I was interviewed by Brand Reflections about the power and effects of Storytelling on your brand.
If brand managers are to use brand personality to develop and underpin brand messages and create alignment, storytelling is perhaps the most effective method to achieve this. From anthropological studies of the evolution of storytelling, some of the obvious benefits for using storytelling include:
- Stories provide a direct link to the past, present and future of a product/organisation, enabling them to coalesce into a consistent whole
- Stories create empathy and recognition of shared values
- Stories can help shape behaviour, both internally and among customers
- Storytelling, as opposed to a more explicit communication, provides a way for people to comprehend complex behaviours and values
In a branding context, stories enable us to make our own connections and feel in control when learning about a brand. Importantly, in contrast to more direct or explicit messaging, the very nature of stories is that they allow the listener or reader to draw their own conclusions.
Anouk Pappers of CoolBrands – specialists in helping brands and individuals develop their storytelling – believes that stories are key when it comes to reinforcing brand identity:
“To begin with, stories are much easier to digest than other information. So if you integrate your key messages in stories, you do a better job at transmitting but also reinforcing the messages. Besides, we don’t tend to remember more explicit information, but with stories we do.”
Above all, according to Pappers, the tacit nature of storytelling should not be underestimated:
“Stories relate to our emotional side of the brain. Stories help us make sense of a complex world. Brands are part of this complex world. So therefore stories can help us make sense of brands. From a psychological perspective we use stories to help us understand brands.”
Storytelling is one of the main ways of humanising a brand. The use of stories also encourages people to think about brands in terms of values that are not purely short-term and financial.
Pappers believes that authenticity is at the heart of storytelling, whether for brands or for people:
“Stories showing the real people behind the brand are very strong. For example, we work with the CMO of Pepsi China. For us, this brand is very authentic. Why? Because we work with a person, whom we trust, who shares great stories and who cares about more than just profit.”
Furthermore, humour and other elements of personality that enable a brand to appear human and – crucially for authenticity – fallible can be introduced via storytelling. This helps develop a more rounded and believable identity or brand personality.
The use of stories encourages people to think about brands in terms of values that are not purely short-term and financial.
The use of stories can also help brands move away from trying to please all of the people all of the time. Too many organisations try to cover all bases, concerned about alienating particular groups. Yet it’s the brands that are willing to present clear and consistent personalities that are likely to engender the most loyalty.
Storytelling should not be limited to external communications; it can also be used to great effect within organisations. There’s no point in developing a clear external brand personality if that’s not reflected by the actions of the organisation internally. Using stories and a clear narrative can help influence behaviours, creating alignment within the organisation and enabling all those concerned to act as informal brand messengers. Storytelling can also play a very important role in helping define and understand organisational culture, and in ensuring that this is aligned with the brand’s personality.
“Brands can tell different stories, for different audiences, from different angles, all supporting the same key messages.”
Tags: Anouk Pappers, Brand Anthropologist, CoolBrands, CoolBrands People, CoolBrands Women