Many books have described our nature to create meaning, through stories out of randomness. Heider and Simmel showed this in a classic film starring a triangle and a circle.
Tell me the story you told yourself.
Many books have described our nature to create meaning, through stories out of randomness. Heider and Simmel showed this in a classic film starring a triangle and a circle.
Tell me the story you told yourself.
Storytelling has become popular across many different media in the last few years and a lot has been written about both the story and the telling parts of storytelling. One potential problem in the overuse of the word storytelling (am I am guilty as charged) is the difference in discipline of storytelling and storyshowing. Storyshowing is the way of communicating a whole story with one image. I do not mean film , where a story is told – with or without words by showing a series of images. Storyshowing is based on semiotics and rooted deeply in symbolism. I think its sometimes it is worth thinking if the story we want to get across is best told or shown.
There are some great examples of storyshowing like the VW Lemon advertisement and the recent series of HSBC Ads I like so much. Normal advertising and storyshowing advertising are separated by the effect each has on the audience and they are both needed. In great storyshowing ads, the creative conjures up a scene in the audience’s head where a subtle problem is shown. Solving the problem activates a story and revels meaning behind the image. Because the story is self created is is more authentic and more likely to be remembered,
Newspapers have known this power for many years and photo journalism is a very powerful media. After all a picture can paint a thousand words. Brilliant images are able to convey all these words, meaning and emotion in one instant. The power in storyshowing is the speed the message and meaning that can be communicated along with the memorability of the message compared to other branding that relies on copy to carry it,
What picture for you says a thousand words? and what is your brand visual that does the same?
Jonathan Gottschal puts it well in the “Storytelling Animal” that history is a story we tell ourselves but its only from one viewpoint and the future is a story we tell ourselves that we want to come true. Phillip K Dick , the master of Sci Fi storytelling, said that reality is what you have left when stop believing in everything. Daniel Kahneman in his best seller “Thinking Fast and Slow” writes it best for me. He says that our brains have evolved to seek out stories to make what we see and experience understood. Story then is our central learning and reference system.
Kahneman continues by explaining that we can think of our brains having two controlling systems, an intuitive system and a rational system. The intuitive system is fast, quick to make judgement and desperate to make a complete story to tell the slower, heavier processing rational system. It seems we have a general tendency to favour the intuitive system and only when this fails to make sense of what we see we use the rational system. In order to keep us processing quickly we use little stories, well-known to us that are similar to the experience at hand. Even when we do not have a complete picture this system will create a story so convincing that we feel that it is real so that our rational system is convinced it doesn’t need to engage. This is why we feel so many situations are familiar. This is why we need stories.
For humans this gives us a big evolutionary advantage. We can make connections between similar events and “know” what to do when confronted by similar situation. It’s this process that tells us to be defensive when we see certain expressions on people’s faces. This system is so good that we can pick out dangerous people in a crowd and avoid them. Our minds complete the information in front of us telling us a story that reminds us that such people are to be avoided as we see the future flash through our mind with the man approaching and trying to steal the bag you are carrying.
Brands can benefit from this system too. Brands that connect inner stories with memories can tap into their associated emotions. These emotions will sway our decisions whether to desire brands or not. However when there is no story to a brand we create one ourselves and engage the rational system more to help us make choices. There is also a downside to our desire to have the intuitive system make quick decisions. It can mean that we fail to analyze all the available information settling for the seductive and easier life offered by the story to by the intuitive system.
Does this mean that by employing storytelling we are hoodwinked our audiences and encouraging them to make quick opinions of brands without deeper and more rational considerations? I don’t think that this is the true. Yes advertising can create sales when appropriate stories are used. Whether you intend to tell as story as part of your communication or not, consumers are wired to tell a story anyway. Storytelling only becomes persuasive when it is authentic and resonates. When brands tell stories that don’t seem genuine and the brand experience is counter to the story being told the we sense it and require more processing and conscious involvement to create action.
