Among the plethora of communication tools available in a marketer’s arsenal, what merit does a story hold? There is scientific reason behind its pervasiveness. It isn’t unusual to remember stories told by Grandma, while forgetting the grade X history on which exams were written many times within the same year. The reason is evident. A good story has a powerful narrative which ignites imagination; long boring historical accounts riddled with dates and facts strangle the learning out of what could have been priceless.
The desire for good stories is not restricted by segments or demographics. A newspaper report; a WhatsApp message; a website page; a YouTube video; a voice message; a book; an article or a tweet about a protagonist, who started with a small seed of a business idea, moved from the status ‘nobody to somebody’ will find audience with every member of a household. A forgotten story will be revived and retold… no story is too old to be lost.
Story knows no geographical boundaries. It is adopted and adapted to reach a wide audience. It integrates your marketplace into a seamless unit. The pride in a story connects employees, customers and interested parties onto one platform.
Who should tell the story? All brands, without exception! What counts is whether it was worthy to be told. The stories of Apple Computer, Ford Motors, IBM, Google and Facebook, among many others, have been told many times across many platforms, and each time draw out the response of ‘wow’.
A good story has a lesson; values that drive the receiver to connect with the brand – a saga of trials, difficult choices and triumph of uncompromised values. The story’s recipient engages with empathy, driven by a constant state of anticipation and curiosity about what happens next, feels terrible for the defeats and celebrates the victory as if their own.
Should it be a long story or a short one? Shorten it or expand it, based on the elasticity of the media, but keep it scrupulously fresh and consistent. Does it sound like an oxymoron? Keep building on the sequels. Brand lives forever. One-time glory can risk apathy; continuous updates of responses to struggles will keep it fresh. As for consistency, it’s more to do with staying true to your values.
The timelessness of stories is precisely what renders them superior. Stories are imperishable and can be part of both history and future, all at once. A story loaded with priceless nuggets of wisdom will find its way into lecture rooms, school books, board rooms and magazines, and remain there beyond the shelf life offered by other communication methods. The pride in telling one’s story and the joy of listening to a story is unparalleled. The story of Steve Jobs as told by him in the Stanford Commencement Address will return indefinitely to electrify the most placid pupils.
Customers are not robots; the stories connect on an emotional plane. Narrate your brand’s journey from conception. A riveting narration leaves an indelible impression on its receivers: inspiring, compelling and unforgettable. No other marketing tool delivers itself so powerfully into the hands of a marketer.
The tone and tenor of the story should be honest, bereft of pompousness and manipulation of facts. Great brands are not born great, but are made great by prevailing over ruthless competition, difficult market conditions, hostile legal terrain and unfriendly media. Bare it all… unapologetically!
Finally, brand is owned by the customers and they have the right to know and belong to its legacy. If they love the hero (your brand) in the story, they will support it forever. Go ahead, they are listening.