Three years ago Disney’s Frozen hit theaters, and parents remember the seemingly endless months that followed its release. Everyone was singing the now iconic “Let It Go” on repeat. In film, screenwriters and directors appeal to an identifiable audience, creating a world in which a protagonist like Snow Queen Elsa encounters and overcomes conflict. There is action, tension and a resolution that leaves viewers satisfied.
Storytelling has always provided an opportunity for people to share knowledge, escape, teach, entertain, connect and shape civilizations. Storytelling for brands works the same way. Brand personality is established much like a protagonist in a film, and brand equity (or brand assets) is developed and used to build the brand’s overall narrative. Having a clear understanding of the competitive landscape and opportunities in the market can dictate not only how a brand conveys its narrative but also how it maintains relevance. Building a brand story presents an opportunity to solidify bonds between brand and consumer and tell stories that time and time again draw us in and offer a new perspective on ourselves, just like Hollywood.
With this in mind, here are keys to building a compelling brand story.
Protagonist | Brand Personality
In movies, audiences love a hero; a strong protagonist in whom they can see a little of themselves; a dynamic character they can believe in. Similarly, a lot of the success of a brand is in its personality. Developing a clear, relatable brand personality is an essential part of building a brand narrative and can dictate how the brand story is told. Key questions to ask are: who are you or what persona do you want to relay to consumers? What is your voice? What are your values? Do you want to position your brand as a hero or a rebel in the marketplace?
Audience | Target Consumer
It’s vital to know whom you’re targeting in film. Employing offbeat, adult humor, for instance, is less effective when your target audience is kids. The same goes for branding. Know your consumer, his or her purchasing behavior and journey. Utilize tools, like social media, to uncover how your consumers relate to the brand and each other, and take cues from their language. Consumers need to be able to identify commonalities between their own ideals, lifestyle and values and those of the brands they purchase. Shoppers turn into brand ambassadors when they can really get behind your brand and believe that the brand understands their needs and ideals and speaks their language.
Creating a World | Brand Equity
Most people watch films to escape reality. Filmmakers accentuate key parts of the narrative or a character’s persona in order to support and further validate the world they’ve built.
In branding, the narrative must focus on the brand identity, color palette, style and approach. In this world, you can capitalize on the backstory. Tapping into the heritage, particularly for older more established brands seeking to reinvent themselves, can lay the groundwork for an original expression of ideas in a saturated market. The key is to stay true to the brand voice. The world created in film should make sense for the protagonist to exist in and be a part of. Consumers will always connect with something they believe in.
Conflict | Market Challenges and Brand Solutions
Conflict is an integral part of all good stories. How the character/protagonist overcomes the conflict allows the viewer to identify with the narrative.
Brands must identify a challenge in the marketplace, or a pain point consumers are experiencing, and offer a unique and compelling solution. Mr. Clean, for example, makes great use of its muscular hero, a symbol of strength and confidence, who saves consumers from the toughest messes around the home. By identifying the challenge or conflict consumers are facing (in this case, tough dirt and grime), brands are better equipped to isolate the role they play in fulfilling consumer needs.
Ending/Resolution | Brand Success
A well-constructed narrative allows for ongoing adaptation and evolution of the brand and sustained relevance overtime. Remember, everyone loves a good story. The key is to make sure that you’re a good storyteller.