Writing in favor of authentic stories to aid communications, I think the power of story is captured by Kahnemen’s concept of Processing fluency. The ease that we process information and make decisions. By applying the intuitive brain’s inbuilt library of stories we are able to increase processing fluency using less mental energy and allowing the brain to move on to other decisions. When there is no clear story there is a need for the slower rational system to help in the decision process and this reduces processing fluency and is less desired as it limits decision-making. Have you ever been in a shop and argued with yourself whether or not to buy something. The more you wrestle in your mind back and forward the less likely you are to purchase because your rational side is slowing the process down and your cognitive fluency falls. This can be a good thing preventing you from making a mistake but it also represents a lack of faith in the story told by the intuitive system.
In Pharmaceutical sales & marketing we are trying match both the intuitive and rational systems of our minds, We want the intuitive system to find ease and comfort in processing the story the brand tells but we also want to have concordance with the slower rational side of decision-making. The best pharmaceutical brands activate the intuitive system to create cognitive fluency and supports the deciding rational system with compelling clinical evidence providing the logic for clinical decisions. As a pharmaceutical marketer you need to employ both a compelling story and great evidence in the form of clinical studies to introduce a new brand.
For clinical practice to change with the introduction of new medicines it’s clear that we need real evidence of the value each new medicine brings. However understanding this value is not always easy, as the value is always in reference to an existing medical option. Like all other times when we need to understand something we look for ways to help our brains make sense of the information we are presented with. Simple references are dealt with in a metaphorical way. For example “This is a bit like that”. In more complicated conversations, archetypes guide us on a knowing path to help toward the expected outcomes of conversation. Wrap these up and you have the beginnings of a Pharma story. It’s the narrative that surrounds brands, value propositions and clinical evidence.
It’s highly probable that the work by Daniel Kahneman in ‘Thinking Fast and Slow” supports the thought that we naturally resist new ideas or concepts without a resonating story. Kahneman says this is due to our desire for cognitive fluency. Fluency is a state where the intuitive system of our minds readily processes information as it looks for meaning. Where meaning cannot be found the reasoning part of our brain takes over and enters a slower but more methodical approach to work out meaning. As he says the brain is lazy and likes a compelling story to guide it.
Changing medical practice requires compelling data and product evidence, but eventually to complete the complex and distant sales model we need compelling stories or short narratives. We need the intuitive system to give the green light for the rationale system to engage and make the changes suggested by the data. In the absence of a compelling story the intuitive system can create a story of its own with the potential for biased assimilation of data ie the use of data to support reasons not to use the brand. For this reason even the best evidence based brands can struggle to engage without a compelling story to carry the data into understanding.
Our jobs in creating the Pharma story are to generate significant advances in clinical data but also to enable cognitive fluency in the communication of it. Our minds are set to look for and create stories. Phama needs to connect its data with compelling stories that aid understanding.
Great brands are easy to spot. They are iconic, talked about and present in our lives. Some of these brands are goods like iPods, or watches, some are cars, while others are medical, like Aspirin. Brands extend past objects to people, like David Beckham or Obama and even to countries.
After writing on the topic of storytelling for a while I have seen how storytelling is central to brand image creation and brand destiny. I have seen there are different types of stories that people tell around brands. Great brands have the effect of creating happiness for the people using them or the people and communities around them. The happiness created may be long or short-lived but either way there are different types of story associated with brands.
I have seen many brands use storytelling but fail to connect to their audience in the way that brand makers intend. As brand makers we are all trying to get our brands used and heard by our audiences but the challenge of being listened to is getting harder. So why is that? Why do our brands either connect of fail to connect? I think there are five levels of brand storytelling that you need to consider when building your story so you can be sure you are going to connect to your audience.
Level 1: Reciprocity, drive and enthusiasm
Level 2: Inspiration, persuasion and motivation
Level 3: Trust and authenticity
Level 4: Choice and freedom
Level 5: Happiness
I have an idea that we are all aiming to create happiness in creating and selling brands. Happy customs are good customers. Unhappy customers don’t often come back for seconds. Storytelling is important to creating brand equity through customer happiness. Each of the levels lends itself to different types of story and different types of telling. Great brands are able to build the pyramid of stories moving the customer experience from level 1 through to level 5. When you look back at the list, these levels create the connectedness many of us have felt when we have experienced a great product, service and brand. Think back to some of the legendary brands like Coke, Nike, Apple, Starbucks and Harley and you will be able to find the following types of stories.
