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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

Branding

5 Things You Can Do To ‘Humanise’ Your Brand

Face it: Consumers don’t automatically trust your brand or anyone else’s. Whaddaya gonna do?

Syed Balkhi

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Let’s face it, consumers don’t trust brands. Most people view companies like faceless enemies; they’re just out to make money; they’re just telling us what we want to hear. So, if your company wants to win over more customers, you’ve got to get them to trust you.

In fact, according to PwC’s Global Consumer Insights Survey 2018, more than one in three consumers surveyed ranked “trust in brand” among the top three factors, other than price, influencing their decision to shop at a particular retailer. How do you get consumers to trust your company? You do it by showing them the human side of your brand. That will inspire more trust from consumers and boost your conversions.

To form meaningful relationships with your audience, check out these five ways to humanise your brand.

Show off your funny bone

netflix-tweet

One easy way is to show off your funny bone. According to researchers from the Turku PET Centre, Oxford and Aalto universities, social laughter leads to an endorphin release in the brain and may promote the establishment of social bonds. So, if laughter can make us feel good and encourage connections between people, you should consider using it to get the same results for your business.

Not a comedian yourself? Don’t worry; you can share popular and funny content that already exists. It’s what Netflix does when the media giant shares funny images from its shows.

Showing your more playful side will help consumers see that you’re not just a business focused on selling a product; you’re a human who can put aside your seriousness and have some fun.

Related: Boutique Branding Consultancy Morake Design House

Put your team members in the spotlight

Letting consumers see the people behind the business is a powerful way to humanise your brand. If consumers are looking at just your logo all the time, they might not see your brand as human. So, put your team members in the spotlight.

Shoot some quality photos of your staff members and display them on your website and your social media platforms. You don’t need to hire a professional photographer; iPhones today can take some pretty stunning shots. You might even share your employee of the month and include a story about what makes that staffer so great. Seeing the amazing people “behind the curtain” will help consumers put a face to the brand name.

Share user-generated content

Sharing user-generated content works to humanise your brand in two ways: First, it’s exciting and flattering to the user who gets his or her photo featured on your website or social media feed. Second, it shows other consumers that you have great relationships with their peers and that those people already enjoy your products.

Instead of being asked to blindly trust a company’s claims, consumers will see real-life people falling in love with your products, which will promote trust in your brand. Example? Airbnb does user-generated content well by sharing with its followers the amazing experiences its customers are having around the world.

airbnb-mozambique-holiday

If you don’t have any user-generated content, ask your customers for it. Do this in an email marketing campaign; add it to your branded packages for shipping; or create a post on social media encouraging users to take a photo of/with your product and share it in combination with a unique, branded hashtag.

Related: 5 Ways To Make Your Personal Branding Statement Stand Out

Tell authentic stories

Don’t spend all your time online just talking about how great your company is; humanise your brand by telling authentic stories. Sharing real stories about your failures, hardships and lessons that you’ve learned will help customers better relate and sympathise with you. According to Psychological Science, research suggests that shared pain may have positive social consequences; shared pain acts as a “social glue” to promote solidarity and togetherness between groups.

So, tell your target audience members stories that they can relate to, instead of simply presenting your brand as perfect. You could even share stories of your customers who previously struggled but then achieved success with help from your company/product. This will not only humanise your brand, but boost sales too.

Show appreciation for your customers

Letting your customers know that you care about and appreciate them is one of the best ways to humanise your brand. So, show appreciation for your best customers by sending them company swag or offering special discounts with a personalised message.

Buffer thanked one of its stand-out customers with not only company swag, but a personalised gift. I’m sure that those customers then became lifelong fans.

buffer-value-adds

Not every company can afford to send out swag to all of their best customers, but sending a gift to just a few of your rockstar fans can go a long way. For a less costly strategy, show appreciation to new customers by simply sending a welcome/thank you email. Not only will such appreciation for your customers humanise your brand, it’ll turn those customers into brand ambassadors.

Related: How A Branded Car Can Boost Your Business

Over to you

Be prepared for your business to have a lot more die-hard customers. With these tips for humanising your brand, consumers will be able to connect with your business, relate to you on a deeper level and want to have a relationship with your company for the long term.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Branding

How A Strong Brand Protects Your Business

Brand enthusiasts are welcome to follow Kyle Rolfe’s latest thoughts on brand building in South Africa and his analysis on relevant global trends and issues via Twitter @kylerolfeSA.

Kyle Rolfe

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It is all too easy for small businesses to become victims of intellectual property theft and seeing their products and services copied by unscrupulous competitors. A clear case in point is that of Woolworths, which was recently accused of copying a baby carrier made by Ubuntu Baba, having a cheaper version made in China and selling it as its own in-house product.

Woolworths eventually apologised and withdrew its product, after Cape Town entrepreneur Shannon McLaughlin exposed similarities between the retailer’s baby carrier and that made by her company, Ubuntu Baba.

Small business owners can protect themselves from having their products or services copied by developing a strong and unique brand.

