Customers own the story of the brand now. What brands say is far less important than what brands actually do to serve the well being of the faithful. Whereas before, brand conversations were based on interruption, successful brand conversations are now participatory in ever more technology driven channels.
Storytelling is at the very heart of how we humans share and connect what we value about our heritage, our communities and ourselves. Brand storytelling is about connecting the outer value the brand provides to the inner values of the customer. There must be a deep affinity between the two or the relationship is just a transaction.
The foundation for this affinity is built on the shared stories between brands to consumers, customers to brands, and consumers to consumers. Like all relationships, there has to be chemistry. Brands have it or they don’t. How well these collective stories line up with the experience customers have is what creates “insistence without substitutes” in the minds of customers.
Brand storytelling is a strategic imperative, not a promotional tactic.
Many marketers confuse the two. In Pull’s brand consulting work, we’ve heard many marketers complain, “We just don’t know what our brand story is about”. Or worse, “no one seems to get what our brand story is about”. Seemingly ubiquitous marketing obscures the transcendent storyline of what makes brands matter to people.
There are three drivers of brand storytelling strategy– purpose, method, and opportunity. These drivers work in parallel with stories customers tell “to” the tribe and stories the brand tells to the tribe. For enlightened brand marketers, storytelling is a powerful means to build enduring connections as we now live in a culture characterized by participation, interaction, and dialogue.
Brands must have a storyline anchored in a human purpose rather than a commercial one. Let’s explore how these drivers work from both the brand and the customer perspective:
The most basic purpose or reason for brands to tell their story is usually to create or reinforce the brands positioning and competitive advantage. For customers, the motivation or purpose to tell brand stories comes from a desire to share ideas and experiences as an aficionado of the brands’ core purpose. In other words, the strategic purpose in the brand story is based on resonance and relevance.
Of course, brands have a multitude of methods and media channels to tell their story. The audience now is hyper-fragmented and the method for storytelling is less about media and more about real engagement. Customers too, have more methods available through social media channels to share their brand stories. What this means is the brand’s story is now a shared experience, with both brand and customer contributing to each other in a more real and meaningful manner.
The opportunity for brands to tell stories are varied and diverse. Storytelling creates awareness to product innovations and important events on one hand, to more difficult issues and public relations disasters on the other. Brands can be proactive or reactive in this regard. For customers, the opportunity for storytelling, by their own initiative, is also driven by good or bad news about a brand experience. Transparency is the order of the day now. Enlightened marketers now realize they must provide the venue for inviting customers to share their experiences and tell their stories.
All legendary brands have legendary stories told through generations. If you’re a marketer in the process of inventing or transforming your brand’s positioning, brand storytelling will be a critical component to building an enduring connection with those of like mind.