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Gaynor Strachan Chun
 
April 15, 2020 | Gaynor Strachan Chun

Create Compelling Stories with a Brand Narrative

In our last two blog posts, we discussed the importance of staying true to your brand in uncertain times. Your brand is your compass to keep you on course. It is your scale to weigh options, and programs, to make determinations on what to do. Your brand is also what makes a connection with your customers and sets their expectations of you. A strong well-defined brand will also span across channels. For instance, you could make the jump from an on-premise brand to an online brand and your customers will follow.

But there is another reason everyone is focusing on brands as of late. There is an entirely new generation reshaping how we think about our communications. Millennials have smart marketers looking at their brands in a different way. They are pivoting the marketing pitch from a focus on the product to the story behind the product.

That might not even be enough. Millennials are, as Rebecca Vogels points out in a recent Forbes article, “Living and prioritizing their lives around experiences, not material possessions. They don’t only want to be told stories they want to live them as well.” This means that without a basic foundation to ground and filter the stories you put out online, the stories will be fleeting, and their value is forgotten in the next tweet.

This foundation is called a Brand Narrative, and research tells us a successful brand narrative can increase the value of a brand 20x in the eyes of the target audience. (Significant Objects)

What is a Narrative?

To be useful as that strong foundation, a narrative must be timeless. It must offer a promise and an expression of purpose to the target audience, and create and express a distinct emotional impact. The goal is for your target to self-identify with the narrative – to feel “I am one of you” or “you get me.”

This may have nothing to do with the product itself.  Warby Parker’s narrative is accessibility, in a category that was traditionally too expensive for many people. Mailchimp’s narrative is mischief, in a category that is traditionally boring. And, Martha Stewart’s narrative is empowerment, proving that anyone can have a creative and beautiful space that they make themselves. The narrative provides the filter, not only for the stories the company tells every day but for everything the company does -- new products, new sales channels, copy and design, customer service, the company’s culture. It is the narrative that describes the experience your customers will have with your brand. The role of the stories and the actions of the brand/company is illustrative of the narrative.

Brands are no longer what we tell people we are, but what our community says about us. Social media is just a platform for brands to expose their narratives, and the stories that support them, to attract people to their community.

Identifying Your Brand Narrative

People buy into brands that feed their individual narrative. For example, I think of myself as an explorer. I love discovering new things, traveling, not being confined by rules, and being in tune with cultural narratives. If I were to change careers I would become a cultural anthropologist. The brands I am loyal to are those that feed my need for freedom and discovery – for example, Land Rover, Cost Plus, Coursera (courses on Art and Culture,) Sephora, and Anthropologie. These brands speak my language, fit my personality, and add value.

Branch Archetypes

The easiest way to define your brand narrative is to reference Carl Jung’s Personality Archetypes. He defined 12 archetypes that define the over-arching personalities that drive human behavior. (See Image above.) Of course, the over-arching archetypes are only the tip of the iceberg. To correctly identify your brand narrative, you will need to dig into the detail, the sub-groups, the motivations, and expectations. But once you have decided where your brand lives the archetype and its narrative is a powerful tool that focuses all communication – look, feel, and tone (internal and external.)

Your Brand Narrative is a Compass in Difficult Times

Why are we bringing this up now? Because brands who are true to who they are will survive this pandemic. They will adapt in ways that are consistent within the brand experience and their customers will stay with them because they are behaving the way they always have and are familiar and comfortable. And, they will come out on the other side stronger for it.

Remember:

  • Your brand narrative provides a consistent and cohesive brand look, feel voice and tone, across everything your brand does.
  • A brand narrative gives your brand a human identity and personality which helps customers understand the type of experience your brand will deliver.
  • A brand narrative defines the through-line for all the stories your brand tells – marketing, advertising, sales, customer support…it doesn’t care about the channel or platform.
  • All successful brands possess a strong and uniquely identifiable archetype. A personality, that reflects the aspirations and hopes of the core audience.

We live in turbulent times. Everyday life has changed dramatically. We are looking for stability, comfort, hope, joy. Now, more than ever, we turn to the brands with a clear narrative and point of view on where they fit in our lives.

So, get out there and talk to your customers. And, you be you.

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