Level 1: Stories of what the company gives to the customer how it makes the customer feel. What we give.
Level 2: Stories that describe effect of our brands on our customers. What we create.
Level 3: Stories of the company or brand philosophy behind the brand. What we become known for.
Level 4: Stories that customers tell about purchasing or acquiring the brand. What customers get.
Level 5: Stories that customers tell of using the brands.What customers want.
It may seem that we should only focus on the stories on level 5 “Creating Happiness” but the more I think about it the more I see that this is only really successful when the base of stories is also in place. The connectedness between these stories come from lots of different research looking at happiness. The stories we tell that show our happiness in life are those where we are in flow. We are free to tell those stories and happy to do so. Can you remember wanting to tell you best friend about the latest thing you bought? Something you were really proud of? Something that signalled a little part of your personal arrival. Something you repeated a little story about to different friends? Important stories that precede these are stories of the choices you made and the freedom to make those. To enable these choices, stories that the company making the brand must have communicated to you were stories that enabled trust and the authenticity that breed trust in you to part with money. Once again, there is a lower level of story that told by great brands to enable this trust. Before trust and use come the ability to move people to do something different. Stories that motivate , inspire and persuade people are important. You can’t create trust and authenticity without desire! Lastly its been well-studied that people become givers through reciprocity, giving without expectation of receiving. The enthusiasm crafted in level 1 that creates the drive and reciprocity is essential to gain access to people minds.
I think people have told stories from these different levels since story telling began. As Jonathan Gottschall says we are a “The Storytelling Animal” we are literally programmed to tell stories about everything. For the first time I think its possible to see how these different stories work together to build Superbrands.
I have had several teachers along the way to help me towards this view. Here are most of the masters creating compelling stories across these levels. I’m indebted to them for their inspiring work and making me think everyday.
Happiness: Rubin, G. 2008. The Happiness Project. Harper.s
Freedom: yengar, S. 2009. The Art of Choosing. Twelve.
Choice: yengar, S. 2009. The Art of Choosing. Twelve.
Authenticity: Cialdini, R. B. 2005. influence. HarperBusiness.
Inspiration: Roberts, J. M. 2007. Igniting Inspiration. Booksurge Llc.
Persuasion: Borg, J. (2006). Persuasion. Pearson Education.
Motivation: Burg, B., & Mann, J. D. (2009). The Go-Giver. Pengui
Drive: Pink, D. H. 2010. Drive. Riverhead Trade (Paperbacks)
Reciprocity: Cialdini, R. B. 2005. influence. HarperBusiness. Burg, B., & Mann, J. D. (2009). The Go-Giver. Penguin
Storytelling: Simmons, A. (2005). The Story Factor. Basic Books (AZ)
Burg, B., & Mann, J. D. (2009). The Go-Giver. Penguin
In my last post I wrote about the Story Map I used to analyze stories and search for ways to incorporate brands into well known narratives. By using the same tools as Hollywood its possible to effectively place your brand inside a well known story which takes very little energy (and money) to communicate its core idea to your audience.
In this post i’ll demonstrate the principles of the story map using the well known comic strip story and Hollywood blockbuster Batman. First, here is the story map in table form. Its easier to use on a computer this way but the four circle version lends itself to brainstorming and classroom formats. Choose the one that is easier for you to use.
A wealthy businessman who as a boy who sees his parents killed becomes a masked avenger of Gotham‘s evil criminals. He battles for justice and a better society while risking his real identity becoming known.
I got to the premise by writing each of the nine lines to define the story and choosing the voice words from each of them to get to the premise. Now I know its easy to do this for such an iconic story but I’ve also used it to generate the stories for my brands at work and some of the best know Pharma brands. I’ll post some pharma brands in the next posts.
