Brand stories that connect on a personal level

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Every night, in children's rooms around the world, the words "tell me a story" precede tales that amuse, educate, and engage. The art of storytelling has transcended time, culture, even medium, taking the form of carvings, paintings, the written word, television, and film.

It is also beginning to live on the web. Consider the "digital fiction" that's being produced by book publishers like Penguin Books in the U.K. Its most current feature is told entirely through Google Maps. New applications, tools, and technology are allowing authors to tell vivid tales for consumers on the web.

As marketers, we can do the same.  

Our job can be bewildering, though. As we focus on the minutia of web and banner ad development, it's easy to get caught up in the execution of our projects and forget there's something behind all of that: the story of the brand. Think of a website or online ad campaign as a book. If you were writing that book, you wouldn't jump directly to the ending (or in marketing terms, your ultimate objective). You would progress through the chapters one by one and dutifully craft a procedure for how to take the reader there. 

In storytelling for interactive marketing and advertising, it's not about the destination. It's about the journey. 

Storytelling in cross-media campaigns
Sometimes, that story is a journey in the true sense of the word. Think about the Banana Republic holiday ad campaign that ran a few years back. Consumers were invited to watch fictitious stories like "Lost Mitten" (which incorporated the brand's winter apparel) unfold through print ads. The ads acted as teasers for a microsite at holidaystory.com, where consumers could go to find out how the narratives played out.   

This year, the brand launched a new series of stories to promote its spring line. Through its new "City Stories" campaign and related microsite, it delivers audio and video clips of up-and-coming musicians, and tells the true accounts of how each artist -- clad in Banana Republic clothing -- is inspired by the city in which he or she lives.

The stories told by the American Egg Board's new campaign are also true, and highlight the health benefits of its product as almost a secondary mission. The cross-media campaign and new section on brand site incredibleegg.org tell incredible stories of people like Luke Myers, world record holder for sport stacking, and Luci Romberg, a gymnast, free runner, and stunt woman. The site also invites consumers to tell their own stories of incredible physical and mental skill, and participate in skill-testing online games.

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Comments

Paul Furiga
Paul Furiga May 27, 2009 at 3:10 PM

David,

Thank you for this post and for the great content you share in your blog.

I wanted to briefly share our own thinking related to brand stories. At WordWrite Communications (http://www.wordwritepr.com), we focus on telling the great, untold stories of our clients. This has led us to develop StoryCrafting, our own process for helping organizations to create, develop and share their great, untold story. We focus on three things: developing the authentic stories of our clients, identifying the fluent storytellers in the organization who can tell those stories, and helping our clients to constantly "read the audience" to assure that real dialogue, and thus, real communication, is occurring, when the stories are told.

We very much would like to expand the dialogue on StoryCrafting, and for that reason, I invite you and your readers to take a look at our new white paper on this topic (http://www.wordwritepr.com/pdf/storycrafting_white_paper.pdf) and also our blog, which shares additional background and ideas on these topics (http://www.wordwritepr.com/blogstorytelling/).