You’d not be alone in thinking that 2016 delivered some unexpected political surprises on both sides of the pond. Your customers may share that thought. But uncertainty is no friend to retail therapy, so to lighten the mood and reinforce economic prosperity, we’ve collected some of the outstanding moments — for better or for worse — as distributed in video format by the forefront U.K. brands doing their best at storytelling this holiday season.
While entertaining to watch, you may also benefit from pairing several observations that apply to strategic thinking for SMBs / SMEs and enterprise organisations — we all need a laugh at the moment! Have you seen Aldi’s Kevin the Carrot Christmas advert?
Here are our favourites and others that miss the mark. Yet, lessons are learned all around.
Do you agree? Did we miss any?
1. Brand Personification
Aldi is a leading global retailer and one of the world’s largest privately owned companies with over 7,500 store locations. But that hasn’t stopped them from adopting a brand voice in the form of an animated three-inch-tall carrot who desperately wants to meet Santa. A sure fire winner due in no small part to the theme song from “Home Alone,” the one-minute rhymed narration has had 1.8 million YouTube views in its first four weeks. Short and sweet.
Takeaway: Give your brand an irresistible personality. Humanize your brand, give it an authentic voice, enable connections with the character your brand embodies. Think of enduring 20th century mascots such as the Jolly Green Giant and Ol’ Lonely, the Maytag Repairman with nothing to fix. Consider 21st century successes like the sexy Old Spice Man and “The Most Interesting Man in the World” by Dos Equis.
2. Confusing Branding
For the holiday voice of Sainsbury’s, James Corden sings, “The streets are chaotic, the shops idiotic, there’s a queue for the queue…” Weirdly, it’s an animation about a frazzled dad stuck on a delayed train (“It’s a catastrophe! I’ll never get it done!”) who perhaps never heard of online shopping. We’re not sure what mileage Sainsbury’s gets out of 3:35 minutes of highlighting the hassle of Christmas shopping.
Takeaway: Don’t stray off message. To elevate your brand, stick to the core messaging so consumers can quickly see the call to action. Like too many different fonts and colours on the same page, a message can easily get lost in the shuffle…especially during peak times such as holidays and back to school. Be clear, be consistent, be focused, be unified in your messaging.
3. Feel Good Branding
At a rather lengthy 2:10 minutes, John Lewis’s Christmas Advert 2016 takes a risk that viewers’ attention won’t wander. However, there’s not a chance, as viewers really do want to see how this story concludes. Featuring the family pet, foxes, badgers, squirrels and hedgehogs, we see animals enjoying a secret midnight trampoline romp. With extensive social media and TV tie-ins garnering a remarkable 21 million views and counting, it’s less of an advert than a short movie clip with an uplifting soundtrack (“One Day I’ll Fly Away”) about Buster the Boxer. Highly shareable — and directly associated with the store’s toy department — it’s a distinct pull away from last year’s lonely, elderly man “sadvertising” theme.
Takeaway: Emotional branding has huge appeal. To successfully tap into creating a bond between brand and consumer is the most effective connection of all. Get it right, like John Lewis does here, and you’re golden. (Bonus: Word-of-mouth and shares are guaranteed!)
4. Branding Content Without a Point
Tesco chooses to introduce us to yet another “typical” shopper annoyed with the season’s chores. We get to hear the thoughts running through her mind (“It’s only November and my clothes still smell of Bonfire”) as she becomes overwhelmed by a mental to-do list, rendering her frozen behind the shopping trolley in mid-aisle. We certainly get a sense of place (the uninspiring inside of a Tesco store), but what’s the story line? The only point made comes at the end (for any viewers that have hung around) when she speaks Tesco’s tagline aloud, “Nah, bring it on.” Did they actually think this advert would get many shares?
Takeaway: Like any good story, your brand message must grab your audience’s attention in the first few seconds, or they’re gone. Many video views will be made on mobile and a good percentage will be seen in public places with the volume turned off, so a woman standing still by her shopping cart cannot maintain audience interest.
5. Branding That Spins a Classic
Marks & Spencer re-purposes an age-old story, this one is about Santa and Mrs. Claus on Christmas Eve, and re-tells it with a modern spin. You needn’t have the Hollywood budget and Oscar-star studded cast that M&S can afford in order to accomplish something similar. The result is a compelling, contemporary tale with a feminist twist that some viewers are calling, “a hundred times better than John Lewis’s,” in the 2016 Christmas advert annual parade. Some 7.3 million views so far for “Christmas With Love From Mrs Claus.”
Takeaway: Dress up a classic tale is usually a good storytelling idea. Mrs Claus in a red sheath dress and high heels delivering gifts in her own helicopter works incredibly well. The advert manages to also provide a call to action that is on point for the brand, once we see what’s in the gift box Mrs Claus leaves under the Christmas tree.
6. Branding to Surprise and Delight
And the winner is…Heathrow Airport, connecting with everyone in their advertisement, “Coming Home for Christmas.” Anyone who has flown home for the holidays can identify with these two elderly teddy bears making their way from arrival gate to meeting point. Take a close look at Edward Bair’s passport — he’s 71, just like Heathrow Airport. Stay tuned for the surprise ending; there’s a lovely surprise.
Takeaway: Making authentic connections to human emotions are any brand’s surefire success. LHR does everything right in this year’s ad. Not a department store, not a supermarket, Heathrow Airport is the glue that speaks to both travelers and their hosts coming home for the holidays, so most everyone can relate to this tearjerker, even without the soundtrack.
7. Branding From Our House to Yours
Lidl Ireland packs a lot of emotion into one minute with “Homecoming.” See behind the scenes as a lovely, but unassuming family, prepares the country house and Christmas supper for a recently widowed Grandpa as guest of honor. At one minute, the length is perfect. No words are needed — go ahead, watch it without the sounds and see that it can still work.
Takeaways: Again, emotional branding that leaves people with a strong feeling is the hot button here. Will they smile or cry? That’s your choice. When you create material that’s so compelling that it’s eminently shareable, your viral brand is massively strengthened in customers’ hearts and minds.
Questions you may ask yourself about branding lessons from the pros:
The races for 10 Downing Street and the White House highlight universal lessons in brand strategy for keen observers. As a brand, there’s none more emotive and powerful than a prime minister or president of the United States.
The time period available in politics for building a party platform, selecting leaders, and creating a campaign is much shorter, and consequently more intense, compared to all other arenas of brand building.
Nonetheless, just like the smallest of brands, the candidates must build that essential emotional bond whether through shaking hands, kissing babies or connecting with consumers at every single touchpoint in a way that’s relevant to them to earn every single vote. As students of brand marketing, the highly focused, condensed time frame and intense process of building a brand to attract voters — similarly to gaining customers — is rich in takeaways for businesses of any size.
US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – (Public Domain)
Brand Vision: Differentiation is Everything in Brand Strategy
How many times have you heard someone say, “I’m not voting…all politicians are the same.” Political campaigns remind us that clear brand differentiation is key if you are to capture your audience’s attention, imagination and support. In politics that vision is policy; in branding that vision can be whatever you choose…as long as it’s undeniably clear, relevant to your primary audience and expressed in easy to understand language that resonates with them.
Image via hillaryclinton.com
Explain your brand vision. Paint a picture of what the world could look like and how others can be part of that when they buy into the vision of your brand. This must be a really bright North Star that shines for your audience and attracts word-of-mouth referral time after time.
Listen as US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt delineates four essential human freedoms. FDR’s “Four Freedoms” speech leaves no question regarding the nation’s vision, “attainable in our own time and generation,” on the eve of US involvement in World War II.
Listen as John F. Kennedy takes just 30 seconds to articulate his vision in the 1961 inaugural address, speaking first to Americans and then to fellow citizens of the world.
Healthy Brand Competition
In sales training, we’re taught to emphasize benefits; trashing the competition is not the right approach. Some politicians are known to be terrible at this. Instead of articulating an optimistic vision, candidates often tell you how lousy the incumbent and/or the competition is. Arguably some consider Donald Trump to be the champion of insults — a skill he developed on reality television and honed in debates — which doesn’t always translate so well in real life.
To get out the vote, that political position must be communicated across all stakeholders: volunteer voter registration workers, doorbell ringers, call centres, college campus activists, hundreds of regional election headquarters, social media gurus, data experts, staffers, media and the public. To gain customers, that brand message must be reflected at every touchpoint and resonate with current buyers, prospective buyers, suppliers, vendors, distributors, every employee, shareholders, investors, and the CEO.
In the absence of articulating and sharing a compelling brand message, disinterest develops, or even cynicism and mistrust. In politics, this translates into divisiveness, fear, insecurity — and a landslide for the opposition. For a brand, it means that reputation suffers and sales decline.
You Are Your Brand
The brand called YOU is a multi-layered lesson we can learn (both good and bad practices) by watching the political stage during an election cycle. Certainly, public opinion can be influenced by the packaging: takeaways like Hillary Clinton’s pantsuits and Donald Trump’s unique hairstyle make an indelible mark, as with any brand.
Meryl Streep as Donald Trump – (@simply_the_best_ms on Instagram)
Also, brand marketers can observe how politicians use tone of voice, choice of words, truthfulness, authenticity, facts, listening skills, presentation style, distribution channels, frequency, inspirational metaphors, storytelling, consistency or lack of it, and more to make connections and grow audience. On occasion, they provide examples of what NOT to do.
Everyone involved has a chance to be a brand that is worthy of notice via its most important asset: People. Motivated, enthusiastic, hard working, smiling, clever and talented people make all the difference.
Know Your Brand’s Target Audience
Skills and insight go into knowing and understanding your target audience so you can speak their language, tap into their attitudes and values, and build a simple, strong compelling message that they find irresistible. That magnetism factor is a really important part of successful brand building. It’s one of the critical tools used for mapping out your different customer types in what we call Purchaser Personas.
In fact it’s one of the key elements in our brand building programme called the Personality Profile Performer™. You can’t attract the attention of your ideal audience and sustain their interest if you don’t know them intimately — their needs, wants, loves, hates and aspirations. Every business has a minimum of two and up to twenty different customer Purchaser Personas which provide the critical insights and direction for how your brand can speak to your customers — winning their hearts and minds on their terms — so you can grow your business.