What is a story made up from? Over the last few years of writing about storytelling in Pharmaceuticals and other major branding genres I have always struggled to answer the question in a simple way. Plato suggested that all stories have a beginning middle and end and Aristole wrote about pathos, logos and ethos. Others have shown that stories can be boiled down to seven major themes and its fascinating to see that Cinderella was told in Europe, India and China at the same time even though there was no possibility of the story having been passed from one region to another. Like the other stories this was a “Universal Story” an understanding we are born with supported by our cultures and our humanity. Part of the universality of stories was explored by Carl Jung with his work on archetypes as universal characters who behave in well known and expected patterns.
Even knowing these elements of stories and what makes them good and bad, I still find it difficult to explain to people what the essence of a story is. Perhaps the story premise or long line is as close as you can get to the real essence of a story. It’s the boiled down content that everyone can easily digest. But this still doesn’t help me in the way I need to explain the ideas of storytelling and how they apply to building great brands. To help me I created the “Four Circle Story Map” as a way to breakdown the contents of a story into its building blocks. The Story Map can be used to either dissect story into its components or to build a compelling story from scratch. As all brand architects know get the brand story straight in the early days is vital to create effective brand communication and sales.
The Four Circle Story Map is based on Michael Hauge’s observations of how to pitch stories and plays to Hollywood. As I sat in my Swiss holiday chalet with the kids playing Memory behind me I stole a short time go over the Michael’s advice and read through many of my old Moleskin note books that go with me everywhere. I saw four circles overlapping to capture the interplay between elements Hauge suggest are key to pitching and therefore creating a story that leaves people wanting to learn more. The four major circles represent the key elements of a story. If it doesn’t have these then I don’t think you can tell a story. The are the hero or protagonist; the conflict; the story set up and the deep issues the story tackles. As you can see in the picture below those circles overlap in certain places like a Venn diagram. Where they intersect they cause interactions that define the hero’s opportunity; the story tension and the hero’s arc. Further overlaps define the protagonists motivation and the empathy that the protagonist employs in the story and of course the overlap of all these is the essence of the story.
A good story is defined by how a protagonist moves to resolve a conflict in its journey, employing empathetic traits to engage an audience and live true to its outer motivation. To make it easy to use as a tool the circles can be used as a list of question that create all you need to know to understand your story. I use this now to capture the elements of other people’s stories and the elements of great brand communications (stories) for Pharma and beyond.
By working through the nine elements you are forced to thing about the different interactions the elements have in the story. It will help you see if everything hangs together well and will help you get at really concise premise that you can use to catalyze your communications. When i’m creating brand stories I use this to see where the brand will be used. What role does it play in the story and to keep the brand in the story relevant and authentic. I think this helps you focus on who your audience is. How your brand will fit into their narrative and how you might want to tap into that life narrative with your communications.
To get started, try it on a film and then a brand you know well. When your set make some notes about your brand and have a go with the circles or list. Let me know how it goes.
It struck me that happiness at any level is the result of many other feelings and actions. The diagram below is the simplest mental model I could create. It says that happiness is created from Trust, Choice and Freedom. I think brands are able to create happiness when they help us tell stories of trust, stories of choice and stories of freedom. If we want customers to tell happiness stories with our brands as actors in the story we have to focus on getting brands stories to overlap around trust, choice and freedom. That’s not to say people won’t be moved to buy brands without these stories but its likely they will move quickly to other brands. Creating happiness allows you to create fans and generate long-term relationship.
What is that makes a brand great. Why do we have likes and loyalty to objects and do marketeers really have influence over our minds? We certainly know our minds most of the time. We make choices of one product over others, hundreds, if not thousands of times a day and most of the time we do this without the really thinking about it. Choice of this over that is influenced by many factors and we are only starting to understand what makes us choose. Certainly our reasons for choice differ depending on the category we are choosing in. The way we choose cabbage is very different to the process we go through for buying a flat screen television. The consequences of choice can be a big factor. Does it matter if the choice is right or wrong? In medicine this can literally the difference between life or death, but not all decisions have this level of consequence. The time frame we have to choose in can also make a difference to the way we make choices if we are pushed into making choice. Other known levers of choice are emotion and familiarity. It’s certainly harder to be chosen without some level of product or company familiarity. So the general formula for brands we like are; brands we know, have experience with a brand or at least a previous experience with the parent company, where we have time to choose and the consequences of choosing that brand are not likely to be negative or the brand is the option where the outcome is most positive out of all the available options.
