Storytelling extends back as far as human communication, and it’s still germane in the twenty-first century. Stories create emotional connections, they’re shareable, and they shape information into something more meaningful. Despite all the technology people carry around with them, and despite access to more information with every passing second, stories matter.
Great stories make people feel like they're part of the action.
But to really pull their weight and advance your brand, your brand stories need to serve an overall corporate narrative. Old-school product-marketing techniques that exhibit features and functions are part of the past now that people can go online and see a video of the latest iPhone being taken apart the day it comes out. People want meaning, and your brand stories provide it.
Realize That People Want Stories
The human brain is actually wired in such a way that it is receptive to stories. A great story makes parts of our brain react as if they’re actually experiencing events happening in the story. Stories also influence emotions and subtly associate emotions with the things those stories are about, including your brand. You want to build a history of interactions with customers, weaving your brand stories into a narrative of experiences that reflects your company’s defining values.
Make Sure There’s a Thread of ConsistencyNobody wants to hear the same story over and over, but your brand stories should have a thread of consistency woven through all of them. What your company stands for should be evident in all your stories, even though they’re different from each other. When your brand stories reflect:
- Your brand’s vision and principles
- Your brand’s themes and aspirational messages
- Your brand’s products, services, and actions
Don’t Pretend to Be Perfect
While your corporate narrative may aspire to greatness, you don’t want to push a narrative of perfection. When you present your brand as beyond fault, it’s that much harder to get back on track if something goes wrong. Sure, you could try blaming a vendor or manufacturer or communications provider if something goes wrong with your brand, but people won’t like it. They’d much rather brands own up to it and try to fix it when they make a mistake.
You can shape a narrative, but absolute control of it is impossible.
Understand That Other Voices Will Chime In
Your company obviously has a key role in shaping your brand narrative, but it doesn’t play the only role. Customers, employees, investors, vendors, and competitors are all going to chime in on your brand narrative. To maximize the positive aspects of those other voices, it’s important that you listen to and understand the customer, and then bring the customer into your corporate narrative, making them feel as if they have a stake in your brand.
Tailor the Story to the ChannelYou have to carefully consider every marketing platform you use and tailor stories to them. It’s not enough to tell a brand story and try to shoehorn it onto mobile, into social media, and into print. On mobile, you tell the version of the story that is designed for the mobile screen. That may be slightly different from the version you put into print media. But if you make all the messages complementary, so they serve the overall narrative, the overall story will supersede the sum of its parts.
The Narrative Is an Open-Ended JourneyBrand stories may have beginnings, middles, and endings, but narratives are a continuing journey. They take some of their direction organically from the actions of employees, customers, and others, and they evolve. Compelling narratives invite the customer to join in on the journey, not just listen to a story. Narratives can be powerful enough to motivate employees, inspire shareholders, and prompt customers into action, not just now, but for the long term.
It’s easy to think of marketing in terms of radio, television, print, and the web, but what these platforms all have in common is storytelling. We no longer need a printing press to record our brand stories and distribute them physically, but we still need to tell those stories. Our brand stories should serve an overarching corporate narrative that’s open-ended, evolving, and that invites the customer