The mechanisms of polling, precincts and predicting are complicated. We leave that to the experts. Nonetheless, you’ll hear news commentary about politicians of all political persuasions “appealing to their base” and/or “broadening the base.”
As in branding, the articulation of mission, values, and promise are essential. Communication with target audiences to understand their likes and dislikes is the first step, however talking to the base over and over doesn’t bring in a single new vote. Brand expansion while maintaining brand loyalty with a core audience is the name of the game in politics as in retailing and other customer verticals.
Brand Messaging Cannot be Overrated
The importance of driving powerful brand impact is what Donald Trump might call “H-U-U-U-G-E” because connecting at a deep emotional level moves people strategically and emotionally. The intensity of the brand message is what makes it stand out; the authenticity of the brand message is what makes it stick.
How you communicate with your audience and what message you bring is what keeps audiences loyal and strengthens bonds. As with any branding strategy,placement, delivery, frequency and tone of voice matter. It’s so easy to turn people off with too much noise and overexposure.
In America, where the election process rolls out over two years and intensifies as election day draws nearer, this skill must be managed and sustained over weeks and months, just like a brand must do in the broader marketplace.
Image via donaldjtrump.com
Brand Storytelling Matters
It is critical to stay true to your brand’s DNA and not get lost, unglued, or disconnected. We’re conditioned that way. When a child asks you to read their favourite bedtime story, they’re anticipating the same story with the same ending.
Politicians are famous for the brand disaster known as a flip-flop on issues, and it can cost an election or tank sales. Whether in the political arena or in branding, there’s simply no room for inconsistent storytelling. It kills believability and trust.
The big why behind the brand story challenges us to build stories that promote something for the greater good. With vision, we can create and communicate a loveable brand, or a sustainable brand, or a socially responsible brand, or a caring, charitable brand…just like building a personality that people will vote for.
Sub-Branding Opportunities and Risks
Sometimes brands create sub-brands to serve expansion goals, as in Coors and Coors Light or American Express and the American Express Gold and Platinum Card. The risk is that sub-brands can detract from core brands, using precious time, energy and resources. Secondly, the sub-brand reputation reflects on its parent brand; the overall customer message can become diluted or compromised.
To minimise or eliminate risks, we recommend taking professional branding advice if you’re considering sub-branding to avoid costly mistakes. Planning your brand structures in the form of new or additional related or unrelated products or services, also known as brand architecture, is a critical part of the strategic planning and brand building process. We’ve seen this play out recently on the political world stage. Brand expansion must be taken seriously to protect core brand values. However, adding Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to John McCain’s 2008 ticket diluted the brand.
When Hillary Clinton undertook a six-month vice presidential vetting process, the selection was received quite differently to when Britain’s new Prime Minister Theresa May selected dropout candidate Boris Johnson as foreign secretary in an overnight surprise. The former London mayor’s brand image is reportedly lacking in the required decorum associated with such an important role according to other world leaders.
“My chances of being PM are about as good as the chances of finding Elvis on Mars, or my being reincarnated as an olive.” – Boris Johnson 
The Appeal of Disruptor Brands
What did brand managers learn from Bernie Sanders during the 14-month lead up to the Democratic Convention, when the challenger was the Millennials’ poster boy, a lovable white-haired grandfather, small-town Vermont Senator?
It takes time and resources — generally a year or so — for any challenger brand to successfully disrupt.
A clearly and passionately articulated brand vision should be communicated over and over again.
This candidate’s storytelling remained on message (since his youth), establishing strong authenticity, trust and delivering no surprises.
Bernie Sanders successfully reached a broad audience through brand activation and personal engagement. While pre-imposed deadlines brought his campaign to an end, the branding strategy was successful.
Watch what happens when a little bird lands on Bernie Sanders’ podium during a speech. The crowd goes crazy and the candidate turns the moment into an articulation of his vision, “No more wars.”
Consider these questions:
Is your brand vision well developed and clearly communicated?
Have you shared your brand vision with all stakeholders?
https://www.personadesign.ie/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Barack-Obama-Justin-Trudeau-600x300px.jpg300600Lorraine Carterhttps://www.personadesign.ie/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Persona-Design-Logo-512px-300x300.pngLorraine Carter2016-08-31 07:28:002016-08-31 07:28:00What Brands Can Learn From Political Campaigns
“Creativity is Intelligence Having Fun.” – Albert Einstein
2016 will be a year of convergence for brand strategies. As Joel Comm put it, “there’s nothing more social than face-to-face engagement,” and this is the application strategy that brands need to focus on. They need to combine traditional marketing with the emerging. They need to be creative, smart, strategic, and more than anything disruptive. Look at what Amazon is doing. They changed the way the world shopped by pulling in customers online. Just when everyone got hooked, they are focusing on brick and mortar stores. Disruption, new methods and new forms of engagement is the life blood of successful brand strategies.
Why is that important? Because you have to constantly innovate and look at how you use branding more strategically and more creatively. It’s not just a logo or a design and its not just strategy and analytics either.
Instead of just a scientific or design endeavour it should be looked upon as a process that combines analytic and creative thinking. As Sun Tzu had described in The Art of War, “Strategy is an Art; never a Science; it is the Art of the conscious mind in action.”
Brands need creative and artful strategy to be actionable. No strategy, traditional or digital can operate on its own in isolated silo. It needs to be creatively aligned and converged in a cohesive brand message, to offer a complete brand experience.
Image via www.storify.com
Strategy and creativity go hand in hand and this is exactly what Airbnb’s CMO Jonathan Mildenhall emphasized at the panel discussion hosted by The Economist at 2015 Cannes Lions. As he and others in the panel pointed out, there is data and then there is the need to manage this data and extract the brand story hidden within.
Image via www.storify.com
Mildenhall points out that strategic thinking does not have to kill creativity, though if abused it can smother all ingenuity. Equally, creativity without solid strategic thinking frequently fails to deliver the required commercial returns as well. Both are needed and must go hand-in-hand for optimum success. Businesses need to use the data creatively, not use it to stifle creativity and creativity needs to be underpinned by informed brand strategy.
One of the most common mistakes amongst SMEs is that they don’t employ strategic rigour, unlike larger or global brands, which sometimes squash creativity in favour of too much data analysis. It is imperative that creative talent and strategic thinking be merged seamlessly because one is incomplete without the other. In other words, strategic rigour is the essential foundation on which to build creativity.
Therefore, design should never be based on just subjective aesthetic preferences but driven by a well-developed brand strategy. This includes research and analytics together with developing the whole platform of the brand through brand profiling (vision, mission, values, purpose, promise, personality, archetype, story, tone-of-voice, purchaser personas, positioning) and so forth.
As Mildenhall said, when you can state the “non-obvious truth” as a great strategic insight, your brand has won. For you are now hitting on something that is there but has not been noticed or considered before. It takes creativity to get to this point but also means a walk among the data.
Branding sets the stage for clients’ expectations and creativity needs to be activated to bring that promise to life and deliver on it in a ways that’s relevant to the brand’s primary audience.
A salient fact to reflect on –
Your audience couldn’t care less if 73% of the world’s brands disappeared tomorrow – Havas Media
Yes, this is alarming but it’s true so now is your opportunity to ensure you’re not the brand that’s easily forgotten. Instead, develop a strategic foundation on which to build your brand now and into the future to ensure it’s different, distinctive and memorable with a purpose and personality your primary audience finds irresistible. Use data and digital strategy combined with brand profiling to inform and provide direction for your brand’s priorities. Use creativity to tell your story informed by data, and use this story to evolve your brand into something people want to talk about, share and refer.
As David C. Edelman pointed out, “… today, consumers are promiscuous in their brand relationships…” The presence of increasing media options and social networks enable them to simultaneously connect with myriad brands and sift through them at will.
Businesses therefore, need to understand which media to use and how to leverage those channels appropriately to share their brand story. All the pieces need to come together in a highly informed and smart brand strategy which is interactive, dynamic and makes for a cohesive customer journey. It’s crucial to create a knowledgebase. It’s important to use the channels like Facebook and Google, if they’re appropriate to your product, service and primary audience, coupled with other marketing automation players.
Before you develop your brand strategy here are some brand facts to keep in mind:
45% of a brand’s image can be attributed to what it says and how it says it
Much of this distrust comes from broken promises and brand not delivering on customer expectations
There are 2.1 million negative social mentions about brands in the U.S. alone, every single day
Monitoring, managing and controlling your brand message and reputation is essential
48% of Americans expect brands to know them and help them discover new products or services that fit their needs
Customers expect your brand to provide them personalized solutions
72% of marketers think branded content is more effective than advertising in a magazine; 69% say it is superior to direct mail and PR
Branded content is an effective way to educate potential clients while establishing your authority in your industry. Build trust with branded content
80% of customers said “authenticity of content” is the most influential factor in their decision to become a follower of a brand
Focus on creating authentic content that gives value and reflects the values of your brand without the hard sales push, think pull more than push in your communications
60% of US millennials expect consistent experiences when dealing with brands online, in-store, or by phone
A consistent brand is essential. Humans by nature crave consistency. Carefully monitor all aspects of your brand touch points and communications to ensure your audience has a consistent experience
Colour increases brand recognition by up to 80%
As a professional branding expert and international speaker this colour statistic is one that never fails to surprise audiences or branding master-class participants whenever I mention it. It also underpins why colour psychology is so important, should never be underrated or deployed because of personal preferences.
Colour needs to be leveraged both strategically and creatively, and every brand needs a properly developed colour palette which expresses the brand’s personality appropriately, suits context and cultural preferences while also meeting the needs of its primary audience.
It might be worth reflecting on these statistics in the context of how does your business and brand measure up when compared against them? Would a brand audit health check be in order?
Creativity and data analysis are no longer diametrically opposed tools, operating in disconnected silos. Data and creative teams need to work within a cohesive framework because if one doesn’t inform the other, the entire brand building strategy not only remains incomplete but runs the risk of failing.
Case Study #1 – Connecting Strategy with Brand Performance – Lexus
The latest Lexus campaign is an eye-opener. In order to sell a new 467-horsepower, high-performance vehicle it has eschewed conventional rhetoric and has instead created a branded game.
