Commentary

Think Your Brand Has A Story? Think Again

Blasted with a constant firehose of information every single day, consumers are trying to filter the noise more efficiently than ever. If you know anything about System 1 thinking, you know just how automatic it is for the brain to tune out what’s irrelevant. 

Many brands have been relegated to the noise category by many consumers’ cognitive systems. That’s why every advertiser needs a brand story: a foundational narrative, inextricably linked to the brand. 

An ad story can lure people into an ad, engage or persuade. But for advertisers to succeed on a deeper, far more powerful level, the brand needs its own story that transcends campaigns. It must be told repeatedly, across communications platforms, over many years. It must be woven into the fabric of every ad execution. 

Consumers won’t know you exist unless you gain (and maintain) a foothold in their brains. One blockbuster ad or campaign can’t do that. A memorable, credible brand narrative — one that could only be told by your brand — will. 

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We all know what “the happiest place on earth” refers to. No surprise: A creative powerhouse like Disney is supposed to excel at telling stories. But within all the company’s many touchpoints with consumers — films, toys, theme parks, retail stores and more — Disney infuses their brand story. Which is why creating magical moments and spreading happiness are now synonymous with Disney. That — not the narrative of any campaign, ad, or feature film — is their brand story. Consequently, it’s one embedded in the brains of hundreds of millions of consumers. 

Steve Jobs’ Apple Store concept was inspired by Disney Stores. He added a high-touch, engaging retail experience that Disney would later adopt, making their own customer experiences more interactive.

Jobs remained true to Apple’s brand story of being innovative and sensational while making everyday life cooler and easier. Apple has told this story over and over, for decades — starting with its iconic, Ridley Scott-directed Macintosh commercial in 1984. Subsequent ads for iPhones, iPads and iWatches have magnificently showcased Apple’s product features using stunning visuals and catchy soundtracks. You won’t mistake an iWatch commercial promising “40 million iTunes songs on your wrist” for a Samsung ad.

A mega-budget isn’t required to create a brand story that will have a profound impact. Companies like Seventh Generation, Dollar Shave Club, and Warby Parker have done just that, even as start-ups with extremely limited resources.

Brands that have stories speak from a specific position, with every communication from the brand validating and deepening the authenticity of that story. Such brands develop connections with consumers based on familiarity and trust. The entertainment value of your current commercial, no matter how high, can’t compete with that. 

Creative concepts do evolve. But new ads must be consistent with what the consumer already believes about the brand. If they’re not, building marketplace momentum takes much longer — if you can do it at all. Worse, during the wear-in period, a disconnected story usually destroys some of what the consumer came to believe about the brand from previous stories.

An effective brand story can only succeed with at least one strong advocate on the brand team. The CMO or other senior leader must make sure every activation is consistent with — and builds — the brand story. That includes ads, sponsorships, promotions, packaging, point of sale, sales force, and line extensions. Absolutely everything must reinforce the brand’s story. 

Yes, this brand story might evolve over time. But maintaining the foundational aspects will ensure authenticity and trust. 

Brand stories enable the real value of advertising to be realized. You either have one or you don’t. Do you?

3 comments about "Think Your Brand Has A Story? Think Again".
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  1. Tony Besasie from Cannella Media, March 1, 2018 at 2:01 p.m.

    A brand story seems oddly familiar to a brand positioning, brand ethos, manifesto. brand footprint. etc.....How might this differ from them?

  2. R. M. from self, March 1, 2018 at 2:06 p.m.

    And yet, if Disney's brand story is NOT your own (it's not your happy place; your's is elsewhere), then all of Disney can be relagated to "Noise".  e.g. Disney has NOT proven to ME that they are MY happy place... therefore I do not buy Disney products, and do not care about their brand. In fact, being trapped on a ship with their roaming charaters would be definition of nightmare. That is their brand Anti-story.

  3. R. M. from self replied, March 1, 2018 at 2:48 p.m.

    ps- Mediapost, if you could add spellcheck that would be awesome. Thank you =)

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