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How You Can Use Your Story To Sell Your Brand

Markets and customer bases are growing, but this hasn’t dehumanised business. If anything, it’s made the importance of telling your story and standing out from the crowd that much more important. Here’s how you can use a story to sell your brand.

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  • Old school: Punting a product or service.
  • New School: Telling your business and brand story to humanise who you are, the solution you offer, and how you can impact your customers’ lives and businesses.

Do you remember the ‘glu-glug-glug’ TV commercial that stole South Africa’s heart two decades ago? Brand story telling has become an essential element of today’s marketing strategy, but Sasol had the right idea, even then.

What was so special about that ad? Maybe it was the cute boy and his dog; maybe it was just such a magical story. Or perhaps it was the glug-glug-glug that became national code.

I’m talking about the Sasol ad featuring a little red car that glug-glug-glugged the petroleum before it spectacularly raced straight through the wall.

I have no doubt that many of us wouldn’t be able to recall other advertisements on TV during this period, because they contained facts, such as what fuel is made of, or what it does to an engine. Sasol’s ad told a story, and won hearts and minds in the process.

If you don’t remember the advert or are looking for a flashback – watch it here:

Related: The Secret Ingredients to a Successful Branding Strategy

The science behind story telling

Few people can resist the lure of ‘once upon a time’. Story researchers, like Cron, Gottschall and Pink, believe that the human brain is uniquely wired to understand stories, and we will literally become undone without stories.

Stories help us understand others and make sense of the world. While facts engage only the language and numerical sides of our brains, stories grab hold of both brain hemispheres.

Experts call this ‘neural coupling’. It happens organically as a result of good communication — when the communicator and listener literally get on the same ‘wavelength’.

In the best stories, the teller and the listener — the communicator and receiver’s brain activities start to synchronise.

When a person gets hooked by an emotional story, there is understanding, comprehension, empathy, anticipation and receptivity between the communicator and audiences or receivers.

This is effective and successful communication — and the result is trust. Oxytocin, also called the ‘moral molecule’, is released when we ‘get’ a story. That is why stories give us inspiration and solutions.

A brand that has a good narrative is already a winning brand. Coca Cola, Disney, Louis Vuitton and a host of other brands have long implemented the story approach to advertising and marketing.

In this manner, the benefits of the brand are being sold to the consumers, but it compares directly to the experience of real people.

Stories cut through clutter

water-campaign

In today’s 24/7 mediated world, consumers struggle to cut through all the facts, numbers and statistics coming at them every minute. The only way intangible merits of a brand can be sold then, would have to be through story.

We, the users and consumers, need to experience the emotional difference a brand can make for people. And we need visual content to ease our understanding of life.

Many economic marketing professionals argue that facts lead to branding success. The theory is that if I tell you that 663 million people in Africa have no access to clean, safe water, and six million children die annually as a result, it will move you to engage. But, hundreds of other studies state that we live in a time of empathy fatigue, and want to avoid bad news. Because we do not see or know any of those thirsty or dying millions, it means nothing — and we are safe.

Failed nightclub promoter Scott Harrison was horror-struck when he started working in Liberia and found out that 663 million people have no drinking water. He was jolted into action and started Charity: Water.

To appreciate the best examples of brand storytelling, watch The Spring — Ten Years of Charity: Water on Youtube. Within ten years, Charity: Water has saved millions of lives, primarily through donations from brand followers.

Related: The Quick and Dirty on Marketing, Advertising and Branding

The 2015 film, Joy, played by Jennifer Lawrence, is a true story about the brand inventor of Miracle Mops. Joy’s life was a misery of cleaning up after her entire family, which resulted in a personal attempt to make life easier. Against many odds, she started selling her Miracle Mop on cable television, and earned a personal net worth of $50 million. She not only believed in her product, but told her own desperate story with which most women could identify.

Estimations are that we receive around 200 000 bits of information daily. The one-directional communication model from brand to consumers became outdated with the rise of social media.

Today, consumers have tremendous power in their hands through connections with brands via websites, social media and sites like HelloPeter. Once brands realised that this power of the consumer could be re-used in their branding and marketing, advertising and marketing specialists had to adapt.

How clients can tell your story

GoPro is one of the finest examples of brand storytelling, and has proved that a brand can become a force when you care for your consumers. Unemployed Nick Woodman wanted to capture his new surf enterprise, and designed a small, water-resistant camera that captured film in HD.

This was what thousands of adventurers and film companies needed to shoot their experiences. While the brand is now worth $1,4 billion, the remarkable fact is that the advertising budget runs to $50 000 per year. This is because GoPro uses a host of free, accessible and untapped content generated by its brand users.