Called “GS F the Bracket”, this has been developed from the ground up in collaboration with Yahoo Sports. The rollout of the new luxury sports sedan will complement Lexus’ sponsorship of Yahoo’s fantasy sports bracket and the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament. Once registered, users get to pick the player match-ups who they predict will most quickly reach a combined 60 points for a chance to win a “GS F-inspired vacation.”
The campaign blends in Lexus’ branding strategies with its performance by targeting two very different audiences. The first is the affluent group who can afford to spend $80,000 on a new vehicle. The second is the group of younger prospects who are aspiring to buy their dream Lexus car one day.
Working in tandem with Oracle Marketing Cloud’s data management platform, the automobile giant has invested in an addressable data strategy to optimize its performance based on where the customer is in the Lexus life cycle. So while television is still an important medium for them, they are applying email and transactional data to manage and affect customer mindsets. This is exactly what Airbnb CMO talked about when he stressed on the important of creativity and strategy.
A large marketing budget and a great strategy team will be of no use if the brand campaign lacks innovation. A creative thought process that has correctly analyzed how to engage the customer and generate organic demand will have stronger results leading to optimal sales.
So how should a business engage brand profiling and brand strategy coupled with creative inputs effectively? At the very least you need to have absolute clarity over what your brand stands for, its purpose, what makes it different to your competitors, its personality and the needs it fulfills for your ideal audience together with fully developed purchaser personas for each of your different customer types.
Your brand is not just who you are but also what others perceive you to be. As Jeff Bezos so succinctly put it, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room”.
As experts have pointed out in the HBR – Bringing Science to the Art of Strategy, managers who do not reconcile creative with realistic strategies are doomed to weigh the futile rigour of ordinary strategic planning. “The key is to recognize that conventional strategic planning is not entirely scientific…… also integral to the scientific method are the creation of novel hypotheses and the careful generation of custom-tailored tests of those hypotheses—two elements that conventional strategic planning typically lacks.” What this essentially means is that modern strategic planning can only be successful when scientific is combined with artistic.
Creativity and strategy when combined to tap into human emotions, lies at the root of successful branding. There is a growing debate on whether advertising and marketing automation stifles this creativity. When smart brand strategies are applied, marketing automation can actually provide brands with immense opportunity to be proactive instead of reactive. They offer message immediacy and pave the way for data to further fuel branding campaigns. Strategic rigour and application of data allows you to see what’s working and what’s not. This feedback can then be used to feed back into the creative process.
The tools of communications have to be chosen wisely, not just for wider brand creation but to engage human emotions creatively. What you communicate visually and verbally, and the various distribution channels chosen, underpin the foundations of strategically driven branding. All these are the what, where, when and to whom you plan on communicating to.
Case Study #2 – Global vs Local – Airbnb
It is important to create a core global brand strategy. But it is even more important to allow localised ideas more room to scale within the company, in order to be sensitive to different cultural nuances. This is often more difficult for bigger companies because institutional friction and the politics of business often prevents the culturally nuanced to work or build diversity into teams. However, it’s a huge opportunity for the more agile and flexible smaller business.
Social media and the rise of crowd culture have broken through geographical barriers and brings together all communities that were once geographically isolated, thereby greatly increasing collaboration. Airbnb’s innovative use of social media, both in terms of promotion and content, has been phenomenal is driving viral leads.
They have fused global experience with direct and substantial local sub-cultural influences. You can find ways to travel free or with minimum outlay and plan your vacation, stories and blogs about the places you are searching, see why Hollywood stars like Gwyneth Paltrow and Beyoncé use Airbnb and post it on their social media page, and find easy ways to connect with the service whenever you are ready to book your flight and hotel.
Progressive means blending cultural innovation with early adopter markets. This is an example of how businesses can combine creative with strategic rigour and reach out to millions of global customers simultaneously.
How can smaller businesses achieve an edge?
Be creative when you strategize your brand message – right at the onset of your brand profiling process.Your brand vision and goals should be fully aligned with your business objectives. It should express your brand personality and be positioned in a way that enables you to stand out effectively while also appearing irresistible to your potential customers. Brand profiling and positioning are the tools and systems that enable you to differentiate your offering from your competitors and rise above the generic confusion and noise.
Consider what you deliver and how you can fulfill that promise in a way that reinforces your differences and distinctions while also making your brand more attractive, referable and memorable to your ideal customer. Build your brand promise around that delivery. It tells your customers what they can expect from your products or services and why your brand matters more to them.
How can smaller businesses balance the need for brand strategy underpinned by creativity?
According to Paris-based branding consultant Bolanile Maté, applying smart strategies for example, like heritage and provenance positioning can work extremely well. Though she used Hermès as an example, she also pointed out how these more traditional concepts can capture the imagination of more modern audience too. Its all in the positioning and how you share you’re authentic brand story.
Conventional branding tools have stressed on building brand awareness through repetitive push marketing strategies. Whether it is a print advert or an electronic one, the focus has been on taking the product and placing it in front of the customer, telling them what’s out there, where to find it, what to do and how to use it.
While this has its place in the marketing process, the way this message is delivered has changed. Brand strategy needs to utilize a fully integrated process combining both social and media channels, where relevant, to raise awareness and generate demand. In the age of internet marketing it’s more effective to attract this organic interest with inbound marketing rather than the more traditional push marketing model, to encourage customers to seek out the product, service or company on their own terms. And this is very doable for all smaller businesses and brand owners.
Traditionally, big companies introducing new products into the market use the traditional push marketing strategies when their products are new and unfamiliar. However the smarter ones are utilizing more creative routes combined with well-developed brand strategies. They’re utilizing multiple touch-points and media channels to generate more viral and word-of-mouth brand messaging, all of which smaller businesses can do very flexibly too, on modest resources.
Case Study #3 – Using Familial Roots as a Strategic Tool – cHarissa
This company is a great example of how they blended conventional and new media to make themselves more familiar with their target audience. More importantly, how they strategically used their familial spices to create taste and flavours in a brand that people love.
Octogenarians Earl Fultz and his wife, Gloria Elmaleh of New York started their Moroccan sauces and spices business, “cHarissa” when most people are happily retired. For them the strategy for success was provenance and familiarity – hers with the spices of her familial roots and in his case the food industry.
They used their prior knowledge as a resource but did not stop there. They went on to hire smart people, the ones who knew how modern marketing worked to build a brand that skillfully expresses its personality and touches its audiences with strong emotional resonance, combined with experience and endurance. They’ve used traditional advertising but the real strength of their brand lies in the word-of-mouth and social marketing coupled with innovative promotions. For example, Earl’s presence as a guest chef led to cHarissa being served at the Revolving Restaurant on top of the World Trade Centre.
That is the power of creativity underpinned by strategy.
It’s very accessible for SMEs and new businesses to integrate conventional and newer media to share their brand message, generate demand for their products and services and grow their brand as a viral phenomenon.
Case Study #4 – Using Creative Social Interactions to Build a Sustainable Brand – Herschel
Vancouver based travel goods and accessories business Herschel Supply Co. used social media not only to improve customer service but also to build memorable impressions through well-thought out and consistent branding strategies. They’ve been very smart about analytics and using this information to leverage hot trends and create proactive customer support.
Using smart business tools like Hootsuite they’ve been able to achieve a 20% lift in customer service satisfaction rate, to serve their customers more effectively and on a more personal level. They’ve also gained about 60% increase in their overall positive brand sentiment.
The result – they have become quite synonymous with modern travel fashion – and their followers comprise of the fashion inspired, tech savvy globetrotters.
The most effective way for SME businesses to get a strong footing in the competitive global market is not to worry about big budget media spending. Instead implement clever social strategies which combine traditional and social platforms to creatively engage your audience with campaigns using creativity underpinned by strategy and strong analytics.
In order to be intriguing and successful every brand needs a creative strategy
Creativity without strategic rigour is a waste of time and resources
Creative strategy determines pivotal marketing and advertising efforts
Analytics needs to merge with creative risks for unique breakthroughs
A creative branding strategy will help a brand standout and engage its primary audience
Creativity when based on strong analytical foundations yield robust results
• Are you employing strategic rigour with your creative endeavours?
• Have you fully defined your brand, what it stands for and what makes it different to your competitors so you can use this brand strategy to underpin your creative outputs?
Are you focusing too much on data analysis and consequently stifling your creative or worse still failing to develop your brand strategy with brand profiling and indulging your creative fantasies without any strategic basis?
• Is your brand strategy based on esoteric data or eclectic client expectations?
• Are you generating leads or creating active interest and demand for your brand?
• Before you indulge your creative inclinations in new brand collateral have you evaluated the most effective direction using brand strategy to inform your choices?
 10 Expert Marketing Predictions for 2016, http://www.inc.com/leonard-kim/10-expert-marketing-predictions-for-2016.html
 Sun Tzu, The Art of War
  Jonathan Mildenhall, Marketing Week, https://www.marketingweek.com/2015/06/22/airbnb-creativity-without-strategic-rigour-is-a-waste-of-marketers-budget/ ,2015
 David C. Edelman, “Branding in the Digital Age: You’re Spending Your Money in All the Wrong Places,” https://hbr.org/2010/12/branding-in-the-digital-age-youre-spending-your-money-in-all-the-wrong-places Harvard Business Review, 2010
 Jeremy Durant, “15 Crazy Branding Stats You Need to Know,” https://www.bopdesign.com/bop-blog/2015/10/15-crazy-branding-stats/ BOP Design, San Diego, 2015,]
 Kelly Liyakasa, “Branding And Performance Intersect For Lexus,” http://adexchanger.com/advertiser/branding-performance-intersect-lexus/ March 2016
 A.G. Lafley Roger L. Martin Jan W. Rivkin Nicolaj Siggelkow, “Bringing Science to the Art of Strategy”, https://hbr.org/2012/09/bringing-science-to-the-art-of-strategy/ar/1 Harvard Business Review, September 2012
 David C. Edelman, “Branding in the Digital Age: You’re Spending Your Money in All the Wrong Places,” https://hbr.org/2010/12/branding-in-the-digital-age-youre-spending-your-money-in-all-the-wrong-places Harvard Business Review, 2010
 Carol Roth, March 2016 https://youtu.be/DjE3BOxqMKQ
 Kristina Cisnero, “3 Small Businesses That Found Social Media Success,” https://blog.hootsuite.com/small-business-social-media-success-stories/ JUNE 2014
https://www.personadesign.ie/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Tweet-Befoxterrier-600px.jpg335600Lorraine Carterhttps://www.personadesign.ie/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Persona-Design-Logo-512px-300x300.pngLorraine Carter2016-04-05 16:30:002021-12-01 20:12:13Branding: Creativity without Strategic Rigour is a Waste of Budget
Have you ever said “No, thanks” when asked, “Would you like to hear a great story?” Generally not. A great brand story cleverly communicated can be just as compelling as one told in person. Yet, while small children may be enthralled by tales predictably opening with, “Once upon a time…”, sophisticated customers need more from unique brand stories.
