"To hell with facts! We need stories!" -- Ken Kesey, author of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"
If the first years of the marketing world's twenty-first century are dominated by any one particular set of ideas, surely branding ranks near the top. Don't get me wrong -- branding is critical. Your organization's brand is all that sets it apart -- in virtually every industry -- in a hyper-competitive environment. I have the pleasure of working with clients, large and small, through the key strategic and tactical steps necessary to brand development. The process isn't always easy and growing pains sometime ensue, but the toil is worth it in the end.
But it seems like we've placed this notion or idea of branding on a brazen alter. Branding is not rocket science (unless, maybe, you're trying to brand a rocket company). Branding is not some epic quest for a lost biblical relic with hordes of Nazis trying to defeat you. Branding is not bubbling test tubes, high-tech gizmos, and suitably spooky mood music in a mad scientist's lab.
Branding is simple storytelling. From cave paintings and hieroglyphics to the printing press and digital books, the saga of mankind is its storytelling. We add a lot of buzzwords and unnecessarily complicated processes, but at its root, branding is storytelling. As Seth Godin notes in "Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us," "Marketing is the act of telling stories about the things we make -- stories that sell and stories that spread."
What are the signs of a well-told brand story? Consider the following ideas.
The best brand stories are short and sweet
Remember that brevity is clarity. You are telling a quick story, not writing "War and Peace." Some brand stories are told from a quick glance at a simple logo or an iconic device.
Successful brand stories provide details
While you want the overall story to be brief, you must include compelling details. Your brand should offer "connection points" that consumers can understand. Sometimes the best connection points are the everyday basics people need to live. Express them.
Make your brand personal and trusted
Not every situation is perfect and not every story is perfect. Did your product or service aid an injured veteran, help reconcile a fractured family, or rebuild a shattered financial dream? Let your audience people know about the struggles and the accomplishments associated with people engaging with your brand. Let them know they can trust you, good times and bad.
One of the most important parts of a story is the ability to draw in the reader. Nothing does that better than connecting emotionally. Ways to do that include stories about children, families, animals, heartaches, and triumphs. Human beings are emotional creatures, so stories that bring out our emotions are stories that succeed.
In your branding efforts, don't make things harder or overly-complex. This is not to say you can skip the due diligence that comes with creating and nurturing a successful brand (i.e., research, training, timetables). Rather, remember in that process that the best brands are -- at their core -- the best stories told in the best way to evoke the best consumer responses. As Sue Monk Kidd said in "The Secret Life of Bees," "Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can't remember who we are or why we're here." Tell your story!
Mark Arnold is president at On the Mark Strategies.
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