Brand uniqueness and an authentically developed product will give you a level of protection in the market, as it will be more difficult for a competitor to copy your offering.

What small business owners should avoid is the “white label solution”. This is taking any product, even one manufactured overseas, and putting your own branding and packaging on it and reselling it as your own.

There is nothing stopping your competitor from sourcing that same product and putting their branding on it and selling it as their own. In this case, as a small business owner, you would have no recourse.

Ubuntu Baba’s unique brand and authentically developed product, designed and manufactured locally, is what helped the small business successfully take on a giant retailer like Woolworths. They didn’t simply take someone else’s product and rebrand it as their own, they actually designed and built their own product.

A unique brand and product will position you as more than just a reseller and will give you a certain level of strength and protection in the market. It allows clients to differentiate you from your competitors and can also positively affect their purchasing decisions, directly impacting your profitability.

Effective branding, that is well defined and distinct, will not only help build your reputation, but it will also make you stand out from the competition.

Ultimately, your brand is your business identity. It is the image that you show to your client, making it one of your company’s most valuable assets. Effective branding portrays a company’s values and attracts the right client.

A strong brand identity also has the benefit of making your company appear bigger and stronger than your competition and consumers are generally attracted to well-established companies. So, ask yourself whether your branding conveys professionalism, reliability and trust.

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Branding

Young People Will Reward Brands That Take A Stand

A new generation of consumers are choosing to engage with the brands that share their values and beliefs.

Kian Bakhtiari

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Through much of the last century, advertising obligated people to pay attention to what brands have to say. A handful of television, radio or newspaper channels left the public with no choice but to consume the message that was being communicated. In short, attention was easy to capture, and consumers were powerless to the will of big business.

In the 21st century, we face an entirely new reality – thanks to the internet and the near universal use of social media and digital devices. Nowadays, consumers are confronted with an infinite number of choices; turning attention into one of the most valuable commodities. This is why some of the world’s biggest brands are struggling to connect with people in a meaningful way, in spite of spending billions on advertising.

The power has shifted from brands to the people

Today, online advertising is getting in the way of what people actually want to do with their lives; whether it’s reading an article, watching a documentary or surfing the web. As a consequence, ad-blocking is becoming the new normal. More than 12 million people are blocking adverts in the U.K alone. Unsurprisingly, the highest rate is amongst 16-24-year olds. It doesn’t take a genius to realise that this behaviour is only going to rise with the emergence of a digitally native generation that expects to control every aspect of their online experience.

Like most things in life, this is obvious to the man or woman on the streets, but news to the marketing department. As someone who works in advertising myself: I have experienced at first-hand the amount of time, effort and resources that goes into crafting an advertising campaign. Only for it to be summarily executed at a swipe of a button by one of my friends. Young people’s distaste for adverts also helps to explain the meteoric rise of subscription-based services like Netflix, Spotify and Twitch. These platforms act as a safe house from the constant barrage of adverts.

Related: Robert Kiyosaki on Building Brand Mystique

Young people are engaging with brands that share their values and beliefs

Instead, young people are choosing to engage with the brands that share their values and beliefs. In fact, 64 percent of consumers around the world now buy on belief. At the same time, one in two will choose, switch or boycott a brand based on its stand on a societal issue. The consumers of today are more informed and empowered than ever before. They have all the tools at their disposal to control the relationship they want to have with brands. In this new age of Information, it’s no longer enough to communicate a message, in the hope that it will resonate. To remain relevant, brands need to talk less and do more for people and planet.

The brands that have a purpose beyond profit will not only survive but thrive in this new age of conscious consumerism. Research carried out by Havas shows that meaningful brands have outperformed the stock market by 206 percent over the last 10 years. Enlightened brands recognise this reality and are transforming their entire modus operandi to meet young consumers changing expectation.

You only have to look at Adidas’s pledge to use 100 percent recycled plastic by 2024, Unilever’s mission to Improve health and well-being for more than 1 billion people and Ikea’s ambition of becoming climate positive by 2030. The results are also clear to see: Adidas sold 1 million shoes made of ocean plastic last year, Unilever’s sustainable brands are growing 50 percent faster than the rest of business and Ikea has seen sustainable product sales grow to a cool $1.9 billion.

What it all means

Historically, the role of a brand has been to simplify people’s increasingly busy lives. Today, that’s no longer enough. Young people expect brands to go beyond selling products, services or increasing profit for shareholders. They expect them to stand up for something, to improve lives and to play an active role in tackling global poverty, inequality, and climate change.

Doing good is not only the right thing to do but also a commercial imperative. For brands, this requires a move away from Corporate Social Responsibility — since under such initiatives, doing good is often separated from the core function of the business. In its place, brands need to make their products and services in a way which benefits people, planet and profit by taking responsibility for the overall value chain.

The brands that manage to adapt to this new reality will end up being richly rewarded with a natural place in popular culture, a deeper connection with consumers, business growth and longevity.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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