The strongest brands have the best stories— ones that are eminently attention-getting, relatable and most importantly, shareable. In our always-on, always-connected world, brand stories are central to your brand strategy and sharing is a key factor to achieve that essential brand growth.
According to John Mellor, Adobe’s vice president of business development and strategy, brand storytelling is “the most powerful tool marketers have at their disposal.” In March 2016, Mellor addressed 10,000-plus attendees at Adobe’s annual conference, telling the audience, “It’s that human touch that helps us connect with customers and it’s those personal connections that transform the experience, because stories evoke emotions and emotions drive change.” You must win the heart to move the mind because people buy with emotion first — product, service or idea — and justify with rational afterwards, regardless of gender or cultural background.
Brand Storytelling: It Takes Community Engagement
“The stronger the level of empathy and the deeper the emotional connection, the far greater the likelihood that the customer will look for more information about your brand, purchase your brand, and arguably more importantly, share whatever it is about your brand,” reports Michael Nutley in Adobe’s CMO.com. “Shareability is probably the biggest indicator that you’re looking for and you can absolutely see that emotional intensity drives share.”
An appealing brand story is bound to involve customers’ direct experiences with a product or service. These days, a business cannot write its story sitting around a boardroom table or in an isolated ivory tower. That one-way street is permanently closed; the path via co-creation and connectivity is today’s route.
“Brands are not necessarily what their companies say they are,” explains digital analyst, author, and futurist Brian Solis. Delivering the keynote address at a 2015 content marketing summit at LinkedIn, he stated, “Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room. Businesses are no longer the sole creator of a brand; it is co-created by consumers through shared experience…”
Solis goes on to explain that brand stories aren’t necessarily linear, like the narrative in a classic fairy tale. Rather, these stories begin well before page one. Consider Airbnb and Southwest Airlines as prime examples of brands solidly connected to their audiences. For customers, interaction with these travel brands begins at the dream stage, long before anyone unlocks a rental property’s front door or buckles up a seat belt aboard an aircraft.
Writing in Martech Advisor, Larry Levy, executive vice president of business development at ScribbleLive, agrees. “The best campaigns come from marketers who spend their time understanding the customer journey, listening to and quantifying the types of conversations that happen along that journey, and weighing in at key points with content that educates, informs, and entertains.”
Brand Conversations: The Customer Journey
Successful brands know that customers are empowered to be more vocal and proactive than ever before. A good brand story is now part of the conversation and it must be central to a customer’s wants and needs.Does your brand story reflect and support your brand positioning, style, tone-of-voice and overall messaging while also amplifying your brand mission, vision and purpose? As a brand owner or manager, the plot and the characters are yours to develop, but twists and turns along the way will be embellished by your target audiences and prospective ones to help you grow the brand as the story unfolds.
As a highly skilled presenter with an impeccable sense of timing, every time Steve Jobs tacked on his famous, “One more thing,” in a keynote address, his packed audiences of developers and media broke into cheers and hoots of approval. But unless you’re the next Steve Jobs talking to a solid B2B fanbase, best practice is to avoid being boring about technical details that won’t hold anyone’s interest beyond the engineering department.
Craft your brand story carefully. A discussion of your latest product’s specifications is fine for a chalkboard in the engineering department, but has no place on a billboard, brochure, website or customer magazine. We use a process called the Story Selling System™ in which all the key ingredients of a strong brand story are structured. It ensures all the authentic, relatable, memorable and emotionally engaging factors are included in a way that’s relevant to your primary audience but leaves room for development and embellishment with customer interaction, without losing sight of brand authenticity and provenance either.
Case Study: Barbie by Mattel
Like Apple, Mattel decided to take customers on a storytelling journey to reinvent Barbie. They did it with a short film, “When Girls Are Free to Imagine They Can Be Anything,” aimed at mothers, resulting in 50 million views and 500 million social engagements, 81% of which were positive.
The story line is that when a girl plays with her Barbie, she imagines everything she can become — a vet, a pilot, a comedian, a songwriter, a football coach, president.
Image via www.barbie.com/en-us/youcanbeanything/
Importantly, the story was accompanied by a refreshed product line debuting new dolls with different skin tones, body types, hair colors and textures. Kudos to Mattel for growing the brand with a timely story that clearly takes Barbie from her 1959 Baby Boomer introduction right through to Gen Z.
Case Study: Minnetonka Moccasins
A third generation, family-owned Minnesota-based moccasin maker traces their timeline via the Americana story of fringe and beads since 1946, and includes the CEO, designers, stitchers, retail suppliers and customers in the video relating their brand story.
Minnetonka demonstrates how a small town heritage handmade shoe brand grew to a distribution network in 50 countries without losing their authenticity. Better still, the story continues on Instagram with #MyMinnetonka, where customers upload their photos to “show us how you make our styles your own.”
Image via www.minnetonkamoccasin.com
Case Study: World of Beer
WOB’s concept of tavern franchises for craft beers has grown from its first Tampa, Florida location opened by two college buddies in 2007 to about 100 US locations in 2016. Known for its extensive craft beer offerings, its first overseas bar will open in 2016 in Shanghai, followed by India and the Philippines.
To bring that story to life, World of Beer launched a March 2016 search for its summer campaign called #DrinkItIntern, seeking a team of three global brand ambassadors compensated at $12,000 each to “share the best beer stories on the planet to hit the road and experience the world’s best craft beer…” Without question, the passionate and entertaining stories generated by this team will return manifold on the investment.
Image via www.worldofbeer.com
Case Study: Uber
All paths lead to a more and more personalized journey for the customer, currently achieved through brand storytelling that allows a customer to own the space. The intersection of big data and high tech indicates that this trend likely represents the next decade.
Because today’s brand story is intrinsically tied to customer experience, Uber is an oft-cited example of our “ego-centric” urban environment. In talks told at TedX and onstage at conferences in cities all over the world, Brian Solis predicts, “Experience is key and there will be an Uber of every industry.” Calling customers “accidental narcissists,” Solis explains why for Uber, the central characters in the evolving brand story are the (impatient) customers.
When a rider requests a trip through Uber, the nearest driver gets a “ping” telling them that someone wants a ride. They have 15 seconds to tap and accept before the request goes to another driver.
Image via www.businessinsider.com
Drivers receive weekly alerts, encouraging a better than 80 percent acceptance rates. Furthermore, the Uber brand story is one that allows customers to continually tell, re-tell and share it. With every single ride, customers are asked to give their driver a 1-5 star rating and leave comments…and vice versa. The Uber driver’s career depends on these ratings and passengers with good ratings will get faster pickups.
Case Study: Cirque du Soleil
After more than 30 years as a live storytelling on steroids, Cirque du Soleil must continue to pump their story out to connect with new and younger audiences. The strategy for bums on seats amounts to filling a whopping 25,000 nightly, just in Las Vegas alone.
In one year, Cirque sells more tickets than all Broadway shows combined, says Alma Derricks, vice president of sales and marketing. Because Cirque has eight very different Vegas shows and another dozen performing in a traveling repertoire, the brand story must keep interest in them all alive and growing.
That’s done via a signature brand story explained by Derricks, “If you take any element of what we do – music, costuming, makeup – everything is exquisite. Every detail is thought through. Every wiggle of the finger is something that’s been considered and developed and choreographed and polished. It’s something that really sets our shows apart, and it’s the signature of every one of our shows, no matter what it is. It can be laugh-out-loud, knee-slappingly funny. It can be sensual and sexy.”
Image via www.cirquedusoleil.com
Small Businesses Tell Compelling Brand Stories Too
Four Corners Café, a one-off coffee shop in Waterloo, London, is voted best in the UK and earns a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence by operating a loyal customer led trip planner scheme for photos taken around the world tagged and posted on social media.
A pub in Nottingham features a map to the castle on placemats and the story of Robin Hood on the back of its menus.
Image via www.triptojerusalem.com
Everlane makes simple garments sold online for less, with a brand story called “Radical Transparency.” They offer factory tours in LA and expose the supply chain beginning at source, through process, compliance, and cost breakdown right to your door. Explosive growth and out-of-the-box thinking means they have an opening called “Name Your Job” in which passionate people can apply to create a potential position.
Image via www.everlane.com
A small boutique hotel in Paris names its rooms after famous artists buried in the nearby Montparnasse Cemetery and tells their life stories on their website’s booking engine.
Image via www.hotel-mistral-paris.com
Questions to consider:
• Does your brand have a compelling story? Is it populated with characters, scenes and circumstances that people can relate to?
• Is your brand’s story unique and genuine? Does it enthrall and capture your customers’ attention as you carry them with you along your journey of highs, lows and exhilarating breakthroughs?
• Can you identify several touch points at which your brand story is shared with existing customers in a way that matters to them?
• Can you think of additional brand touch points to put in play? What are you missing in your brand story as you evaluate it through a brand audit health check while benchmarking it against the Story Selling System™?
• How do you ensure that your brand story is reaching potential new customers? How many different brand touch points are you using to share your brand story? Are they all relevent to your ideal customer?
• Are your employees embracing your brand story in their daily customer interactions as your brand champions? Are they living it through your brand values and your customer journey?
These days, it’s all about disruption. In tiny Davos, Switzerland, “The Fourth Industrial Revolution” was the central theme of the 2016 World Economic Forum, designed to engage thought leaders to prepare us for the “next big thing.”
The proposition is that we are on the cusp of a new era fundamentally changing the way we work and live.Vast technological changes brought on by digitalization are disrupting conventional business practices and social norms, states the economic forum founder, Professor Klaus Schwab, in his essay published by the Council on Foreign Affairs.
