cast a few waves out into the consumer sphere, your brand won’t have sustainable, long-term impact. Moreover, you cannot just release a viral video and hope this will be enough to carry your message. It needs to work in unison with a consistent brand campaign as opposed to fragmented snippets of your business. How did your company come into being? Why do your employees want to work for you? What drove you to create that particular product? These are the kinds of questions you should be asking yourself. After all, your customers are buying into you, not just your product.
Solve a Problem, Offer a Solution
Simplicity is the name of the game – when someone wants or needs something, they will buy it. Anyone can regurgitate the statistics of a product and dictate this to an audience, but the real challenge is considering how what you are selling will pique their interest and what will motivate them to want to choose you above anyone else on the market. Nothing is static, therefore you need to be adaptable to the changing needs of your consumers and tailor your story accordingly, always considering how your brand solutions align with the requirements of your customers.
Psychology comes massively into play here as you preempt what your customers want before they may know it themselves. You need to think about what lies at the root cause for someone’s decision to make that purchase by putting yourself in their shoes; go beyond that superficial surface to find those deeper and often hidden challenges and motivations. Just look at Nike, who realised that a lack of exercise is not necessarily a matter of laziness but a fear of ridicule or failure. Without having to overtly refer to these underlying fears, they were able to address them by providing a forum of support and encouragement for people to seize the moment and once again enjoy exercise. This portrays them as a premium sportswear and equipment provider who actually care about the physical and mental well-being of their consumers.
Create an Experience
As consumers we are primarily driven by desire than practical need, therefore investing in a brand or idea is an emotional transaction. We will make initial decisions based on these emotions – something we explored in a recent post about marketing to emotions – and then rationalise this with the facts. It’s simply not enough to appeal to logic; you need to market in a way that encourages your customer to contextualise your product in their everyday lives. Research has shown that our brains are far more receptive to sounds and images than an idea translated to us through facts and figures. Your storytelling should be reflective of this, providing a sensory and emotional experience through a variety of mediums that can directly involve the voices of the very people to whom you are marketing.
Involve Your Customers
This leads me on nicely to my final point. By making your brand storytelling a participatory experience with your customers, you can achieve a greater level of authenticity. Whether this is expressly including them in your advertising like Dove’s example or just simply reaching out and asking people to complete a survey on their customer service experience, you want to remind people that they are at the forefront of the decisions you make.
Make no mistake that building your brand story takes time to develop and always begins by taking an honest and compelling approach about who you are and why you offer your products or services. Never forget that the success of the story you tell is determined by the person who hears it. Brands should be customer-centric, selling a lifestyle rather than just a product, therefore always keep your narrative intertwined with that of your audience to ensure that you forge an enduring relationship and live happily ever after.
Here at Active Internet Marketing, our knowledgeable digital marketing team understand the importance of crafting powerful and effective brand storytelling. To find out how we can help you increase your brand presence on the digital market just get in touch on 0800 772 0650.