Storytelling and how it relates to brand strategy
I was recently on a panel to discuss strategic corproate marketing with a friend of mine who is a strategic branding specialist. I was invited as 'the content' person, I write the stories that often get repurposed for branding, marketing and communications.
Our discussion traversed the whole range of marketing and comunications, branding, media agencies, social media, content marketing, storytelling, old timers (like us), transitions, big data, analytics, platforms…you name it.
The fact that we both understood half of the terminology and acronyms we were conversing about was simply taken for granted. Yet, a fair proportion of the audience was lost within 30 seconds of our discussion. At the corporate level (and by this I mean Investor Relations, Corporate Comunications, Corproate Marketing) many simply did not see the link between storytelling and corporate brand marketing,
Very quickly our discussion focused on the critical importance of having a clear, concise and well-considered corproate brand strategy. Without a strategy and clear understanding of your product/service, target audiences – and how they engage – and a great product, (for me this means a great story) you might as well not bother.
For my friend and brand strategy expert, defining the brand and strategy is vital and fundamental.
For me, the storyteller for businesses and brands, having this brand strategy is an important guide to how I craft the stories I write. As quoted in a 2011 paper from JWT Intelligence:
'Brands that seek differentiation and wish to establish emotional connections that produce consumer engagement will need to get better at storytelling. Understanding where the gaps exist between emotional aspects of the brand’s category ideal and how the brand is seen by consumers, can provide opportunities to identify unique stories, histories and tales that will differentiate, entertain, and engage.'
This viewpoint was reinforced by Jay Baer www.convinceandconvert.com during a recent webinar who commented about Social Media that, 'You don’t need a social media strategy you need a brand strategy that leverages social media. It’s about attraction not interruption. It’s about meaningful engagement.'
More recently at Cannes there was a whole discussion around the secret to great advertising storytelling which is relevant here as corporate brands, while a different beast to say, CocaCola, are still brands that need to evoke strong positive connections and emotion. A good summary of this discussion can be found in Nick Hammond's article titled The myth of storytelling in marketing.
A well-crafted corporate story/history can caputre the dynamics of a company's jounrey, this is a real story and there are always triumps, near-misses and disasters. That's what makes them interesting and that's what engages and informs employees, customers, partners, funders etc. An abosoutely critical element of a corporate brand story is that:
Content needs to be powerful enough to have an impact and engaging enough to share.
So, my take out from the panel and general discussion was:
1. Have a strategy, be clear about it, then craft a good story, or a range of different but connected stories.
2. Tell your story in a meaningful way. Be genuine, open, honest and concise. By doing this you as a company are saying 'Understand us, tell me your story, and I’ll share mine with you. Connect with us.'
3. Think about how you are going to tell your story across all the platforms that are available and think about how all the people (human beings – people like you and me) can, and want to, connect with you.
As Frank Rose, author of The Art of Immersion states:
'Everywhere we look, stories are breaking the limits imposed by print, film and video. Boundaries that once seemed clear – between author and audience, content and marketing, illusion and reality – are starting to blur.'