“If your brand can fit a story line your customer is telling themselves your brand can get integrated into the customers life.”
Loyalty comes from brand authenticity and user experience. I’m a big fan of fans. They are better than customers because they will go beyond your vision of the brand. They tell you how to sell to them and in return for your listening and repeated delivery of your brand promise that resonates with them, they reward you by becoming advocates. They tell your brand story for you and make it credible with their own authenticity. Brand fans are more than rationally involved with the facts of your brand, they have belief in your brand and see a bigger picture. Loyalty then is the repeated acceptance of your core brand promise and the interplay with the users emotions and experiences. But can marketing pull the wool over customers eyes and influence them to do things against their will? In some superficial ways yes marketing or advertising can create temporary movement but this doesn’t create fans and has been shown to be unsustainable. This model trades on, at best mis-truths and often on deception. The lack of authenticity is felt and the brand support dies. Superbrands therefore trade of the evidence and repeated user experience to reinforce the initial choice and act as a frame of reference for all the other brands not chosen in the same category.
But how do brand and corporate stories help make these Superbrands standout and become long lasting? In his book, The Visual Story, Bruce Block writes, “the audience realizes the character is acting in a certain way because you need him to act that way (mechanical) and not because he needs to (organic).” In the same way when you wish to impose how your audience uses your brand they will see this as mechanical. Creating your customer experience based on the way they organically want to use and see your brand will create, loyalty, trust repeating it the experience creates authenticity. Stories then are the way that you can build brands that help customers organically accept your brand into their life.
If your brand can fit a story line your customer is telling themselves your brand can get integrated into the customers life. Your brand story then is the small communication that transports the customer to think of their own story. As these two stories blend and if your brand can be experienced at the same time with varied visual volume you and your customer will create a new story together. Each time there is a choice to be made the story that encompasses your brand gets played and you are chosen. More importantly this new co created story is the one that gets told by the customer to their network getting you closer to more people than todays advertising budgets allow. This is where I would invest my efforts generating a group of fans.
I think understanding the nature of story in marketing helps lower the fear I hear in people when I talk about telling brand stories. I think people feel they need to write War and Peace and not a short ,well worded phrase, that can transport the audience to their inner story. I see this in my mind as the tributaries of a rivers of thought in a customers head, constantly flowing. When I tell a brand story that matches the speed and direction of one of these tributaries, together we form a new flow. When I get this wrong its like standing in the river trying to walk upstream. For a while i’m able to stay their but eventually I will just get swept away.
So our jobs become clear. We need to be sure that we know the inner stories our customers are telling themselves every day. Then we need to see the best one our brand can swim with. The story then is the instrument that brings this life story to the surface and allows co creation. For example the main narrative around arthritis for a primary care physician may be on keeping patients stable for the longest time. While stories of pain free days are important evidence they are a bit like walking upstream in the arthritis conscious river. Communication (stories) based on real data on the reassurance the physician could give a patient about the stability they can co create with brand x starts to flow together. How the physician uses the brand, the results he sees and how the company supports the gathering and retelling on the effect is what I spend my time creating and ensuring so I generate brand fans.
I don’t think you can do it with cabbages but for just about everything else I think understanding people’s stories, creating targeted brand stories and helping customers retell stories can create Superbrands.
Successful brands create states of happiness which may last for seconds or become a permanent for the user. Happiness is a better gauge of brand success than equity measures we often use today. It seems that happiness, at least on one level, is connected to choice and that in turn is connected to freedom. So only with freedom can you get true choice and happiness. To enable choice , we need freedom to do the things you want the way you want to and feel freedom from things that restrict your ability to do things.
Creating happiness with your brands you need to create brand stories that generate a sense of choice and freedom. In a crowded market freedom is not often an issue but its worth seeing if there are any openings for brand stories that create “freedom to” or “freedom from ” stories. Stories for choice are vital forces for second to market brands. The power of choice is often overlooked as an empowering communication position for brands entering into a closed or restricted market space. Buyers that accept choice stories create freedom and happiness.
