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Most advertising and marketing appeals to customers on an emotional, rather than rational level. Everything from graphic design to carefully worded blog posts can be part of your branding. In the modern marketing world, you can’t opt out – customers will use assess your professionalism based on your choice of fonts on your flyers. It’s not conscious and it is inevitable. You’ve already made a judgement about the quality of the advice in this article based on irrelevant factors like the font, the image quality and the heading style. We hope you like them.
The unconscious and emotional aspects of how we shop are well served by narratives. Our brains are particularly adept at storing and responding to stories, so brand stories are a great marketing tool. Simple brand stories are narratives you tell your customers, for example in an advert. More complex brand stories create an ethos that both employees and customers can buy into. A few brand stories take it further and turn into a social movement. We’ve got examples of each below.
Soft drink brands, including both Coca-Cola and Pepsi, have been using brand stories for so long that vintage advertisements are now collectable. The image here isn’t from any ad campaign, but you could probably write the description yourself: Coke and Pepsi are for young, happy people doing fun things in the sunshine. Brand stories like the ‘Share a Coke with…’ named tins build on this image.
By positioning soda as something that’s shared and drunk in social situations, these brands open the market to wider groups than the ones they show in the pictures. By showing wholesome, happy faces (rather than the nightclubs shown in adverts for alcohol) they encourage us all to identify being happy and having fun with having a soda. And a lot of the time, we do reach for a fizzy drink when we’re out having a laugh.
No longer just a way of getting from A to B, C and D, shoe manufacturers are building brand stories based around customer ethics and identities. From sporting brands like Nike to do-gooders like Toms, footwear has been turned into a personal statement. With advertisements that roll like miniature movies, it’s easy to believe you’re buying a lifestyle along with your sneakers.
Company ethics and principles make a great brand story when they’re positive and work for both your team and your customers. If your core business principle is ‘the boss takes all the money’, it’s unlikely to motivate either your employees or your team. On the other hand, a brand story like ‘we’re the sort of company who cares whether poor kids have shoes’ will resonate positively with both your staff and your clients.
Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty has been running since 2004, which is an astonishing shelf-life for a marketing campaign. The soap maker’s campaign has had mixed responses and lots of press. In a world of size 0 models and ubiquitous air-brushing, the idea that beauty should be ‘a source of confidence, not anxiety’ stood out. It’s an interesting brand story as many beauty brands prefer to point out their customers’ flaws and then offer to fix them.
A brand story that your staff believe in empowers and encourages them. These brand stories can’t be effective if the truth is stretched thin, so it’s essential to use your company’s real values to create them. If you’re truly tired of some unpleasant industry practice, are truly committed to customer service or sustainable product development, then those are the values to create a brand story around.
Designing a narrative can seem daunting but the best brand stories come out of a company’s strengths. Dove isn’t an exclusive, high-end designer brand – it was already being used by women of all ages and figures before it created the brand story described above. Likewise, the social aspect of soda and the personal statement element of clothing and footwear existed before the brand stories were created. Capitalise on your strengths and develop your own brand story.