Image via www.weforum.org
Enter Innovator Brands
A 2015 survey by Brand Keys on behalf of Business Performance Innovation (BPI) Network indicates that household brand names are being replaced by innovative game changers, and they’re gaining respect with mainstream consumers. “Nimble startups compete with legacy enterprises,” say 98 percent of those asked and “the disruption is severe,” indicate 37 percent. Furthermore, there is a “distinct correlation” between perceived innovation and a company’s bottom line results, according to the study.
Image via www.bpinetwork.org
Challenger Versus Disruptor Brands
The terms challenger brand and disruptor brand are not interchangeable. Challenger brands bring innovation, enhancements, new pricing, or other tweaks (diet soda, dishwasher tablets, boy and girl nappies) to an existing marketplace.
Disruptors enter a marketplace and completely set heads spinning. When eBay appeared, for example, it was difficult for many people to accept paying online in advance for an item from a stranger and simply trusting it would arrive in the post. When email gained traction, traditional mail service was rattled and companies were required to re-define legalities in their terms and conditions. And when Airbnb was introduced, the hotel industry was more than mildly shocked; cities are still attempting to define tax issues.
Image via www.preweek.com
A Shift to the Customer Interface
The battle for today’s customer is occurring in the digital interface between product and consumer. As Tom Goodwin, senior vice president of strategy and innovation at Havas Media, explains, “Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Something interesting is happening.”
Image via www.reddit.com
These companies fill a connector space between product and people. These brands are the jam in the sandwich between the customer and the business. Furthermore, Goodwin points out that this new breed of interface companies (Uber, YouTube, Airbnb, Snapchat, Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook, Google) are the fastest-growing in history. All of them began as challenger brands.
What is a Challenger Brand?
From the original biblical tale, best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell borrows a title, “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants,” reminding us that compelling storytelling has long been at the heart of a challenge. In brand marketing today, some famous challenges fall into the hero/underdog sort (Coke vs. Pepsi, Avis vs. Hertz; McDonalds vs. Burger King); others make into it a three-way contest, or even a Big Four fight (Tesco, ASDA, Sainsbury, Morrison’s).
Still other challenger brands enter a crowded category or endeavour to maintain challenger momentum once it starts to fade. Enter the game changers, disrupting the status quo by creating altogether new categories (Match.com, Uber, Airbnb), thus far a hallmark of 21st century disruptor brands.
In discussing the rise of the challenger brand, CMO of Adobe points out, “Essentially, the heart of a challenger brand is the passion, process, and tools they use to create and magnify customer advocacy.” Reflect on those overnight queues snaking around the Apple Store in anticipation of new product releases. “The heart of challenger brands’ success is their ability to turn emotion and affinity into a customer acquisition machine.”
Shock and awe counts more than playing by the rules. This challenger type is big on attitude and best have a big budget for flashy PR, interactive sales tactics and legal advisors. Think Red Bull.
The core message is critical for this brand which identifies a need to do something better. The authors suggest. “Think of Al-Jazeera looking to ‘redress the balance’ in media coverage of the Middle East.
The Next Generation
Daring to call out the market leader as being old fashioned, this challenger seeks to position itself as very much here and now, totally relevant to today’s cultural trends. Emirates Airline, Euro Star and GoPro are examples.
Sharing great design, catwalk looks and labels is the function of this challenger brand. Often seen in retailing, the purpose is to challenge elitist brands. The right influencers are often part of the equation to deliver street cred. Think H&M.
The Real and Human Challenger
Using people as a company resource, this brand breathes life into a dead category, fires up consumers’ imaginations. In the UK, Innocent (little tasty drinks), are those guys who drive around in those cow camouflage vehicles or Hungry Grassy Vans.
The Enlightened Zagger
Less fashionable is fine for brands that swim against the tide and challenge conventional wisdom. A brand challenge from Camper shoes mixed it up by suggesting that we walk, rather than run.
Big, bold and beautiful is the vision — but never boring. A visionary challenge brings a higher purpose and an emotional connection to the brand, Lady Gaga comes to mind.
The Game Changer
An entry into a category that’s unlike anything consumers have seen before is a game changer. The designers think outside the box. Steve Jobs brought game changers to categories from personal computing to phones, cameras and music.
The People’s Champion
This brand’s founder/CEO may act as the people’s champion, suggesting the public suffers an inferior service or product from everyone else in a category. The people’s champion puts a friendly face to the shakeup, using humour like Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson.
The Feisty Underdog
Here’s the David versus Goliath story in all its storytelling glory. It’s us versus them in the style of Avis Car Rental which adopted the slogan “We try harder. We’re #2,” a unique tagline that garnered empathy during its 50-year run.
Examples of Successful Challenger Brands
What do eggless mayonnaise, furniture in a box, bagless vacuum cleaners and fashionable spectacles have in common with driverless electric cars and return rockets for colonizing Mars? From aspirational to mainstream and from ideation to manufacture, challenger brands can change the world. Once a brand does achieve commercial success, a new set of opportunities comes into play in order to stay fresh edgy, and relevant, maintaining a challenger brand mentality as a bigger brand player.
1. Hampton Creek
Josh Tetrick, founder of this plant-based food maker, believes that industrialized egg and meat production is unsustainable. Hamptons Creek’s leading product, Just Mayo, is an egg-free spread that’s about making foods with less water, land, and carbon emissions. This is a brand that proves the business case for CSR and social responsibility.
Image via www.hamptoncreek.com
Since 2011, Tetrick has attracted funding from 12 billionaire investors, including Bill Gates, and shot to the top of several lists of innovative companies shaping the future of food. The Guardian reports that Silicon Valley investors are pouring “serious cash into ersatz animal products. Their goal is to transform the food system the same way Apple changed how we use phones, or Google changed the way we find information.”
With 373 stores in 47 countries, no one would call Ikea a small company. Yet, it was born as a challenger concept in the back woods of Sweden in the 1940s: inexpensive flat-packed furniture for self-assembly, sold via a catalogue and warehouse showroom. By remaining functional, simple, and design-led, Ikea has managed a harmonious marriage built on durable pillars of inexpensive, yet decent quality. Partnering with UNICEF among three dozen other NGOs and IGOs, IKEA Foundation is considered the world’s largest charitable foundation, with an estimated net worth of $36 billion.
Image via www.ikeafoundation.org
3. Warby Parker
Four business school grads asked: Why is eyewear so costly? With US $2,500 in seed money from their university, they founded Warby Parker in 2010, shaking up the supply chain dominated by one company. The challenger brand designs and manufactures fashionable spectacles in-house and provides eyewear via its innovative e-commerce site. The Home Try-On program comes with a free no-questions-asked return policy at a fraction of the price. For every pair of eyeglasses that’s sold, Warby Parker donates the funds to donate one pair to charity, currently over one million pairs of glasses. CSR or Corporate Social Responsibility sits at the heart of this very compelling brand. The company is currently valued at US $1.2 billion.
A few years ago, nobody (except James Dyson) imagined a vacuum cleaner without a vacuum cleaner bag that could operate by centrifugal force. Dyson worked for five years experimenting on 5,179 prototypes before taking a product to the marketplace. With research and design at its core, Dyson machines now include hand dryers, lighting and air treatments that are available in 65 countries. More than 1,000 engineers continually work on inventions. The James Dyson Foundation sponsors design engineering students with scholarships and awards in the UK, USA and Japan.
Image via www.jamesdysonfoundation.co.uk
5. Tesla Motors
Inventor, engineer and investor, self-made billionaire Elon Musk has a stable of disruptive products across multiple industries. From artificial intelligence to solar power to reusable rockets for space exploration, Tesla Motors electric cars are Musk’s best-known challenger brand. His entire stable of companies exist to contribute to Musk’s overarching vision: protecting Earth and humankind via sustainable energy sources and reducing the risk of human extinction by becoming a multi-planetary species. “Really pay attention to negative feedback,” is one of this entrepreneur’s top tips. Next up? “I really want to go to Mars,” says Musk, “It’s a fixer-upper of a planet.”
A View from the Challenger Brand Grave
No stranger to failure, Steve Jobs said in his 2005 Stanford University commencement speech, “You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
And for challenger brands which do reach their goal, they must innovate, innovate, innovate. Success has a great way of dulling the keen edge of ambition; challenger brands can reach a comfort zone of complacency and constant change is the only answer.
Questions to consider
• Are you clear on the differences between a challenger brand and the need for a rebranding?
• Have you figured out what you’re challenging and crafted a story that explains why?
• Do you have a fresh, imaginative, and stimulating idea, product or service, that you’re now ready to develop using brand profiling which provides your roadmap for bringing it life — making it distinctive, different and memorable so your primary audience can’t resist it?
• Do you have the ambitious challenger brand mentality? Are you a risk-taker at heart?
• Does your challenger brand represent a positive value for consumers?
• Do you have the conviction that your brand is something that will leave the world better off? Are you ready to leave an amazing legacy that changes peoples’ lives, and makes them better forever?
https://www.personadesign.ie/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Quotes-from-World-Economic-Forum-2016.jpg386600Lorraine Carterhttps://www.personadesign.ie/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Persona-Design-Logo-512px-300x300.pngLorraine Carter2016-02-24 09:56:002016-05-23 02:42:37The Power of Disruptor Brands and Challenger Brands
Are you curious which Persona Branding and Design articles have been the most popular over the past year?
We’re always interested to see which of our posts resonate most with you, our reader. Even though we do lots of research and planning, there are no guarantees which topics will trigger the most interest.
Here you’ll find an insider’s peek into our top ten most popular branding articles of 2015, some of which you might have missed.
I’m sure you’ll find at least one that will be very useful to your business in the year ahead.
The differences between a tired, old, has-been of a brand and a fresh, lithe and provocative one can be boiled down to a singular concept: storytelling. The art of telling a story, and telling it well, is integral to grabbing every potential customer’s attention, and a key part of your brand strategy.
The secret to success in the elegant art of storytelling lies in understanding its fundamental components. Though by no means comprehensive, what follows is a breakdown of some major elements that any good story should include. These are in fact some of the key ingredients we incorporate in our Story Selling System™ used when developing our clients’ brand stories:
Launching a new brand is both exciting and challenging. The excitement comes in the promise of something fresh and new that could be wildly successful, be it for your well established, emerging or new start-up company — and the challenge comes in getting it right the first time.