There are good examples of freedom stories for brands like Harley and Landrover. You would expect this for brands like this but pharmaceuticals also tell these stories too. Lunesta tells stories of freedom to sleep and freedom from the nightmare of insomnia. The more you think about it the more brands you can think of pharma brands that could tell freedom stories to both physicians and patients. Freedom in viral disease, freedom in oncology brands as well as well-known freedom stories in erectile Dysfunction. Some stumbled upon the freedom story and therefore create happiness in ability to create freedom from and freedom to but some have still to find it inside their brand identity to unlock their potential.
Choice on the other hand is a special sort of story that harnesses the power of freedom and the human need for autonomy. As Dan Pink writes in Drive. Autonomy is a key need for humans. The ability to choose in a category where there was . No choice is powerful if the audience is told stories about how this choice helps them be more free and how this give them more autonomy. Reading many of the IT Superbrands like IPOD, IPAD and windows the incumbents could have used the freedom angle to create choice and activate feelings of autonomy leading to happiness. Once again Pharma brands can use these stories built from evidence based medicine to demonstrate freedom to choose as new entrants to a market.
This isn’t to say that pharma brands do not need differentiation based on sound patient important outcomes. On the contrary, these become the price of entry. However to get noticed you might have to use this and stories that activate basic drivers for change, Freedom, Choice and Happiness.
Here is the article I wrote for Superbrands Swedish Edition 2011.
One of the most recent trends in business communications is storytelling. It’s an ancient art that has been suppressed in the modern world in favour of data, facts and attributes. Superbrands though, have all found a way to resurrect storytelling in their DNA and this is one of the core reasons for their differentiation and success. Finding your brand story can unleash untold opportunities to connect to your audience in a more relevant, authentic and value creating way.
There are schools of thought that say B2B brands do not need the same brand building attention as their B2C counterparts and B2B Brands are purchase in a less emotional and more rational way than in a consumer market. This isn’t a view that I subscribe to. I believe that we engage with brands in the same way. We are motivated to engage with brands that are relevant and fulfill part of the personal story of the purchaser. We do not leave our consumer minds behind when we enter an office, so it’s no surprise that B2B Superbrands pay as much attention to the essence of great consumer brand building with techniques like storytelling.
Origin of stories
Before spoken communication evolved, stories people told stories though symbols, drawings and dance. Stories were the original medium of communication between people and they are how we started our vast capability for learning and education. Even before the written word was widely used, epic stories of wars, far off lands and monsters filled the evening air as a form of both entertainment but also as a way of creating learning, and establishing society values. It’s no surprise that storytelling at the heart of Aboriginal, African and all other ancient civilizations. Stories create meaning for ourselves and pass on our knowledge. Society uses stories to create an identity for its communities. These communities use stories to create understanding of the rules that apply.
So deep is this process of storytelling in our psychobiology that the brands we connect with today are evaluated subconsciously by which story they tell us. Superbrands tell us stories that resonate and are relevant. If you do not tell a story that resonates with your audience, you will not be recognised and will disappear. All too often brands today are built on platforms that communicate product attributes or benefits but are not part of a story. When your market research shows you that your audience is not aligned with your messages it is likely that they are not becoming part of your targets personal story.
It does not matter if you are creating a business-to-business brand, a business to consumer brand or you as personal brand. The aim of your communications will be to strike a relevant chord in your prospects mind. Getting this attention has been the work of every branding creative agency for the last fifty years. Initially it was easy, but as the volume of brand information increased it got much harder to be heard through all the noise. What separates out the Superbrands is their ability grabs this attention. This is done through delivering relevance and meaning which creates a long lasting connection with your audience. The best way of creating relevance for your brand is to ensure your brand plays part of your target audience’s personal story. So it is not about you creating a great story for your brand, it is about knowing your audience and their story and how your brand fits in to that story. The great thing about stories is that there are only a few basic stories and they go across cultures. If you have ever read a story to children you remember that if you miss out a word by mistake, a child will to correct you because they know these stories so well. There is something about a story that even if you have heard it many times you want to hear the end. The cinema industry knows this well. It creates films based on well-known stories and even though you know how the plot will unfold, you still want to see the end. Good stories are based on six basic themes.
