“Story” and “storytelling” have been tossed around in marketing circles so long now that they’ve become too-easily accessed buzzwords used to add pseudo-intellectual sparkle to just about any marketing conversation. Concentric uses something called a brand story to help clients articulate their core attributes in an authentic tone of voice. It’s actually part of our strategic process done ahead of creative work such as naming, brand identity or packaging. Every so often I read posts that confuse storytelling as creative narrative with brand story development as part of strategy. Here are my thoughts on what a brand story is all about.
The End? Never.
A big difference between storytelling in a literary sense and story in branding is that they are really different modes of communications. First off, a literary storytelling is definitive. It begins, arcs and concludes. But a brand story has no arc. It’s flat and consistent. Also, it has to be seen as evergreen, and not traveling toward an end. That is until some force shifts a company’s core values in a big way, which leads to our next point.
Great stories never change. Great brand stories adapt.
A brand story also dances between being unwavering and, across time, adapts to sea changes, such as consumer attitudes. This ability to be nuanced and iterative keeps it relevant and speaks to its strategic nature. Moby Dick is art. Your brand story is strategy.
Live your story, don’t just tell it.
A brand story isn’t just words, either. It’s reflective of an organization’s behavior, and in an aspirational way, guides the organization to future behavior. Whereas marketing used to really be about outbound, one-way messages to audiences, now marketing is just as much about action. It’s about listening, responding, engaging, service and experience. Also, as media, technology and data have put pressure on the need for transparency (even elevating it to a core brand attribute for many companies), aligning your actions with your words is more important than ever. Here’s a great example from JetBlue showing how behavior can influence brand image.
Arriving at the brand story.
Like I said, your brand story is strategic. Concentric uses story as a critical part of our Focused Approach, right at the end of our brand development process. Crafting the brand story articulates and expands upon the previous asset we develop in the process, the brand brief. It takes the attributes and truths that the brief focuses on and adds tone, personality, expression and emotion. The brief is information and the story is communication. It should be evocative, written to elicit the right emotions that drive belief in the brand. You know you have the right story when employees (remember, it’s primarily an internal-facing document) read it and get it instinctively. “Yes, that’s us!” Also, it shouldn’t merely be a factual account of today, but aspirational and progressive. Clients should feel it’s authentic in why they do what they do, but it should also be about a bigger idea in the world that opens their eyes to a more expansive purpose going forward; a place the brand wants to go, should go and can go.
Below is a brand story for Kurgo, a Concentric client that produces high-end safety and protection gear for dogs.
Of course, the brand story will eventually inform external communications. The following example is a story video that Concentric produced for client Respect Foods. Respect needed to create a listing for their new anti-biotic free turkey burgers on a retail product showcase site called RangeMe.com (read the post) and part of their product profile was a video. The brand story for Respect really came to life for this opportunity to get in front of potential retailers, like Target and Whole Foods. Despite never doing a voiceover before, we decided to use the founder and CEO as our voice since the brand story, in this case, really comes from the heart of this person. It was also a great way to push the authenticity aspect of the brand.