It provides the roadmap and rationale to get you out of the starting blocks and heading in the right direction towards your ultimate success. And similar to your business plan, it’s also a key foundation to any successful business, be it product or service.
The question here is, do you know the key ingredients required for building a new brand?
More than a half century ago, the customer-centric branding pioneer Walter Landor said, “Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind.”  In 2016, the path to that consumer experience is a two-way street, and guess who’s in the driver’s seat? Brands with strong personality are the winners, because consumers equate experiences with brands.
Branding keywords for 2016 include: personalized, authentic, humanized, interactive, engaging, and mobile.
Your brand is much more than merely a product or service, or a logo. Brands are an experience—the relationship between your business and your customers—and to create an exceptional customer experience, your brand must have an irresistible personality.
To quote Martyn Newman PhD “In the information age and globalised economy where values and meaning matter more in the market place, the value of emotional capital increases. This creates brand value and goodwill and results in repeat sales through customer loyalty, lifetime relationships and referrals. In other words, the brand is more than a name or a logo; it creates trust and recognition and is a promise and an emotional contract with each customer.”
Brand profiling is the systematic process of creating, developing and implementing your brand character and personality through shaping its brand promise, values, the do’s and don’ts of its behaviours, story, emotional benefits, its culture and what it stands for and so forth.
It’s this humanized entity that gets your brand message out into the market, cuts through the noise and gets the attention of your primary customers in a way that matters to them.
When creating and developing the profiles for our clients’ brands we use our bespoke Personality Profile Performer™, a systematic approach which underpins the commercial, rational, and holistic aspects of successful brand profile building.
Co-branding is defined as a partnership between brands. It typically works best when Brand A partners with Brand B, each with a different set of customers and brand associations of their own.
As in the expression, “the whole is bigger than the parts,” co-branding can add value when synergy exists between the brands; it creates an emotional energy, starts conversations and creates buzz around both partners and can delivery significantly increased financial returns for all involved when done right.
In addition to brand revitalization, co-branding objectives may include getting more bang for your buck, growing market share, building audience reach and altering perceived positioning. Co-branding is primarily used an alliance of two brand partners, although there’s no rule against bringing three or more to the party.
Colour increases brand recognition by 80%. 93% of shoppers consider visual appearance over all other factors while shopping. It adds huge power to communications, opinions, recall and emotive influence. In fact when used correctly, colour is a pivotal tool to substantially influence purchasing decisions, service or product.
Since colour choices impact every aspect of a commercial enterprise, brand owners should aggressively re-evaluate that choice throughout their brand strategy.
The question is, has your brand’s colour palette been selected with the right intent and applied to best possible effect throughout all your brand communications and touch points to ensure your brand grow and increased profitability?
Find out more about why colour matters and how you can use it more effectively within your business.
The growing proliferation of multiple different brands in the market place has made customers spoilt for choice, but often at the expense of easy decision-making.
When presented with an assortment of packaging options in which nothing decisively stands out, with a compellingly clear message that speaks to a customer succinctly, analysis paralysis sets in. It’s when faced with this situation that a confused shopper will typically default to making decisions based on price alone.
The question here is, where does your brand sit in the mix?
Leading brands cut through the visual and cognitive noise created by an oversaturated market full of aggressive competitors and hook their ideal customers by meeting their needs both emotionally and rationally.
The combined value of the various luxury goods markets in 2014 was an estimated 865 billion euros, with luxury cars, personal luxury goods and luxury hospitality taking the top three places, with values of 351 billion, 223 billion and 150 billion respectively.
You might think those statistics make luxury branding a very interesting sector, however if you want to reposition or establish your brand targeted at a high-end customer then there are six keys factors you need to consider within your brand strategy.
Firstly there are four main characteristics by which the luxury customer defines a luxury brand. However the way in which someone perceives luxury will depend on factors ranging from their socio-economic status to their geographical location.
Millennials, the newest generation of influential consumers (also known as Generation Y or Gen Y), spend more than $600 billion dollars annually with spending power expected to reach $1.4 trillion by 2020, (or 30% of US sales) according to Accenture 2013 research.
While these statistics sounds like ‘gold bullion’ for many brands, in our experience often smaller companies and organisations struggle to develop their brand strategy in a way that relates relevantly to this fast changing group of buyers.
Millennial consumers are a very fluid constantly moving target with multiple devices overflowing with content clamouring for their attention 24/7. However once you really understand this discerning consumer properly and tailor your brand to really meet their needs, you can, like many others tap into this incredibly lucrative market.
The average consumer spends 88% more time on content with video and video is shared 1200% more times than links and text combined. A landing page with video gets 800% more conversion than the same page without video.
If you ever thought using video to promote your brand was too difficult or beyond your reach these statistics might make you think again.
Find out exactly how you can use video to grow your brand here.
You can even find out how one small start up brand used video to achieve worldwide distribution and now has more online viewers than its competing massive global brands combined!
Image via Google / YouTube
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Meantime I’d love to keep you up to date with what’s happening in the world of branding and make this blog really useful to you. If there’s anything branding related you would like to read about in this blog or if you have any questions or comments, suggestions for a blog post, feedback or even just to say Hi, just send me a short note, I’m here to help!
82% of all high level corporate executives in the US stated that their customers had higher expectations of their companies than just three years before, 60% of executives found it difficult to please their customers, and 42% stated that consumers are using social media to shame their company into meeting increased customer demands, according to a Lithium survey.
Obviously there is significant room for improvement in the marketplace amongst brand owners. Building a powerful brand is challenging, but consistently providing a great customer experience is central to any successful brand and consequently the quality of recognition, recall, referral, repeat purchase and overall brand affinity achieved amongst your primary target audience.
A positive brand exposure and customer experience is essential for developing brand trust and significantly improving brand recall, as a recent Macquarie University study has shown to be the case for durable goods. It is important to note that the study also revealed that advertising had significantly more influence on brand recall than merely personal experience for Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG).
In order to improve brand recall in an oversaturated modern market, brand owners need to adopt highly effective and proven brand strategies. Here we share with you eight of the most important strategies, with several examples of both large brands and smaller emerging brands utilizing them to great effect.
1. Invest in Developing Your Brand Profile, Proposition & Purpose
The process of increasing brand recall begins with intelligent brand profile development. Your customers need to be given a reason to choose your brand over other similar options. When we work on creating a brand proposition for our clients using the Personality Profile Performer™ System, we ask them to answer a number of seemingly simple questions:
What purpose does your brand serve? What’s its Big Why?
What unique benefits do you offer that can improve your customers’ lives?
How would you define the idea or proposition behind your brand in a single sentence?
What kind of personality, messaging and tone do you envision for your brand?
The results of this initial brand profiling process sets the foundations for all future branding decisions and communications strategies. Defining what your brand stands for may not seem complicated at first glance, but these essential questions that you need to answer play an instrumental role in determining your future success, or lack thereof.
The most successful brands have a deep understanding of how their primary audience thinks. They know how to entice their consumers through creative storytelling, and they do so using sophisticated story creations processes like our Story Selling System™.By telling a compelling and engaging story about the company’s history, its philosophy and core brand values, you can create a positive association between your brand and the ideals that your target audience holds dear.
To truly understand the power of a good narrative, one need only look at Apple’s success in establishing themselves as a brand for forward-thinking and discerning individuals, who aren’t afraid to go against the grain and value quality and performance above all else.
Over the years, Apple has done a magnificent job of keeping the “rebel genius” narrative alive, and has proven to be a highly effective branding strategy. The reason it works so well is that it appeals to people with a specific mindset that transcends gender, race, age and generational differences. The story of Steve Jobs – a talented young man with an idea who overcomes adversity and ultimately builds a corporate empire – is compelling enough that it saw a movie adaptation starring Ashton Kutcher.
There is yet another biographical film, aptly named “Steve Jobs”, scheduled to come out later this year. While not every brand has the budget or influence to finance multiple Hollywood movies, Apple’s masterful storytelling can serve as a source of inspiration and a valuable guide for any aspiring brand.
A great brand story is your primary means of developing an emotional connection with your audience, and a fundamental way to inspire trust through its relatability. According to a 2012 Nielsen study 58% of all online consumers worldwide trust the information on company websites and other owned media, and 50% trust the information they receive in emails that they have signed up for on company websites. There is always a compelling story behind a successful brand, but it must be carefully developed and told in the right way.
A brand audit health check can be viewed as a diagnostics tool, a way to evaluate your brand’s awareness, customer perceptions and the effectiveness of your current brand strategy. It can point out any problem areas, potential outside threats and new market opportunities. A thorough review of your business and marketing plans, your communications and brand collateral, your internal and external audiences helps provide your company with a clear perspective on the most effective brand strategy and business structure.
To build a powerful brand, a company needs to be aware of and tracking what their main competitors and other industry leaders are doing. Another important piece of the puzzle is developing an understanding of your primary audience. Market research is key to acquiring deeper knowledge of the preferences, needs and behaviours of your target demographic together with developing buyer personas for each of your audience types. This knowledge will enable you to develop highly tailored brand strategies and exploit gaps in your competitors’ brand strategy.
For a good example of a smaller emerging brand exploiting a serious weakness of a much larger and well-established competitor, we can turn to Made Eyewear. Warby Parker had already become extremely popular, with many smaller companies attempting to copy their products, when Made Eyewear started gaining some traction in the market.
However, the emerging brand had something that their competition didn’t – they owned and ran their own lens company in China. This enabled Made Eyewear to produce quality products at incredibly low prices, which in turn enabled them to offer unprecedented customization options through which each individual customer could express their own sense of style. Made Eyewear had the ability to engrave the stems, as well as mix and match different colour lenses and stems, to create a truly unique pair of glasses – and offer customers the ability to try out multiple frames with prescription lenses at prices that no competitor could match.
By controlling the entire process from how the moment the product was made to the moment it reached the customer, they were able to find a competitive edge over much bigger and well-established brands.
Creating a great brand logo is about much more than merely designing a small image that will feature on your products, website and promotional material. When our clients come to us with a brand logo design request, they are usually looking for an expert to help them develop their brand identity. We find a lot of companies struggle with defining and articulating their brand’s proposition and purpose together with answering the questions outlined in the first item of this brand strategy tips list. A good logo serves the purpose of crystalizing your brand’s message and its core values, and allows you to communicate these to your audience with maximal efficiency.
