October 26, 2022
    Reding_icon 4 MINUTE READ

    BRAND DAY, Episode 14:

    What's Your Brand Story?

    Using Stories the Right Way to Grow Brand Value

    What do the most impactful out-of-home campaigns (and marketing campaigns in general) do that mediocre ones don't? 

    They tell a story, one that inspires an emotional response and drives connection with the audience. 

    Ok, sure, everyone talks about storytelling in marketing (to the point where it's a cliche). But where a lot of marketers get off track is they focus on telling stories about themselves: how the business started, the newest products developed, the latest hires. 

    Unfortunately for those marketers, consumers don't jump on Netflix to binge-watch shows where people they don't know talk about their own accomplishments. 

    So what kind of story should we be telling? 

    First, it's helpful to understand why storytelling works the way it does. 

    Stories Build Identity

    There's a reason that storytelling has been the primary means of conveying information throughout all of human history. From Homer's Iliad and Odyssey to Beowulf to the works of J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, plus millenia of oral storytelling traditions that both communicated and shaped a given society's view of the world, a good story does more than just engross its audience. 

    There's a ton of scholarly research on the subject, but these are a few of the primary functions that stories serve, both in our own lives and in our broader societies at large: 

    • They connect us to each other: from ancient myths and legends that united people together in cohesive family and tribal units to the stories we tell others to show we understand where they're coming from

    • They shape our reality: Research  shows that how people frame their stories affects and reflects the way they think and feel about their lives (for example, there's a link between positively-framed stories and improved mental health and relational satisfaction)

    • They help us cope and make sense of the world: related to the above point, people use stories to make sense of the messiness and chaos surrounding them, as well as to define their own place within that space

    • They forge identity: both within individuals, by connecting them to a larger group, and in social units, from families all the way up to ethnic groups, through a sense of shared experience

    Author Donald Miller, in his book Building a Story Brand, cites a communications expert who sums up the problem with most marketing, and therefore the value of stories, perfectly: 

    "There's a reason most marketing collateral doesn't work. Their marketing is too complicated. The brain doesn't know how to process the information. The more simple and predictable the communication, the easier it is for the brain to digest. Story helps because it is a sense-making mechanism. Essentially, story formulas put everything in order so the brain doesn't have to work to understand what's going on." 

    The value to a brand is obvious: telling the right story can not only build a relationship with an individual customer but can craft a network of connections between customers, resulting in a cohesive community built around a shared identity with your brand. 

    But how do you decide on the right story? 

    Identifying the Hero

    Miller goes on to lay out a framework of 7 steps to crafting a story that your customers want to be a part of. However, he begins with a point of caution: your brand is not the hero of the story! 

    This may be the single biggest mistake brands make when trying to craft a story to tell. 

    Instead, the story you tell needs to make your customer the hero. Your value to your customer is all about how you can help them overcome their problem anyway, right? So it makes sense to position them as being a protagonist, on a quest, where your brand has a responsibility as their guide to help lead them through defeating their antagonist, overcoming their obstacles, and accomplishing their desired transformation. 

    Unclear on how this works in practice? Here are some examples of how brands have leveraged stories to make their customers the hero, creating enduring and nearly fanatical loyalty in the process: 

    • Harley Davidson embodies the ideals of rugged individualism and independence for people who aspire to live out these values
    • Apple doesn’t just build cool machines; they enable creators and doers to unleash their genius
    • Disney has created a whole universe around characters that people grew up with; they sell a blend of family adventure and nostalgia
    • Trader Joe’s makes grocery shopping fun by welcoming customers in with discovery, curiosity, and a touch of mystique around what hard-to-find products they’ll have at any given moment
    • GoPro's content is almost exclusively user-generated, with customers sharing images and videos taken from the cameras, helping to create the association between the brand and the global adventurer it represents 
    • Red Bull sponsors extreme athletic competitions and is heavily involved in that world, tying its product to values like ambition and performance against the odds
    • AirBnB leverages user stories to build a narrative around authentic travel experiences and a sense of belonging

    From Hero to Brand Evangelist 

    If you make your customers the hero of the story you tell, you dramatically increase the opportunity you have to convert those customers into brand evangelists. But crafting that story and finding ways to get it in front of your audience is increasingly difficult. 

    Need help developing a story that stands out? Adkom can help by advising on messaging and creative ways to get attention with out-of-home.

    Reach out today