People build up stories based on these themes which you can think of as an inner library. When they encounter a new object they generally fit to one or more of these categories. Your brand will be measured against way that other brands fit into these story themes. If your brand can enable the audience to fulfill that story, better than another brand, you will have created deep and long lasting brand loyalty.
To understand how your brand can tell an impactful story we must introduce the role of archetypes and metaphors. We all know that great stories have compelling characters. Carl Jung’s analysis showed that there were a set of common characters universally understood and recognised and more importantly that these characters had story lines that they always followed. The characters are known as Archetypes who follow story Arcs. Great examples of these are the Hero (much discussed in Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces). Other archetypes such as Jester, Magician, Sage and Guardian all have a defined personality and follow story arcs. When we think of brands, these archetypes can be translated into a brands personality. Audiences understand these brand personalities because the archetypes are universally recognized. Smart marketers understand their audiences and the how a brand will be incorporated as part of the personal journey or story. People use brands just like props in a film to accomplish tasks and to transition from one chapter to the next.
Superbrands are built by creating a personality that fits into the audience’s story arc. The great news is that when brands get this right the effort communicate the brands personality is significantly lower than unfocused brands. When you look to brands that work in this way, you will instantly recognise them as brands that launched with relevance and created instant market penetration with minimal need for mass communication. In fact these brands are characterised by audience word of mouth communication which isn’t a surprise as because word of mouth communication is storytelling. We do this every day by telling small stories to each other over coffee or other places where we meet. We tell stories to each other and incorporate relevant brands into those stories but we only incorporate stories that are easy to tell. Building brand stories based on archetypes allows your audience both understand your brand and re tell it.
Brand Storytelling Manifesto
The Brand Storytelling Manifesto sets out to provide a framework to change that future for your brand. The central theme for this is storytelling that allows your customers to understand and interact with your brand. Here is the manifesto.
Business to Business branding in the next decade
As an example, I would single out the Schindler Group as a well thought through B2B brand. With a heritage in creating lifts and escalators, they have not settled for the easy ground of function. They have effectively evolved their vision and value stories to encompass the concept of “vertical mobility”. They have rebuilt their brand around stories of moving people to higher places engaging many of the tools discussed in this article.
Just as we expect there is a large emphasis on branding and advertising towards consumers. Only in recent years has the B2B sector come under the spotlight. Just like their consumer counterparts B2B brands must build enthusiasm, trust, personality through a mixture of right and left brain stimuli to ensure the emotional as well as the rational brain is served. The stories that help you connect and understand what to do with consumer brands like Disney and Apple also help us connect with brands focused on business customers. Cisco, Fedex, 3M and Schindler are all examples of companies investing in creating both corporate as well as product and service brand stories.
Prezi is the newest presentation tool that allows you to present in a non linear way. prezi.com This is great move forward allowing people to tell a story in an engaging visual way rather than Powerpoint slide after Powerpoint slide. The first chapter of the twitter book I wrote earlier this year in now on Prezi for your to view and download here.
In an interview about the Boomtown Rats, Bob Geldorf spoke about the importance of the pop video. In many ways it explains why storytelling works so well. “In a three and a half minute video, somehow your left with the complete idea of the band and the song and how it appropriates ideas in the mind of the viewers”.
This supports an earlier idea that stories are best told with Varied Visual Volume. Read more here..
I have just finished reading Buy.ology, a great book by Martin Lindstrom.It’s a well written discussion of the rise of neuromarketing and his research to find parts of the brain associated with different aspects of Brand equity and desire. There is a great discussion of mirror neurones promoting like for like actions and creating desire for brands when you see other people using or wearing them. He also discusses the need for full immersive brand narrative to enable product placement to work. Rituals and Superstitions as a habit-forming pattern that can aid brand adoption. Religion, Sensory marketing and sex are also highlighted for being closely related experiences that activate emotion used in branding and advertising.
Part of his book talks about somatic markers- or shortcuts to brain bookmarks that code for experience, emotion, reward or punishment. Brands can create somatic markers and be reactivated later to relive the emotion and the sense to buy (to complete the emotion activated). The smell of fresh bread is a given example that triggers the thought of eating nice bread, increasing the sales of bread in those shops. I discussed using sensory marketing in an earlier post.