Your logo should be appropriate to the market and your primary audience, and it needs to be unique and highly memorable. It is the first thing that will come to people’s minds when they think about your brand, so it plays an important role in recognition and brand recall.
By simply placing their brand logo in the upper corner of their YouTube ad, Libresse managed to improve their brand recall by an astonishing 300%. Even the viewers who only watched the ad for a few seconds before clicking away were noticeably affected.
Brands that make an emotional connection with their target audience achieve the greatest success. Despite the fact that many people believed that technology would eventually cause us to become isolated, social media statistics seem to show the complete opposite to be true – humans are social animals, and we have a strong desire to involve other like-minded people in our lives. Our brains are wired for face-to-face interactions, and consumers tend to trust word of mouth significantly more then other marketing strategies.
Image via www.statista.com
The level of trust that the general public feels for companies has dwindled over the past decade, but there is a way to reach out and earn some of that trust back – engaging your employees as brand ambassadors. As this Edelman global study has shown, consumers are highly receptive to brand promotion efforts coming from company employees.
Image via www.edelman.com
You can turn your employees into brand ambassadors gradually. Making social sharing an integral part of everyone’s workday is an effective way of nurturing brand advocates. Apart from this, you can further humanize your brand by being highly receptive to consumer feedback, offering various perks to your loyal customers and providing exceptional customer service.
When building a brand it is also important to identify all the potential reputation risks that could undermine or destroy your hard earned reputation and nullify all your marketing efforts. We won’t cover all the details or get overly technical in this paragraph, as it is quite a vast topic, but we will provide some insight into the basics.
If we set aside things such as common security threats, e.g. corporate espionage and cyber-attacks, the number one reputation risk are social media blunders. Even the largest brands in the world, with impressive online marketing budgets, keep damaging their reputation with inappropriate comments, hashtag misuse, and attempts at exploiting tragedies.
A brand must have a preventive approach to reputation risk management, i.e. companies should strive to discover and eliminate potential risks, rather than try to deal with the fallout after the damage has been done. This can be done by focusing on a thorough exploration of all factors that can jeopardize your brand reputation by high level executives, regularly scanning the internet for potential risks and enforcing a strategy of proactive reputation risk management.
7. Reach Out to Your Target Audience Through Social Media and Build Connections
Loyal customers are given a behind-the-scenes look at your brand
You can organize giveaways and offer additional content
You can enhance your customer service
By encouraging social sharing, your loyal customers become your brand ambassadors
Social media can be used to help you tell your brand’s story in great depth, and you can make your consumers and products themselves a part of the narrative. The British luxury department store Harrods offers excellent customer service through open social media communication, and their efforts, such as their immensely successful “Twenty Ate Days” campaign that focused on promoting each of the 28 different restaurants within their store, have yielded impress results.
There are a multitude of different social media platforms which your brand can leverage to build it’s own unique online strategies for improving brand recall – e.g. posting “How to” videos and reviews on YouTube, sparking conversations with consumers on Facebook and so forth. The skill lies in choosing the platform most suited to your product or service and your primary target audience.
Even though some companies revamp their brands every few years, household names like Nike have remained true to their core brand values, mission, promise, logo and slogan for a long time. They adapt their campaigns and brand strategy to suits evolving market trends but their fundamental brand DNA remains unchanged. They stay focused on the essentials – they market their shoes to athletes and pride themselves in a high level of sports performance.
• Do you know what factors can negatively affect your brand reputation, and do you have a comprehensive brand risk management strategy in place?
 Lithium (San Francisco), “Corporate America Under Pressure From Consumers’ Rising Expectations (Press Release)”, June 2015
 Nielsen (New York), “Global Consumers’ Trust In ‘Earned’ Advertising Grows In Importance”, April 2012
 Think with Google, “Libresse improves brand recall by 300% with logo placement”
 Kimberly A. Whitler, Forbes, “Why Word Of Mouth Marketing Is The Most Important Social Media”, July 2014
 Sandy Gibson, SocialMediaToday, “Cognitive Dissonance: Why Social Sharing Creates Employee Advocates”, February 2013
 Eric Samson, Entrepreneur.com, “10 of the Dumbest Social Media Blunders Ever”, June 2015
 Businesscasestudies.co.uk, “Increasing Brand Awareness Through Social Media Communications (a Harrods case study)”
https://www.personadesign.ie/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Persona-Design-Logo-512px-300x300.png00Lorraine Carterhttps://www.personadesign.ie/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Persona-Design-Logo-512px-300x300.pngLorraine Carter2015-10-05 13:50:002021-12-01 19:31:55Brand Recall: 8 Strategies for Building a More Profitable Brand
At the early Olympics, every four years triumphant athletes were lauded by having sponsorships called out (family name and native town), odes written and likenesses commissioned. These ancient versions of mass media frenzy were designed to create buzz and sing the virtues of the victorious. Today, major sporting events continue to represent big opportunities for ambassadorships and sponsors, since everyone loves a winning athlete.
As the world’s third-biggest sporting event, attracting an audience of 4.5 billion, brands of all sizes have jumped on board. Three thousand years later, what can we learn from the contemporary interpretation of getting one’s brand behind huge sporting events such as the Rugby World Cup?
Note that brand strategy in 2015 requires the “softly, softly”, more authentic and transparent approach for even the most hard-core rubgy fans. Here’s what we mean by that:
1. Humanizing Your Brand (case study Duracell)
2. Developing Influencers (case study Heineken)
3. Adding Values (case study EY)
4. Thinking Locally (case study Land Rover)
5. Using How-To (case study Canon)
Humanizing Your Brand: Duracell’s Powerplay
First and foremost, you want a battery that lasts; not much else about a battery is terribly important. But, how do you know when the battery is about to die? Unlike smartphones, there’s no indicator screen — unless you’re using PowerCheck technology, uniquely found on Duracell batteries since 1996.
Duracell re-positioned #PowerCheck within the rugby event framework, capitalizing on an ideal opportunity for Duracell to emphasize both power and strength. A two-pronged approach, to put a face (and physique) to the brand, enlisted Wales and British Lions captain Sam Warburton as the muscle-bound ambassador for a digital, in-store and PR campaign featuring footage from previous Rugby World Cups.
On the 2015 World Cup rugby pitch, #PowerCheck technology is used to help to track players’ performance indicators, combining rucks, tackles, carries and turnovers won during each game, rewarding those who “stay stronger for longer.”
Image via www.marketingweek.com and www.duracell.com
Alex Haslam, senior assistant brand manager for Duracell UK & Ireland, told Marketing Week the sponsorship will continue in future years and become part of the brand’s long-term brand strategy. Haslam said, “We know we’re not going to own rugby as a brand, but we’ve created something totally ownable. No other brand is talking about power and longevity.”
Actionable Branding Tip 1
How can I humanize my brand? The Duracell brand strategy can help smaller brands because it’s totally scaleable. Community events, county championships, school fairs, local youth sport clubs, charity fun runs and tournaments all present opportunities for associating your brand with local heroes and teams. Sponsor T-shirts, donate the local juniors’ kits, donate printing services, provide snacks and beverages for break time. We can help you find a great fit for your brand message in connection to a well-respected event, just like Duracell did.
Developing Brand Influencers: Heineken’s Heads or Tails
Former England captain Will Carling is a rugby VIP. Heineken is a big beer brand. People watch the rugby while drinking beer. Everyone gets that…but, there’s more to a tie-up than hiring someone like Carling to hold up the famous green beer bottle with the red star for the camera.
Heineken thought out some ways to get armchair fans involved with star rugby brand ambassadors to enhance the spectator experience, even to the extent of getting 48 fans onto the actual field to open matches, creating untold positive reinforcement for Heineken.
The campaign, “It’s Your Call” was created. Consumers find a unique code on the inside of special Heineken promotional packs or on a coin card given out in pubs when buying a Heineken during the promotion. Up for grabs are thousands of official Rugby World Cup 2015 merchandise prizes and the chance to flip the coin at Rugby World Cup 2015 matches.
To further emphasize “experiences, not just sponsorship,” Will Carling includes coin toss winners in video interviews with top rugby stars, while consumers are invited to live tweet at the rugby legends.
David Lette, premium brands director for Heineken UK, told Marketing Week, “The key thing for us is how we drive the association in a unique and experiential way for consumers.”
Image via www.marketingweek.com and www.heineken.com
Adding Values: EY (Ernst & Young) Connects the Dots
Appointed as the official business advisor for the tournament, professional services firm EY (Ernst & Young LLP) targeted a B2B opportunity outside the consumer sphere.
Image via www.ey.com
Homing in on good sportsmanship values like leadership, motivation, performance and teamwork, EY connects the dots to resonate with their client base. Via exclusive seminars and publishing interviews with highly regarded rugby personalities, EY stays relevant while shining a light on their brand’s appointment.
Comments from proven winners in the world of rugby come from Katy Mclean, England women’s captain; Sir Graham Henry, former coach of New Zealand’s All Blacks; and Sir Ian McGeechan, former Scotland and British Lions player and coach, on topics such as “Lessons in Leadership:Rugby to the Boardroom.” It’s a perfect fit for B2B.
Image via www.ey.com
Tom Kingsley, sport and sponsorship director at EY, illustrates the tie-in, “On a daily basis we are asked by our clients about how to compete on a global stage…
Rugby World Cup affords us the opportunity to explore some of those issues because it is the coming together of 20 elite rugby teams all with one aim — to win on the global stage.”
Actionable Branding Tip 3
We’re a B2B brand, but small: Smaller business can mirror EY’s content marketing strategy by creating white papers, blog posts, newsletters, webinars, videos and other B2B marketing initiatives that deliver meaningful information and added value to clients and prospects. When there’s a trending event, connect to it through content. We’ll show you how hashtags are your workhorse and a strongly developed brand content strategy can help you punch well above your weight.
Think Locally: Land Rover Drives the Message Home
Fact: every sports hero and Olympian began as an amateur. Land Rover plucked “from the grassroots to the greatest stage” as the theme for their local-to-global storytelling campaign using the hashtag #WeDealInReal. The brand recruited 96 enthusiastic mascots aged 7-13 from 11 amateur rugby clubs around the world, representing each competing country to run out with their nation’s team.
