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What’s the story with your brand?

02.26.16
What’s the story with your brand?

And, on the eighth day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “I need a caretaker.”

So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows,work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper and then go totown and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board.” 

So God made a farmer.

You may be wondering.
Is this some weird riff on a biblical verse?
The obscure creed of the farm lobbyists?

Neither.  

It’s the opening voice-over for a TV commercial during the 2013 Super Bowl. The voice is broadcasting legend Paul Harvey.

Dodge could have gone the traditional route to promote Ram trucks. It could have talked features and benefits like “rough, tough and reliable.” Most truck brands do. 

Instead, Dodge told a story.   

You can see the full spot here. It’s worth a quick view to get a sense of good brand storytelling.

As I watched the most recent Super Bowl, this Audi commercial struck me in the same zone as ‘God made a Farmer.’ Audi could have prattled on forever about the power of the engine and the speed of the car. Instead, it hooked us with a story of a retired astronaut longing for his glory years. A tad hokey? Maybe. But it’s also emotional. It grabs us.

Stories are remembered.

Here’s the hard truth: on average, we encounter hundreds (even thousands) of brands every day. Plus, we’re bored. When we’re hit with run-of-the-mill marketing tactics – stats and product spex ad nauseum – our eyes glaze over. Anything that isn’t remotely interesting gets ignored. 

Stories help us connect with our audience instead of trying to convince it. Stories work better than facts. They capture attention and get remembered. 

The concept isn’t new. Storytelling has been a connector for thousands of years. Hollywood was built on stories. The whole TED talk phenomenon is based on a simple premise: tell us a story in 18 minutes. 

A few days before Walt Disney died in 1966 he summoned a small group of Disney animators to his bedside. His last piece of advice was this, “Get the story right. Everything else falls into place.” 

The best stories use emotion.  

Most stories, in any genre, follow a similar structure. Some form of tension is introduced at the beginning. It might be a problem, perhaps some uncertainty, maybe even an opportunity. This adds intrigue and hooks us. Once upon a time…”

Brand stories are no different. The key is to make our target customer… not us… the main character, the hero. Our role in the story then becomes to help the hero resolve their problem or capitalize on their opportunity. As the Dodge story unfolds, we see how Ram trucks are indispensable to a farmer’s multi-faceted life. Audi lets our astronaut relive his days of speed and adrenaline.

One of the first stories to use this technique in the Super Bowl era was the infamous Coke spot with Mean Joe Greene.  The Coke story has been rooted in ‘happiness’ for decades. 

Stories are told in different ways.   

The good news is we don’t need $5 million (2016 Super Bowl rates) to tell our story. We can use words, our website, our printed material, speaking opportunities, our next meeting with a prospective client… and many other ways to tell our stories.

  • We can tell the story of our roots.  LL Bean starts its story this way: “In 1911, an avid outdoorsman named Leon Leonwood Bean returned from a hunting trip with cold, damp feet and a revolutionary idea…” The story continues from there, explaining how L.L. started his company with the aim to make a better boot for the Maine hunter (the hero). 
  • We can explain what we’re trying to make better. This specialized insurance advisorytells a simple story of how it supports Canada’s ‘business families’ (the main characters) to successfully transition their capital and endure for generations. Compelling and relevant. 

Brand storytelling applies to all of us in some way.
Big and small. In any category.
In print. On our screens.
In our everyday language.

And we especially need to remember that our target customer is the main character.  

Because the story is always about them, not us.

So ask yourself:

  1. Are you crafting an emotional story that gets remembered?
  2. Are you convincing… or connecting?
  3. Do you make your customer the hero?

~Craig