Tell Me a Story!

Good Storytelling Can Breathe Life into Brands 

The 2015 Oscars are about a month away, and as I familiarize myself with all the movies sent up for your consideration, I’m reminded how powerful a good story can be.

Take for instance the two films leading the field this year for Academy Award nominations. One is a dark comedy about a down-and-out actor attempting to mount an obscure play on Broadway. The other is a quirky little film following the exploits of a lothario concierge and his lobby boy confidant within the backdrop of a fanciful hotel.

Can you imagine?

Or, on the other side of the aisle, consider the outrage fans directed at the Academy for their snub of The Lego Movie—one of the biggest and most popular movies of 2014.

Which brings me to the main point of this entry: everyone and everything has a story to tell. Including brands.

Especially brands!

Lego is an example. So is Nike, and of course, Apple. While Lego may not be walking down the red carpet this year, they have already won plenty of accolades in the advertising industry for being the most successful at storytelling with the most visible content.

And while awards are nice, the real benefit has been to their bottom line. Fueled by the success of The Lego Movie, the company surpassed fellow toy maker, Mattel, in total revenue for the first time ever, becoming the number one toy maker in the world. In the process, they’ve reinvented their brand for a whole new generation.

As you can see, a good story can take you a long, long way. Consider the human race. Long before the invention of writing, the histories of entire civilizations were in the hands of storytellers. As time went on, telling stories took on a more social function, serving as a source of entertainment long before the age of TV, radio and, of course, Buzzfeed. Today, stories are as important as ever. We seek them out. We crave new ones. And when we hear a good one, we can’t wait to pass it on.

So, the questions is, what makes good stories and how can we use them to connect them to the hearts and minds of our audience? Well, grab your popcorn (skip the butter) and let me help you get your stories straight.

Act 1. Say it with feeling.

Brand storytelling is a specific type of content marketing that draws you in emotionally. Stories fascinate. Facts bore. Sure, facts are important. But people care about stories. And when they care, they respond. The best way to get a response is by telling a compelling story.

Luckily, we live in a world where a brand’s values, and the emotions they evoke, are narrative material more than ever. Every achievement, from conception of a brand idea through the direction in which the brand is headed, contains multiple stories.

When putting your story together, ask yourself:

  • What is the story of how this brand started?
  • How does this brand change people’s lives for the better?
  • What is the story of this brand’s core values and beliefs?
  • What is the story around the last product launch?

Act 2. Make the experience unforgettable.

Storytellers have long embraced the fact that the most powerful stories happen in the mind of the audience, making each and every story unique and personal for the individual.

Brand stories are not marketing materials, advertising campaigns or sales pitches. Put your client’s brand personality in the spotlight. Boring stories won’t attract and retain readers, but stories full of personality will keep them engaged.

Be creative, but don’t stay too far from your brand promise. Your stories should be compelling. That doesn’t mean they are separate from the reality of your brand, products and industry.

Act 3. Leave room for sequels.

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 the 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.

Every brand has multiple stories to tell, which presents an important opportunity. When determining your brand’s story, be sure to consider:

  • Which parts of the story to create
  • Which to co-create with the audience
  • Which to leave for the audience to complete and draw their own conclusions

That’s a wrap!

Now that you know the basics of brand storytelling, you can begin scripting new stories. As for the folks at Lego, don’t feel too bad about their Oscars disappointment.

Turns out their story had a Hollywood ending after all.

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