“It speaks to the heart of the game and I think it also speaks strongly to the brand about being authentic and genuine,” Laura Schwab, UK marketing director at parent company Jaguar Land Rover, told Marketing Week.
Actionable Branding Tip 4
Great idea, but we’re not a global brand. Small brands are perfectly positioned to drive Land Rover’s concept forward. As a mascot for the Welsh Rugby Union, pint-sized 8-year-old Finlay Walker at Llanharan RFC and a Hampshire local rugby club were not too tiny to garner attention from Jaguar Land Rover. Every brand can — and must — tell their own authentic brand stories one person at a time. We can help you identify and create the best story opportunities using our Story Selling System™.
Idea #2: Exclusivity rocks. Canon offers amateur photographers who post the best rugby shots to shadow a Getty Images photographer at a RWC 2015 training session. The shots get featured on the official RWC website photo gallery. Who knows what special moments might be captured?
Image via www.rugbyworldcup.com
Idea #3:How-to tips. Self-proclaimed “massive fan” Bear Grylls, intrepid adventurer, is joined by professional rugby photographer Dave Rogers to demonstrate angles, shutter speeds and more tips for capturing great shots like Rogers’ famous Jonny Wilkinson drop kick in Sydney from 2003.
Cyprian da Costa, brand communications director for Canon Europe, said that images play “a vital role in capturing the unmatched excitement and emotion of global sports.”
Image via www.rugbyworldcup.com
Actionable Branding Tip 5
How can Canon ideas help my brand? By turning your brand marketing approach on its head. Years ago, a big brand idea around a huge event would have focused on “Canon can…” rather than “You can…” Take a second look at all your brand’s content and brand collateral, adverts, tag lines and social media to re-position everything with an emphasis on your brand seen through the eyes of your audience, not your executive boardroom. We’re here to help.
We’d love to know what you think about how to scale these five big brand approaches to fit a smaller brand size.
• Are you telling compelling stories about your brand? This is where you might want to consider brand profiling using a system like our Personality Profile Performer™ combined with our Story Selling System™ to help you develop a really compelling and distinctively different brand.
• Is CSR part of your brand strategy? Does your brand support a school, community program or charity drive?
https://www.personadesign.ie/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Persona-Design-Logo-512px-300x300.png00Lorraine Carterhttps://www.personadesign.ie/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Persona-Design-Logo-512px-300x300.pngLorraine Carter2015-09-28 07:55:002016-05-22 15:06:36Rugby World Cup Branding: 5 Ideas You Can Learn From Big Brand Marketers
The differences between a tired, old, has-been of a brand and a fresh, lithe and provocative one can be boiled down to a singular concept: storytelling. The art of telling a story, and telling it well, is integral to grabbing every potential customer’s attention, and a key part of your brand strategy.
An evocative narrative can also help your brand hold that attention. When your brand engages the hopes, dreams, aspirations, empathy, sense of humour and so forth — in short, the emotions of your clients — you stand a much greater chance of retaining those individuals attention, and being remembered by them, because they relate to your message and you have enriched their lives in a small but meaningful way.
Who doesn’t like to be surprised by a strange news story, or to laugh at a clever series of jokes strung together in a pithy YouTube video?
For these reasons and more, content marketing has taken its place at the top of the food chain, with every business feeding this great, omnipotent entity. Entrepreneur.com called 2014 the “Year of the Story” due to the explosive rise of content marketing, and other modern forms of brand storytelling.
Ever since humankind was composed entirely of hunters and gatherers, we have been congregating around campfires to keep warm, to be in good company and to while away the nighttime hours with storytelling.
Before we even learn to speak, we giggle gleefully at the cadence and colour of a good yarn told by our parents or grandparents. As each of us matures, we seek out more and more complex tales. That pursuit is part of what makes us human.
Stories provide shelter from the proverbial cold nights of human existence; they give each of us much needed catharsis. We have used many media to relate powerful, emotionally-charged stories over the millennia of human existence: cave paintings, tablets, parchment, novels, novellas, newspapers and, now, the Internet. What does storytelling look like on the Internet?
The Top 5 Components of a Great Brand Story
The secret to success in the elegant art of storytelling lies in understanding its fundamental components. Though by no means comprehensive, what follows is a breakdown of some major elements that any good story should include. These are in fact some of the key ingredients we incorporate in our Story Selling System™ used when developing our clients’ brand stories:
1. The Call
Also known as the outset or journey, this beginning is integral to the life of a story because it provides the reader/viewer/listener with the seeds of a theme that will grow over the course of the story. Rites of passage, the first pangs of a heady romance or a simple scene of a family at home each will set the stage for what is to come in that particular story. In other words, they provide the essential “why.”
2. Colourful Characters
Every story needs a cast of full-bodied, three-dimensional heroes/heroines, sages/gurus, villain, foils, clowns and so on. Research shows that character-driven stories with strong emotional content result in better understanding of key messages and stronger recall weeks later.
3. Setting the Scene
Next the teller will build upon the beginning by showing what “a day in the life” is like. Establishing the “norm” is critical to a good story, because you need to strike a balance before you can upset it.
The difference between a great story and a simple anecdote is conflict. Conflict leads to struggle and strife, the expression of fears, failures and frustration. Uncertainty and self-doubt, among many other narrative tools, allow the storyteller to build up tension and, thus, excitement with sustained listener attention.
5. The Breakthrough
Also called the climax of a story, this is the part where, in branding terms, you make the conversion. After an enticing beginning, the introduction of a wonderful cast, setting the scene and building up tension through adversity, the climax represents the apex of conflict. Then occurs the breakthrough, that moment when, at last, we achieve resolution. This element is necessary to the successful conclusion of a story because it provides catharsis, which is the big reason we seek to escape through stories in the first place.
The Humanity of Brand Storytelling
A study published by the University of California, Berkeley,found that oxytocin is the neurochemical that makes it possible for human beings to experience empathy and take a voyage of the mind by reading, watching or listening to stories.
Character-driven tales resonate with the human brain on the deepest levels. To effectively translate this information to aid your rebranding initiatives, first know that oxytocin is also responsible for the human impulses of cooperation and charity. That makes sense, because these drives naturally derive from our ability to empathize.
This empathy is not limited to real-world (i.e. nonfictional) people, either. Our brains’ production of oxytocin ensures that we emulate the feelings the characters on the screen or on the page are feeling. In a tragedy, we are right there with the hero, grieving for the loss of his mother. An action-packed adventure liberates us from the mundane and makes us feel like we really are Indiana Jones, swooping in to steal an ancient artifact.
A perfect example of this is Nike’s “Find Your Greatness” ad campaign. This ad perfectly targets the aspirations of real, everyday people, and thus the brand is powerfully related to our common struggles, making us much more likely to pay attention and, eventually, buy the product.
Unifying Branding and Storytelling
Video content marketing: 2012-2013 video was one of the fastest growing segments. Everyone now has a device that you can access good, high quality video from just about anywhere. Videos don’t need to be that expensive either. Sure, you need high end video, but telling a strong story through a video series is very powerful. Viral video does not equal content marketing, but a tool thereof. What you really want is to be shared, which requires an integrated approach. Consistently tell a story that enables customers to do something. Some stories are most effectively told through video, and more and more will fall under this category in the future.
Here is a great, short video by Joe Pulizzi to explain further.
The Personal Touch
A wonderful, multipart video ad campaign is Progressive Insurance’s “Small Business Tips,” which answers questions that any small business owner might have. Part one focuses on where to naturally find your ideal hires, showcasing short clips of a restaurant followed by the tip itself: “fish where the fish are.”
In just 39 seconds, this video tells a micro story which sets up the “why,” establishes conflict (finding those hires) and ultimately resolves the problem with the tip, the lesson learned.
Another type of cutting-edge and clever marketing is the interactive video. An advertisement for the Subaru Forester, entitled “The Big Night,” takes viewers on a visual journey during which they have to make choices. These may be technically simple, as the style boils down to “yes or no” or multiple choice. However, by putting the prospect into the role of a detective of sorts, he or she clicks through the mini-adventure out of curiosity.
Image via www.subaru-global.com
By the time the advert is over, the prospective customer has learned a lot about the Forester’s features but the experience was so seamless that he or she doesn’t even know that that information has been woven into his or her mind.
A Picture is Worth… You Know the Rest
In line with the video brand storytelling, a powerful way to evoke the emotions of your audience is to share your message in the form of eye-catching brand collateral or graphics and pictures. Whether inspiring, thought-provoking, comical, anything in between or any combination thereof, visual content marketing is on the rise.
We all know the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words,” but there is a reason it’s considered a cliché: the sentiment is indisputably true. A great example of this would be the Panera Bread’s Pinterest page, which the company keeps constantly updated with not only hi-definition pictures of its products but also self-care and crafting tips, among other topics, all of which reflect the brands story and values while continuing to resonate with is constantly growing list of followers — now at over 40,000.
No matter what angle you go for when creating and publishing your brand story through a visual content marketing campaign, just be sure that your approach is share-worthy yet human, personal and specific, yet primed for mass consumption.
The best part of telling a brand story well is that relating to your customer on a personal level is precisely what gives it the potential for universal appeal. We all, fundamentally, are endowed with the same capacity to love, fear, to be joyful or melancholy. Storytelling, in essence, unites us with the rest of humankind.
Storytelling Can Serve any Brand
Whether your brand is big or small, new to the market or an established behemoth, storytelling for the purposes of branding or rebranding is a really powerful tool that is easily accessible to you.
Instagram is free to use; a recurring blog with regular, fresh content can be put in place choosing from a plethora of hosting sites; and video blogs or mini-series can be put up on YouTube, Vimeo or your own website. The most important thing though is to ensure you are consistent across all your chosen brand platforms, channels and touchpoints.
In other words, what is your story? How can it be related to the struggles of everyday people (i.e. your customers)? How does your brand solve their problems and meet their needs?
Would you be better served by posting a series of captivating storytelling images, a customer testimonial backed by invigorating music or a short personable message from one of the leaders in your company, adding that invaluable human touch?
Brand storytelling helps businesses grow, increases brand awareness and most importantly helps increase profitability so what’s stopping you from telling your own brand story and bringing it to life in a way that really captures the imagination of your primary customer?
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