The GoPro brand simply says: “We’re not just a camera anymore. We’re an enjoyment platform for people around the world to view.” The brand invites all GoPro owners to post their ‘self-adventures’.

GoPro takes ownership of these videos, and polishes and posts them on its own channel. The channel with more than
3,2 million subscribers, now has more than 6 000 videos uploaded on one single day of GoProing adventures. The brand sponsors about 388 professional athletes, who film their adventures with GoPros. These films generate more than 50 million views on Youtube. GoPro’s thousands of filmographers post different stories, but they are all adventurers who share their experiences through their GoPro cameras.

Ah, so what can be easier than telling a story, you think? One brand academic, Neumeier, argues that any brand should answer three ‘little questions’: “Who are you? What do you do? Why does it matter (when there are others like your brand)?” Can you answer the third one?

Let’s imagine someone is in the market for a new car. A brand could supply any number of valuable statistics here: Consumption, speed, comfort and price. Or it could show a group of potential buyers that it understands their problems and lives. This is what Fiat: The Motherhood (500L) does, as a mom with three kids raps her way through a complicated day, followed by a frazzled dad who takes a Fiat 500L drive to get the babies to sleep.

Related: The Psychology of Colour in Marketing and Branding

The art of story telling

All stories have a beginning, middle and end. You also need a person or personality. Usually, there is a problem that needs solving. If you understand why people need your brand, you are close to the solution. Take a memorable person with a problem, bring in the brand, save the day with the story.

Does your brand story exist? If not, you should rethink your branding to give your followers a tangible reason to identify with your product, service or personality. It’s easy to say that about Coke, the Rolling Stones, or Mastercard. But how did ‘baby’ brands like Uber, Airbnb, Spotify and YouTube get to be the brands so quickly?

Airbnb not only caused and used stories, but also disrupted branding and marketing. Nine years ago, two designers, Chesky and Gebbia, were so broke that they rented out their loft. They immediately got bookings from other cities for a similar service. Now, their value of $30 billion outstrips that of hotel chains. Through a direct link between owner and renters, the personal touch has become the hallmark of the brand.

Weave the story around your brand’s personality. Write it, film it, post it. Always stick to the same story and relate to your target consumers and audiences. Figure out how your brand will help shift your consumers from a place of need to one of satisfaction. Since once upon a time, story has never ever disappointed us. So write your brand’s story.

Dr Elsabe Pepler has her Ph.D. in Communication and Media Studies and is a communication and writing and creativity coach. www.elsabepepler.co.za

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Branding

3 Things Taylor Swift Can Teach Entrepreneurs About Reputation Management

Taylor Swift makes certain not one of her fans feels like a number, which is part of why she has more fans than she could possibly count.

Joey Coleman

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How do you get customers to notice the release of a new product? If you’re Taylor Swift, you delete your social media history and then drop a video of yourself in a $10 million diamond bath. Although it’s a bit unorthodox, her approach worked.

The “Look What You Made Me Do” video racked up more than 43 million views in 24 hours, according to Variety – crushing the record for views of a debut video. By the time it became available through streaming services, Swift’s Reputation album had already spent three weeks in the Billboard 200’s No. 1 spot.

What made Swift’s album release so massive? She knows her fan base well enough to create exactly the type of hype her millions of followers respond to best. Brands can follow suit by looking for opportunities to get the attention of their own fans.

Related: The Importance Of Business Reputation

Swift’s fans follow her religiously on Instagram, but if, say, General Electric deleted its Instagram posts, few people would notice and even fewer would care. Entrepreneurs should first find out where their customers are and what they care about in order to figure out the best way to get them to take notice.

What’s the customer experience ‘end game’?

taylor-swift-end-gameCustomers want to feel like they matter, but all too often, they end up feeling like little more than a number. This feeling isn’t unjustified. What’s the first thing the typical business does when it gets a new customer? It assigns that new customer an account number.

Swift differs from a typical business by looking at her customers as unique individuals, even though her millions of fans far exceed the number of customers of a typical business. Swift broadcasts general information to all her followers, of course, but she also goes out of her way on an almost daily basis to engage at an individual level with at least some of her fans.

In a world where the bar for the customer experience is so low that even the most skilled limbo dancer couldn’t slide beneath it, the way businesses interact with customers is more important than ever. Businesses often use size to justify their lack of a positive customer experience.

