Storytelling month at P&G means a few things to the team.
First, we get to share some of our favourite movies, shows, books, experiences – basically anything content related that gets us out of our seats. The other, and forgive the university professor tone here, is that this is a month-long reminder that we’re all storytellers in our own right. Whether it’s a new campaign or website, digital experience or a piece of content for social channels, the common thread is story – more specifically, the brand story.
When we talk brand stories, it’s less about the product or the service provided and more about what a brand stands for, the people behind it and how they see the world. Ready to get sciencey? The good folks over at Harvard Business published a paper where they identified three chemicals that get released in our brains when we read, experience and listen to stories. These three chemicals elicit reactions in our brain that help formulates memories, regulate emotional responses, and help develop empathy. So, telling great stories is scientifically proven to help connect with others.
As marketers, it’s that last part that really strikes a valuable chord. With so many distractions and channels available, having a genuine connection with a brand is as valuable as any transaction. Storytelling is a way to build this and it gives brands a voice. It allows them to differentiate themselves from the competition, it presents their values in a genuine way and it helps explain who the brand is as opposed to what it’s selling. Check out this video of Sara Blakely explaining to a group of conference attendees how she came up with the idea of SPANX. Now, try to tell me you don’t feel something. The brand story of SPANX just made an emotional connection, and whether you’re in the market for a new pair or you’ve become a new fan of the brand, it’s the story that got you there.
Evolution of Brand Storytelling
But brand stories aren’t always origin stories. They can also be about perspective and explaining how our environments shape us. Take, for example, a brand like Airbnb. They could have easily come out of the gates and told everyone that they are the anti-hotel. But instead, they’ve shaped the brand with stories of hosts and travellers from around the world. They connect with everyone’s natural instinct to want to discover new things and open up a world of storytelling possibilities. Another example of great brand storytelling is John Deere. Most know them as an iconic lawn care equipment provider, but a lot of the recognition can be attributed to storytelling and where they’ve taken it. In John Deere’s case, they can speak to their brand values through the stories of real people who embody the same hard-working mentality they do.
So, the burning question here is how do you tell a story that connects with people, explains what the brand stands for, and takes them on a journey they won’t forget? Well, there’s no specific storytelling formula to follow, but to spark some ideas, there are always a few important questions to ask.
1 . What’s the thing you do differently than anyone else?
2 . What’s your purpose for existing?
3. Why should people trust you?
The Emotional Connection
The answers to these questions don’t magically make up a great brand story, but it’s a good place to start. To really get the heart of a good story, it’s about identifying the authentic feelings you’re trying to evoke and finding that emotional connection is absolutely key. By defining what a brand is trying to say, you’re setting the stage for what writers refer to as building the world of the story. Explaining why there’s passion behind the story is what allows for that genuine emotional connection we talked about earlier. If a brand doesn’t have anything to say, or if there’s no reason to believe in it, then why should anyone care?
Great brands tell great stories. So if you’re coming up with a brand or rebranding something that already exists, try approaching it as a storyteller and see where it takes you. If the voice is genuine and the story makes an emotional connection, then audiences, consumers, and users will gladly be along for the journey.