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 | May 17, 2017

Brand Stories, Part 3: Telling Your Brand Story

posted by , Greg Smith

Telling Your Brand Story

Over the last few weeks, we’ve talked about what a brand story is and how it works. Armed with that understanding, let’s assume you’ve put together a basic narrative concept for your brand. Now what? Well, it’s time to tell it to your audiences. To do that, you’ll need to execute the story concept, engage the audiences with it and evolve the story over time.

Execute the Story Concept

In my career, I’ve heard a lot of pitches for books and videos. The idea of a pitch is to reduce the story to a simple sentence that makes it easy to grasp. In the movies, this is called a “logline.” You don’t get a meeting with anyone in Hollywood until they buy into your one-sentence logline.

Famous Logline Examples

  1. “The aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son.” (The Godfather)
  2. “A computer hacker learns from mysterious rebels about the true nature of his reality and his role in the war against its controllers.” (The Matrix)
  3. “Lion cub and future king Simba searches for his identity. His eagerness to please others and penchant for testing his boundaries sometimes get him into trouble.” (The Lion King)

Verbal & Visual Vocab

When I work with a brand, I like to develop that sort of one-sentence brand story. But the obvious problem is that this one-sentence story isn’t an actual brand campaign any more than the loglines above are actual movies. The idea needs to be well-executed.

To do that, you need to develop what I like to call a “verbal and visual vocabulary.” What should this brand sound like, look like, feel like? Coppola’s Godfather was shot in browns and golds, evoking the Italian roots and centuries-old traditions of the Corleone family. The dialogue was written to evoke the dynastic tensions, yet juxtapose them with brutal business realities. The verbal and visual vocabulary of The Godfather is told in a completely different language than The Matrix or The Lion King.

Composition

Once you’ve decided what “language” you’ll use to execute your brand story, you move onto composition, choosing the media (web, print, radio, video, etc.) that you’ll tell it through, and begin building concepts, storyboards, and wireframes. History is full of great ideas that were badly executed. That’s why you need an expert by your side to help you pull it off. 

Engage the Audiences

You need people to listen to your story, and for that, you have to get their attention. That means eyeballs, ears, clicks, opens, etc. One of the first strategic choices you’ll need to make is whether to broadcast or narrowcast your story.

Broadcast

To broadcast is exactly what it sounds like: you cast your story out there, broadly to the wind, and hope that enough people notice to turn attention into action. You buy TV or radio commercials, put a billboard along the interstate, hire a plane to pull a banner over the beach on the Fourth of July. Obviously, the more generally interesting your product is, the better this works. If you’re selling beer or potato chips, broadcast is the way to go—I mean, who doesn’t like beer and potato chips? How much more narrowly could you define that demographic? Write a huge check and write your message across the sky.

Narrowcast

But suppose you’re selling tractor parts to farmers, or HVAC control systems to building supervisors. Sure, there might be a farmer or building supervisor on the beach on the Fourth of July, but having a plane pull a banner over the crowd to potentially reach 1% of the people on it seems like a waste of money.

In cases where the brand appeals to a relatively narrow demographic, you’ve got to figure out how to narrowcast your story. You want every marketing dollar to get in front of the eyeballs of the people who might buy it. That takes careful strategic and tactical planning for how to spend your budget. For that, again, you’ll need an expert who can help you plan an efficient campaign.

Evolve the Story

Sometimes, you come up with a great brand story, like Fly the Friendly Skies!, only to have your employees beat up and drag a bloody doctor off the flight in front of a hundred people with phones, posting the video to YouTube in real time. Or maybe your brand story revolves around your product being an upstart product, challenging the establishment (Apple), only to become a victim of your success and over a generation become the behemoth that controls the industry.

The point is that the story usually needs to evolve over time. Your brand story is always cast within context. It’s always relative to a time and place, a culture and market. But conditions change, markets change, products change, consumers change, competitors change, etc. To stay relevant, much less competitive, you have to be constantly evolving, adjusting, tweaking, retelling, repositioning.

To successfully tell your brand story and manage its evolution, you need TIS—your brand ally—to help execute the story and navigate any changes. Contact TIS to get started on the evolution of your brand story.