While a start-up can offer customers a personalised interaction at the beginning, many businesses find it difficult to keep individualised attention and care a priority as they start to add more customers and hire more employees. There are ways to keep the focus on customers’ experiences, though, and Swift’s success in doing this at scale offers three great lessons:

1. Stay true to the “customer comes first” philosophy

Never forget that a company’s success grows directly from the relationship with its “fans.” Swift is under no false illusions. The second her fans decide to stop listening to her music, her career is over. This is why she goes out of her way to cultivate her relationship with her fans on a daily basis.

Her Tumblr page is a prime example of how she takes fan engagement seriously, and she uses the platform to interact with fans on a regular basis by following their pages, commenting on conversations and even sending flowers to fans who need a pick-me-up.

The same must be true of every employee in a company. If the people who come into contact with customers don’t understand and share the enthusiasm for creating a remarkable customer experience, the “customer comes first” philosophy isn’t being put into practice on the front lines.

Related: Richard Branson on Building a Strong Reputation

Never forget that customers are a brand’s fans, and they keep companies in business. Every employee plays a role in making customers feel special and appreciated.

2. Forget the old way of doing things

ticketmasters-verified-fan-programmeFor her most recent concert tour, Swift announced a change in how ticket purchasing will work. Rather than follow the traditional “first come, first served” model – which invites bots to snatch up tickets before actual people can purchase them – Swift’s fans will be allowed to compete for a ranking through Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan programme.

In this model, if a fan exhibits increased engagement by signing up for Swift’s newsletter and sharing about her on social media, the fan is able to purchase better tickets to the concert.

Like Swift, constantly be on the lookout for fun and engaging ways to let customers know that their business is valuable. This will take creativity and may require extra effort, but the response from customers will be worth it.

3. Reward raving fans

Many entrepreneurs worry that if they can’t create a remarkable experience for every customer, it would be unfair to do so for any customer. This means that no customer ends up having a remarkable experience.

Related: How Not to Commit Reputation Suicide

Swift refuses to get tied up in such limited thinking. In 2014, she undertook a project to study the social media accounts of a few of her “superfans,” learning what they liked, who they were friends with, where they worked and other personal details.

Swift then went shopping for Christmas (or “Swiftmas,” as it came to be called) gifts for those fans. These exceptional personalised gifts, sent to only a few dozen fans, were seen by the rest of her fan base as an incredible act of kindness. That made them love her even more, even though they weren’t direct beneficiaries of this special treatment.

Showering your best customers with extra love isn’t unfair to the rest. Set the bar for customer experience high across the board, but do something extra special for your most loyal fans. They deserve it, after all, and there’s no better way to convince a customer “fan” base that they really are more than just a number.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Branding

(Infographic)Top 10 Reasons To Rebrand Your Business

In order to grow, sometimes you’ve got to go back to the drawing board.

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Businesses often need to rebrand, and it can be a result of many reasons, including international growth, new management, a bad reputation or an outdated image. Whatever the reason, it’s important to create a stellar brand that people will remember.

Because of internationalisation, Raider changed its name to Twix. If you plan to grow internationally, it’s incredibly important to choose a brand name that’s adaptable and appealing to cultures worldwide.

Related: (Video) Three Tips To Read Before You Rebrand

Walmart, known for its low prices, is also a prime example of a major company that wanted to reposition itself in the market. However, instead of changing its name, the company simply changed its slogan from “Always low prices” to “Save money, live better.”

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, he changed Apple’s rainbow logo to a sleek metallic one. Keeping up with trends, changing times and his vision for Apple’s future, Jobs’s rebrand worked well and aligned with the company’s brand of offering minimalistic, contemporary products.

If you’re planning to rebrand your business, it’s important to think about what will help your company grow. To learn more, check out Custom Logo Shop’s infographic below for the top 10 reasons to rebrand your business:

1524235416_reasons-rebrand-business-infographic

Related: 5 Steps To Becoming A More Recognisable Brand

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

 

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Branding

3 Ways To Build Your Brand Identity Using Content Marketing

Can your content pass the ‘logo test’? If not, it’ll be just another one of those generic articles that bombard your target audience each day.

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Can your company’s content pass the “no-logo test”? When I work with digital strategy clients who are struggling with content marketing, I always ask them to take the logo test, inspired by this excellent Content Marketing Institute article. You should try it, too.

To do that, copy and paste articles you’ve written, along with articles from your competitors, into Word documents. Print out the documents and lay them side by side. Now, can you identify your content from the competition’s without the aid of any logos or company names? If your content lacks a distinct voice and tone, it won’t stand out.

