Storytelling: the new old for brands?

By Nicholas Courant & Jurgen Mortier

Think about some of your favourite brands and the first things that spring to mind. Are they key messages, a company vision and mission? Probably not, right? Like most consumers, you’ll probably think of stories that characterise the brand for you: great customer experiences or moments in your life where the brand mattered to you.


And still, when you look at what most brands and companies provide on their websites and company literature, it’s all about vision, mission, strategy and press releases. No stories, just hard facts. No real emotions and real characters to which people relate, but very rational documents with well-crafted key messages.



Conquer the hearts and minds of your stakeholders


The real key to engage customers on a deeper, more emotional level lies in the ancient art of storytelling. No matter how many gadgets and hi-tech gizmos we might carry around, in the end we are living anachronisms: modern day mass-consumers with a stone-age mind. And that mind, as evolutionary psychologists like Steven Pinker have argumented, is particularly receptive to narratives.


So is it any wonder that in the age of social media, with its yearning for authenticity and credibility, brands are looking for ways to tell their own stories? Apple is probably one of the best examples of a company that has understood the importance of creating stories that resonate with customers. From the iconic 1984 Superbowl ad over the Get A Mac series to Steve Jobs’ heartfelt Stanford Commencement Speech, Apple and its late CEO have a track record of great storytelling.

Many of the so-called love brands are in fact serial storytellers. Rather than trying to convince and explain, they inspire, share emotions and focus on authentic experiences. It’s often what differentiates them in the hearts and minds of their customers.

Keep talking

What’s more, you don’t have to be Apple to tell a great corporate story. Johnny Walker managed to turn a brand in decay into an inspirational brand with the Keep Walking campaign and Coca-cola changed their marketing strategy when they realised their customers already tell more stories then they as a company ever will.

Within every organisation, the stories are usually there, with each of your colleagues. The challenge is to open your eyes and ears and capture the stories. Go talk to your colleagues or listen to your customers and ask them how they perceive your brand. Take the critical perspective of a journalist to discover the various stories that are connected to your brand and start sharing them in your presentations, magazines, social media, etc. You might just find out that the ancient art of storytelling will revive your brand in today’s modern world.



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