These themes connect with a lot of aspects of storytelling and linking some of Martins theories with Storytelling could shed even more light on how to connect deeply with consumers. I think stories have a bigger role top play in the brand experience and why people buy. I think its more than just seeing people and thinking, I want to be the same. Customers all have their own life story and brands become part of that story enabling them to become closer to their own life narrative. Some brands tell stories that fit with people’s life stories and they become a part of that person’s life. So much so that people tell other people (word of mouth) to let other people into their story and about the brand and that’s far more effective than traditional advertising. We are starting to find that these brand fans are worth far more than normal customers who may use the brand, but have little loyalty. These brands fail to create a story that is incorporated into customers narratives.
We know there are only a few core stories and that are so well understood by people that they have been called archetypes. These inner story tapes can be accesses instantly and brands are compared to them for closeness of fit. We all know how these core stories play out and therefore how brands will fit in . Often we see that metaphors are the way to activate memories and the encoded emotions (engrams) by association. These metaphors can be verbal, visual, through sound, smell or taste. Each can activate a nuerological pathway called and engram (Mark Beatey in Brand Meaning) and the associated emotions. The more experiences a person has the stronger the pathway is set and the easier it is to access. Powerful brands, like Martin says, can activate these emotions easily but I think its deeper than mirroring neurones.
While Martins research is truly amazing and as a scientist and a marketeer I get excited by these things I do wonder if this is only part of the story. For the relationship between the fMRI studies and religion vs brands it was seen that an area of the brain activated by religious images is also the same area as well known brand icons. I think it is a leap to say that these are linked based on the information. Could it be that these areas of the brain are associated with recognition and acceptance of stories verses struggle and absence of relevance that small brands communicate. Did Martin and his team find the “Story Centre’ and he is seeing the firing of engrams of well known stories in action? I hope so. If he repeated the test with children’s’ stories or famous movies like Star Wars or Raiders of the Lost Ark may help answer it.
I’m going to investigate the discussion on somatic markers as well. As these are experiential and learnt, it would be difficult for these to be passed from one person to another. But we do see desire for brands before people have been able to experience them for themselves, indicating there is more to it than experience, emotion reward or punishment. Metaphors help us explain things both to ourselves and to others. It also appears that metaphors are passed from people to people and that emotions can be experienced even before the actual physical interaction of a brand or event happens.
Its a great Saturday when your left thinking about a subject you love , so a big thanks to Martin Lindstrom and his Buy.ology book for stimulating the day. I hope to follow up this post in the next few weeks with some more thoughts.
“There is more truth in story than detail and fact.” Roald Dahl’s publisher on Roald Dahl’s work
I have looked at why some people cope with disease better than others. Much of the research I have done points to parts of life where people are affected by disease. There are consistent themes for people at these moments that surface when you spend time analysing people’s stories, language, dialog with people they feel important and metaphors they express both linguistically and visually.
As you read people’s stories you can see the different events and emotions that they experience. While disease and people have different journeys, I have found one interesting area that seems to be common for people. Peoples ability to cope with disease seems to split people into two camps. There are “copers” and “non copers”. At first I thought that this maybe due to some defining event or as a result of treatment or the stage of disease. I’m still looking to see what make some one cope with disease and how this has impact on the outcome of disease but a recent book suggested to me by Mike Baldwin suggest an intriguing hypothesis. In the Art of Choosing by Iyengar Sheena she lays out the argument that choice is a fundamental driver for humans. It improves our ability to manage life. It seems that we need to have or at least perceive that we have choice. In dealing with disease this could translate into those people who have a choice in how their disease is managed maybe in a better place to cope with it. Possibly this could lead to a better life in coping with disease.
Enabling patients to cope with disease may need physicians to offer choice, patient support groups to support choice, payors to allow choice and pharmaceuticals to create value in the choices. Understanding which choices are relevant to improving outcomes for patients and presenting these in a way that enables people with disease to make choices relevant for their lives is a goal for everyone dedicated to disease management. Stories of people with disease are one way of helping people understand the choices people have.