I get it: When you’re first getting started with content marketing, even publishing a blog post every few weeks can feel like a major victory. But once you work out the mechanics of content ideation, you should put in the time needed to create content that brings your brand to life. Why? In a world drowning in digital clutter, content marketing is most effective when you provide a clear, distinct viewpoint that’s beneficial to your target audience.

“Brand voice is the intentional, consistent communication of your business identity,” brand strategist Dima Midon told me in a recent phone interview. Midon, who founded the brand strategy and digital marketing firm TrafficBox, is an expert in all things SEO and search-engine marketing. He also knows that these digital strategies are incomplete without a solid branded content foundation.

“From start-ups to global businesses, the organisations with the best content strategy are those that create content reflective of their brand’s unique personality and then use this content to build stronger relationships with prospects and clients,” says Midon.

Related: Brand And Marketing: Finding The Balance For SMEs

Branded content has exploded in popularity over the last five years. For clients and customers, reading branded content – in general – is far more interesting and relevant than a marketing ad. “Branded” means content that’s informative, interactive and entertaining and brings value to a reader’s day. Thanks to social media, such content can catch on like wildfire, rapidly reaching a far wider audience than a standard marketing message.

Vision, voice, and value: Bringing branded content marketing to life

As the name implies, “branded content marketing” needs to be grounded in your brand’s identity. If your content can’t pass the “logo test,” it will be just another of those generic pieces daily bombarding your target audience. To make your content stand out, bring your brand identity to life with three steps:

1. Define your vision

Your organisation likely has a mission or vision statement, company goals and core values. Consider how the content you create will reflect this mission, goals and values. Then align this vision with your customer’s needs. Every piece of branded content you create should apply your company’s unique perspective and expertise to problems your customers face.

Example? Consider the “Open Forum” American Express sponsors, to provide small business owners with the “insights, inspiration and connections” they need to grow their business. While topics range from money management to team building, every piece of content Amex publishes here is dedicated to advancing its vision of helping small businesses thrive.

2. Define your brand voice

A distinctive, unwavering brand voice is an essential component of successful content marketing. While you may have a very clear idea of your brand’s voice, ask yourself, is everyone else at your company on board with this voice, too? Brands, like people, need to prioritize certain traits, to build a reputation. Scattered messaging and inconsistent brand voice can confuse your audience.

So, take time now to codify brand voice and guidelines. Many B2B companies, for example, seek to strike a balance between professionalism and accessibility. They want to be viewed as subject matter experts without sounding too technical or complex. Consequently, the corresponding brand-voice guideline might emphasise the use of clear, concise language that avoids technical jargon.

Example? MailChimp’s brand voice is a great example of how a B2B company can strike this balance. The company isn’t afraid to show a little personality with the use of cultural references and colloquial phrases its customers can relate to. Consider the clever Sherlock Holmes reference for the website’s 401 error message, below.

10636-11ro51z

Related: 5 Steps To Building Your Personal Brand From Scratch

What’s the secret ingredient that elevates generic content to a brand-building masterpiece? Your brand voice.

Your own brand guide needn’t be lengthy: Voice and tone can be covered by just a few guidelines. (I’m a fan of MailChimp’s voice and tone guide, available free as part of its master Content Style Guide.) What matters most is that you codify these guidelines so there is a single set of rules for everyone working on content at your company. From the work of freelance writers to that of marketing directors, your company’s content marketing will reflect a consistent brand voice.

3. Define your value

Branded content is beneficial not only for defining the buying vision in your favour but also for reminding existing customers about how valuable your offerings truly are. From case studies to white papers, how can you create content that helps existing customers maximise the value of your offerings? Perhaps you can spotlight a new offering or provide tutorials for advanced features. The key is to use your branded content to move from a transactional relationship to a customer-centric one that delivers real value.

Example? The enterprise software company SAP has nailed this mission. While many of its products and services seem technically complex to the average B2B decision-maker, the company’s white papers expertly explain the importance of digital transformation in accessible layman’s terms. Most importantly, this content is never a “hard sell” for SAP, but instead subtly reminds customers about the valuable benefits SAP can present as a strategic partner.

Rather than sending marketing material to customers touting your “top of the line products,” then, send them branded content that explains how to use your products to solve their problems. Content that maximises perceived value strengthens your brand and drives customer retention.

Related: How DJ Dimplez Built His Brand And Business From A Passion

Bottom line

Content marketing is an essential B2B marketing strategy that’s continuing to gain in importance. According to HubSpot, B2B marketers allocate 28 percent of their total marketing budget to content marketing. But before you too jump on this bandwagon, be sure your content is aligned with your brand vision, voice and value. Doing so will ensure your content is impactful, relevant and worth the investment.

 

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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