“Storytelling” has fast become a bit of a buzzword in the marketing world, particularly as brands struggle to set themselves apart and keep consumers engaged in the age of social media. However, storytelling in marketing requires a focused approach. It is no longer a matter of assembling and broadcasting top-down product strategies to attract consumers. The rapid acceleration in the digital space means that customers want to engage with brands in a personal, interactive way.
Here are a few tips that companies should use when defining or refining their brand story:
Get Perspective and Mean It
Every company brings its own history, vision, and attitude to its work, whether it is in the fashion, manufacturing, or public sector. Campaigns must grab attention with a distinct point of view—i.e. a sense of purpose for the marketing initiative—and arrest consumers with focused content, interesting graphics, and memorable elements.
Point of view in marketing campaigns does not have to be a regurgitation of an entire corporate vision. On the contrary, it should be a snippet, a tidbit, or a personal story. It is most important to leave consumers in amazement at what they just experienced and thus with a sense that your company stands apart from competitors.
Have a Plot and Not Just Famous People
In addition to a unique point of view, brand campaigns need an overarching plot to link elements of a marketing strategy together. Again, this does not need to be epic, but should have a solid beginning, middle, and end.
Advertising often falls victim to the celebrity complex of having a famous person doing a selected activity while somehow engaging with the product in hand. Perfume ads are particularly guilty of this approach. Campaigns need to answer the consumer question, “Why should I care?” in order to be effective and stimulating.
Be Bold, Not Just Creative
The adage of thinking outside the box is obvious, but marketing strategy now more than ever needs to be audacious, authentic, and flexible to register across platforms. Messaging should be true to a brand’s vision yet tailored to a product’s unique characteristics.
The ongoing London Olympics is a perfect example of a major marketing failure on the part of many advertisers. While some have worked to build athletes’ stories into the fabric of their normal ads, they often lose a sense of brand purpose in the effort. For instance, Proctor & Gamble’s ads dedicated to mothers provides a memorable backdrop to the Olympic stories of athletes and are highly effective at generating consumer emotional response. Yet, these ads arguably edge towards a brand identity crisis because they leave you trying to remember what the company makes and how the commercial connects to it.
Jessica Quillin, Ph.D., is a co-founder of Atelier 36, a strategic consultancy focused on solutions for the luxury, fashion, beauty, and lifestyle industries. You can follow her on Twitter @Atelier36.