Storybranding - Creating Powerful Brands Through The Power Of Story

Published by MBA Skool Team, Published on June 07, 2012

The purpose of every advertiser has always been to cut through all the clutter in order to garner the attention of his/her audience. However, studies have shown that amongst the claims of doctors, teachers, lawyers, journalists, stockbrokers and advertisers, those of advertisers are least likely to be believed by people.

This is primarily because advertising is seen as an activity that is primarily driven by self-interest, which seeks to sell a product by making certain claims about it no matter what the actuality of the product is. This eventually results in companies spending a great deal on advertising, but the corresponding advertising not being successful as people have tuned themselves to ignoring or disbelieving everything they hear about a product in its ads.

Enter Storybranding. Storybranding is an approach to creating powerful brands which involves selling a story that deeply resonates with people such as “Think Different”, “Umeedwaliasha, sunshine walidhoop” or “Don’t be evil” in contrast to selling the product itself. When you learn to tell a story that the audience deeply identifies with, there is no need to sell the product. Says Scott Bedbury, Chief Marketing Officer, Nike and Starbucks, “A brand is a story that connects with something very deep. Companies that manifest this sensibility invoke something very powerful.”

A story has been defined as a character attempting to overcome an obstacle, by Jim Signorelli, author of Storybranding: Creating stand out brands by the Power of Story. Research has shown that our brains are hard wired to better accept messages delivered through stories as opposed to other mediums of delivering a message.

Most marketing consists of telling the end consumer what the product is all about and how it can affect their lives in a positive manner. But look into the greatest success stories of all times, and you see that people don’t really buy in to what you do or how you do it, but into why you do it. When an organization builds a brand, it builds a thread of integrity and consistency which is reflected in each and every one of its actions. Take for example Apple, which is renowned for its culture of innovation. People buy into this idea of innovation, of thinking different, which is why Apple is the organization with the largest market cap today.

There were computers, MP3 players and tablets before Apple came into the picture, but these never attained mass appeal. In the classic marketing theory of the diffusion of innovation, the early adopters are the ones who initially try out a product but for it to attain mass appeal the early majority (34%) and late majority (34%) need to buy in to the product.And in order for the product to attain mass appeal, people need to buy in to its brand. A brand story is the fundamental expression of what your brand is all about, it is the reason behind the company’s various actions.

The buy in to a brand story extends beyond customers buying the product of an organization. It also engenders employee loyalty, with employees genuinely being engaged with the company. As a result of this, they are far more motivated and productive. This is something clearly manifested in the example of Google, which has built a brand of powerful ethics with its “Don’t be Evil” story. When it was faced with the option of continuing in China (which represented a huge market) and giving in to the censorship demands of the government, it chose instead to stick to its ideals and withdraw from China. This is an example of remarkable consistency in the actions of an organization, by which it adheres to its brand values.

Of course, the brand story need not necessarily be one of exemplary virtue or radical innovation either. It can be anything your audience identifies with. For example, Kraft has launched its granola bar MilkBite with a mascot named Mel, who suffers from low self-esteem. The mascot has an identity crisis as to whether he is a milk bar or a granola bar. And through the journey of Mel, the product story is told. An emotional connect is developed by the compassion that onlookers feel for Mel.

Dove’s campaign on Real Beauty is another campaign which seeks to have consumers identify with the brand story about diverse types of beauty, which is why it was a runaway success. The campaign was not really about shampoo or moisturizing soap, it was about celebrating the diversity of beauty in women and freeing them from stereotypes.

Storybranding is also perhaps the reason why more companies than ever before indulge in Corporate Social Responsibility today. As competition increases, it becomes more and more important for organizations to have positive associations in the minds of people. And a positive association such as contributing to environmental sustainability by recycling old phones can send out a better message than several spots of ad spend.

As product advertising becomes passé, it is time for marketers to look at new ways of engaging and connecting with the audience, in this case the entire gamut of people surrounding the organization, including employees, customers and suppliers. Storybranding could just prove to be an extremely effective way of doing so.

This article has been authored by Nandini R from IIM Indore.

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