Five Lessons I’ve Learnt About Brand Storytelling

Man reads a book high quality and high resolution studio shoot

Every brand has a story. It may seem challenging to ensure that the story cuts through the noise of the current digital content landscape, but there are steps to success, CBS Interactive Commercial Director Neill Pitt (pictured below) in this guest post.

  1. Authenticity is key

Sure, ‘brand authenticity’ has become something of a buzzword in marketing, but that’s because consumers demand it. Staying true to what your brand is about and not aiming to please the masses means that you’re more likely to retain a smaller, but more engaged, following.

There is a myriad of ways to demonstrate brand authenticity. Social media platforms, for instance, offer consumers direct, personalised lines of communication. By ensuring regular content updates and prompt replies – particularly if and when consumers hold your brand to account – the ROI for brand loyalty is far greater.

There’s no doubt emotion plays a significant role in audience response to brand storytelling. We know that our audiences are extremely receptive to our brand stories, especially when making purchase decisions. Our brands connect emotionally and rationally with consumers, offering a very valuable channel for our partners to communicate with consumers on a personal level.

  1. There’s strength in legacy 

It’s a fantastic feat to be a 100-plus-year-old organisation, but that doesn’t mean you can retain a century-old mentality. Content has been at the core of CBS for almost 100 years; former CEO of National Amusements, the parent company of ViacomCBS, even coined the phrase “Content is king” in the 1970s.

As such, many brands in the CBSi portfolio have been around for decades, which is great for brand reputation – there’s something about legacy that alludes to authority. The longevity of a brand can imply a best-in-class standing, provided that brand is evolving appropriately as its key audience does.

As we have very distinct audiences per brand, we have the ability to be extremely targeted in our approach to content delivery. CNET is the number-one brand in the market for consumer technology; as a brand in Australia, CNET is pivoting into popular culture to engage and drive deeper connections with our audiences across topics such as Game of Thrones, NASA and new movie releases. Gamespot is also leading the way in Australia with a highly engaged audience. With such strong individual titles, we can go very deep into verticals that we know our audiences are passionate about.

  1. Like technology, a brand’s story is evolutionary

Times change, as do brands. Keeping your audience top of mind allows for a natural brand evolution as your audience grows and their interests and mediums of content consumption change. Listening to what your key audience wants out of your brand – be it more evidence of social impact, better work-life balance or taking a stance on political or societal issues – helps to shape strategy that will result in higher engagement and reinforced loyalty.

Audience adoption of emerging social platforms also forces marketing teams to constantly rethink strategies and modes of content, be it video-centric content or on-the-go content such as audio. We go where the audience is, delivering content promptly to them wherever they are. Partner brands then have the ability to leverage this unique offering and build deeper connections with these pioneer audiences. We work with major event tentpoles such as PAX, E3, Vivid, TedX, SXSW, CES and even the likes of the Superbowl, Oscars and Grammys.

  1. Personal connections matter

This is of particular importance with the rise and rise of social media and demand for personalised interaction with brands. Personas are getting more diverse and yet more specific. Whether you define yourself as a hardcore gamer, an in-market phone shopper or an IT decision-maker, we’re all consumers at heart, so it’s important to deliver tailored messaging that hits all the buttons in terms of placement, timing and relevance. It sounds simple enough, but so many still get this wrong.

It might also seem that branded content is counterproductive in the quest for authenticity, but that’s not the case. Transparency via disclaimers and labelling seems to reinforce audience trust; up to 80 per cent of readers across CBSi sites say they are happy to consume branded content once it’s labelled correctly.

  1. A brand’s story offers accountability for employees

Every employee in your organisation – beyond your brand team – should be able to define what your brand is about and its key USP. This means that every employee is essentially a marketer of your brand. Having a clear brand purpose not only unifies the way your brand’s story is told to wider audiences, it also provides a clear driving factor for employees. A united, certain brand message makes day-to-day operations, marketing and company goals easier.


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