How emerging brands build magnetic brand stories.

Porter CommunicationFor emerging next generation brands, there’s never been more opportunity to leverage the magnetic power of their brand story–if only they knew how.

It seems everyone in the marketing business has locked on to the notion that brand storytelling is the new-fangled thing. Of course, storytelling is nothing new. What’s new is the dynamic and interconnected relationship between paid, owned and earned media. Brand stories form the very epicenter of these inter-connected media channels.

For emerging brands with modest marketing budgets, to effectively leverage the power of their brand story requires a new approach far beyond conventional taglines and advertising executions. As we all know, this is even more complex when faced with the fact we live in the speed-of-light-digital-age with exploding technologies, media channels shrinking attention spans, and ever more consumer control over what they allow into their heads.

Your brand story is all the marketing you will ever need.

The power of a brand’s story lies in a singular idea anchored in shared values between brand and audience. This singularity is transcendent and unchanging over the entire life of the brand.

Your brand story will outlive any advertising or promotional campaign.  At its most fundamental level, the brand story is nothing more than the authentic truth making the brand highly valued by the audience and distinguished from all alternatives in the category.

However, in practice, brands over time will tell many sub-stories nuanced for various audiences as the business grows. To remain relevant and credible, brand owners must be guided by a strategic story platform that brings audiences ever closer to the brand’s core truth and proposition.

This requires discipline–which for many emerging brand owners is a difficult habit to form. It’s far easier to promote, persuade and convince.

The trouble is those days of persuasion and selling are long gone. Emerging brand owners must begin with the reality no one cares and no one is listening. And nothing is more frustrating for business leaders than to realize their limited financial investment in marketing is the sound of one hand clapping.

How to build your emerging brand story platform.

To understand why a brand storytelling platform is useful and powerfully effective, it’s first important to understand what it is not. A brand storytelling platform is not a tagline; not an ad campaign; media strategy; not copywriting; not marketing communications; not visual images.

A brand storytelling platform is not customer/consumer-facing at all. Instead, it is the brand owner’s strategic discipline that narrates and guides the relationship between a growing brand and its audiences.

Defining such a core strategy begins with careful research. It doesn’t have to be complex, in fact, it begins with the basics–the audience, brand, and category. What’s going on with these factors? What don’t you know? Where are the drivers of brand relevance and resonance? Why does your story matter and to whom? These questions must be thoroughly probed and evaluated with the objectivity and rigor of journalistic and social science.

This type of exploratory investigation and observation will establish a baseline of facts for you to bring out the brand’s unique narrative.

But facts alone are not enough. You must also have insight from intuition, knowledge, experience, and empathy on your customer’s hero journey. To do that, brand owners and stakeholders from every area and specialty of the enterprise must gather in one place and have meaningful conversation and debate to determine:

• the emotional drivers and connections customers/consumers have that lead them to engagement and purchase in the category.

• the consumer’s quest or hero’s journey

• the core purpose for the brand to exist (beyond profit).

• the ways and venues customers/consumers encounter and experience the brand.

• the brand archetype that defines the personality and character of the brand.

• the “one and only thing” customers receive from the brand they highly value and can’t get anywhere else.

These discussions should be facilitated and represent every part of the company that influences the brand’s behavior in the marketplace–executive management, sales, product development, operations, distribution, customer service and so on.

Rich insights from all stakeholders not only improves the quality and depth of the conversation, it also builds support and consensus for the outcome across the enterprise. This level of enterprise-wide buy-in is absolutely essential for success because an emerging brand’s story must be deeply anchored with internal audiences if it is to translate and connect with external audiences.

The bottom line.

Advertising is under enormous pressure to adapt to the marketing realities of the digitally connected world. There is no longer any reason to use terms like “digital”– it’s all digital now. The new normal for marketers is about creating useful non-marketing- brand-owned content that tells a transcendent brand story and fosters long-term relationships with audiences.

For owners of emerging brands to do this effectively will require them to adopt disciplined strategic processes and storytelling techniques that unite business goals and brand attributes with deep audience interests, needs, and passions.

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