Sunday, June 30, 2013

How Stories Bring Brands To Life


Courtesy of PR Couture

Logos. Taglines. Company names. Mastheads. Mascots. Jingles. More logos.

Every single day, we're exposed to hundreds of different brands. These cover the entire spectrum of the consumption experience - from F&B to fashion, tuition services to toiletries. 

Brands scream at us on every conceivable platform. Television channels. Radio stations. Newspapers. Magazines. Movies. Websites. Social networks. Heck, even our smartphones are full of branded apps.

You name it. We've seen, heard, smelled, tasted, or touched it.

The question, however, is this: do brands still matter in the age of mobile social networks? Do we really want another branded ad or app plastered over our overflowing craniums?

As I've shared previously, brands need to move beyond logos, designs, advertisements, endorsements and taglines.

Brands need to represent something deeper - a movement, cause or belief - rather than a slick and stylish way to make customers depart with their hard-earned cash. They need to help rather than hurt their "target audiences", provide solutions, and move from corporate to consumer interests. They need to also be evident in one's personality and collective behaviours as an organisation - not just the CEO but every employee.

The best way to articulate a brand is to tell stories. Here, it isn't just about "how great thou art" or what flaming hoops your founder jumped through to bring the company to success. Neither is it just about the 101 different steps your company took to manufacture a widget, or ensure that service quality is "world class".

Rather, brand stories are embodied in the core purpose of the company and articulated every single day in every single activity. They are the sum of all actions and interactions between your company, its employees, its customers, its shareholders, and other stakeholders.

To bring your brand compellingly to life, consider the metaphor of your brand as a performance.

In such a setting, your distribution outlets would be the "stage", your customers the "audience", and your products and services the "actors" or stars of the show. The packaging, design, colours, sounds, scents and tastes of your product would act as "props" or "costumes" which accentuate the authenticity of the branded experience.

For service businesses, the "actors" are no longer the products but employees of the business. Here, it is useful to emulate the example of Disneyland, where every staff are known as members of the "cast" who needs to be "on brand" when they work in their theme parks.

Tying all the disparate pieces together, a coherent "script" needs to be developed by the production "crew" (ie the employees). Here, you need to have a "brandstorming" session to unearth the Whys, Hows, and Whats of your brand.

It is also useful to consider how your customers can play a part in developing your brand story, enlarging and colouring it with their personal narratives. Even better, make your story theirs, or help them to tell their story with your brand playing a major starring role!

To connect deeply with your audiences, your brand probably needs to dance the fine line between truth and fiction. This naturally depends on your product or service. A bank, school or transport provider probably needs a story more rooted in pragmatic reality while a toy manufacturer, theme park or fashion retailer can indulge in greater flights of fancy.

Once you've got your brand story worked out - more or less - find a way to test the story before rolling it out in all its glory. Gauge your audiences' response. Are they convinced by what you have to say? Do they seem to buy into the story? Are they enchanted by the telling? Or bored and listless, preferring not to find out more?

After you've tweaked, turned or transformed your tale accordingly, it is time for showtime. Roll out your brand story according to plan, chapter by chapter, item by item. As you do so, gauge your customers' responses, adapt and refine your brand narratives as you go along.

Are there any great brand stories you've heard lately? 

1 comment:

Dallas McMillan said...

Great post Walter - totally agree on the value and power of brand stories!