If Every Brand’s Telling Its Story How Come Most Are Terrible?

If Every Brand’s Telling Its Story How Come Most Are Terrible?

In a follow-up to yesterday’s piece B&T’s regular guest posters, Brian Mitchell (PhD) and Evan Mitchell, the directors of Love & Wine and founders of Gen Y brand specialists HOW&Y (howandy.net), return arguing there’s an art to story telling that appears to be escaping many brands…

“Tell me a story.” The urge it seems doesn’t end with childhood.

The current big story in adland is stories – and everyone’s telling stories about “stories”.

Brand stories, we’re told, lie at the heart of brand experiences and create the brand dialogue that builds brand relationships.

Unfortunately, paying lip-service to “stories” seems to have replaced actually creating them.

Brand stories are powerful – but only when they’re being really told rather than just talked about.

It’s true such stories have their critics. Bob Hoffman (Shift, 2016) ex-agency CEO and now industry provocateur, is sceptical that “consumers want to… be personally engaged with brands and read branded story telling.”

As he quite rightly points out, “People have shaky jobs and unstable families, they have illnesses, they have debts, they have washing machines that don’t work… they have a lot of things to care deeply about.”

Now the kicker – “It’s very unwise to believe that they care deeply about our batteries, our wet wipes and our chicken strips.”

Fact is, though, they do care about those things at very specific moments. At the identification of a need, and at the point of choice. A defining brand story here will make people care… at least enough to clinch that sale.

Brand stories, however, are too frequently glib, slick and superficial. Rarely born of the brand’s DNA. They are stories which, out of the context of that brand, could equally stand for any soft drink, smart phone, watch, car, financial service or submarine.

The best story-telling always reflects values – and it’s no different with brand stories. More so with a Millennial generation positively driven by values. Too often, invoking the “stories” concept seems to absolve all obligation to actually create the stories best expressive of a brand, stories that position the brand and consumer in mutual meaningfulness.

Any brand of substance has many possible stories, many layers of nuance, many story-telling points of departure, messages and morals, and numerous narratives best suited to different media platforms.

Real creativity lies in crafting the message that encompasses these, with shifting themes, different strands of significance, and in-built, ongoing continuity and innovation.

The real brand stories are a marriage of imagination and integrity. Shame that so much advertising “story-telling” is story-telling of the worst kind – short-lived and unconvincing fiction.


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