Oral folklore has been a cornerstone of every single society from the dawn of time and has played a pivotal role in shaping the different meshes of these societies, sometimes withstanding years of cultural and societal evolution. And it remains that all humans beings still and always will love a good story; be it over a beer mug in a sports bar or over roasted corn and plums by a warm fireside in the middle of the rainy season. This is something we often forget as we plan our marketing communications.
It is even more important in this digital age that we live in, as target audiences have become more and more fragmented and consumers increasingly choose how they want to consume content, from skipping through YouTube ads to sharing their personal recommendations on Facebook. This signals that it does not suffice to just make good-looking content to get your message across, but instead, coupling that with a good story that strikes a chord with your audience will be a more effective option.
We were repeatedly told in business school that a brand, pretty much like impressions, is what the consumer thinks about you from an emotional point of view. And again, like impressions, it is up you to make a good first one. It’s important to keep that going through a consistent delivery of your core values in your products and your services as you create value for the customer. All this should be boxed up in your brand promise and parceled in a way that your customer can easily tell you from the brand next door, or on the same shelf.
Sounds complicated? If it does to you, don’t feel bad. This is where good storytelling can help make this a little less complicated for yourself and your target customers. Let us break that down a little.
One of the most memorable TV adverts ever aired in my Country (Cameroon) was by done by the UCB Brewery Company in the very early 2000s. At the time, the internet was limited to cyber cafes, there were no social media platforms, cable TV wasn’t very ubiquitous and TV advert exposure was high…the perfect ingredients to introduce the brand new Kadji Beer to household TV screens. In the 41 seconds advert, a simple story of hard work and perseverance comes to life in a bottle of beer that I, at the time, was certain tasted like success.
More than a decade later, this advert is likely the most memorable TV advert for any Cameroonian product. It is not just a really good advert, it also gives an exemplary lesson on how good storytelling can help your brand. I will summarize this in six points:
1.Define your brand. The very first step in telling the story of your brand is by defining what your brand is. Too often, many businesses are not able to deliver a clear consistent message about themselves because they have no identity. What does your brand stand for? What are its values? What is written in your organizational DNA? Like Apple, is innovation the hallmark of your identity? Or are you like Volvo wherein customer safety is a top priority? Or are you like Coca-Cola where fun, love and sharing are values your brand promotes? Or more like Kadji beer which promised a “bière de grande classe?” Once you are able to understand your organizational identity and build a brand on the values you hold dear, only then, can you write a story.
2.Tell an interesting story. People watching TV skip through channels if they find nothing interesting on. People will put down a book if they do not find it interesting. The trick here would be to stop thinking like a marketer. Stop trying to sell your product, and instead, to focus on developing human interest. You have to tell a story as you would on an ordinary day with a particular objective in mind. Do you want to make your audience laugh, cry, or reflect? Whatever it is, it should be able to captivate the audience member and connect with that person. In the Kadji Beer advert, the beer is named after Kadji Defosso, a now wealthy man who despite being born into a poor home and with very little formal schooling, was able to build a fortune. The undertones of the story are simple, (1) if you have achieved success like Kadji Defosso, then this beer is for you. (2) If you want to succeed like Kadji Defosso, then this beer is for you. It may sound silly until you ask people why they ever tried Kadji Beer in the first place.
3. Keep it short, simple and sweet. There is no prescribed time limit on storytelling as there shouldn’t be for the obvious reason that some stories will need a longer running time than others. However, keep in mind that we live in a digital age and consumers are constantly bombarded by thousands of adverts on a daily basis. Our attention span has fallen drastically and stretching a story for too long (especially when it is not captivating enough) can be counterproductive and the desired viewer will likely skip to the next item. Thus it will be preferable to give just the essential elements. The Kadji Beer advert with its 41 seconds will still do great even today.
4. State your brand promise and values. A beer that is fine, light and elegant, and is made with the best grains, has a unique taste, that took the experience of a lifetime to make; these are the brand values that are spelt out in the Kadji Beer advert. It is important here to be able to blend this into the overall story. Failing to do that will sound like you are trying to sell, and your audience might take that as a dishonest ploy into tricking them to buy.
5. Make it memorable (Give a strapline). Give the audience something to take back home. A strapline is your best option here, but be careful, straplines should not be conjured out of thin air. A strapline should be able to summarize what your brand stands for in just a few words. Nike’s “Just Do It” is no doubt one of the most famous in the world today. Nespresso’s “What Else?” as well. For our favorite beer above, it is “Il a fallu du temps.” Translated loosely it means “it took a long time to get here, but we finally did.” This simply emphasizes the work, time, effort, and patience it took to make the “beer of a great class” that Kadji Beer is. A good strapline is one that audiences can remember even years after the promotion ends. Personally, I have never forgotten it.
6. Build up a community. We live in the digital age and the internet 2.0 has effectively replaced traditional advertising. It is important to activate the social share buttons and leverage the power of social media to push the message inscribed within your brand promises across the internet. Consistency here is key as you have to repeatedly communicate the same message about your brand in different ways such that it sticks with the public. Apple, Coca-Cola and Nike have consistently kept a unique message in their advertisement. Apple = Innovation, Coke = Happiness and Fun, Nike = Excellence and Performance. What is it you stand for? Identify that, always make that an integral part of your storytelling, and then make sure people understand that. That way, you can build a community and a following over that/those value(s).
Daniel is passionate about marketing and creative writing. He is a champion at “The Big Bang Theory” trivia. An avid fan of “Game of Thrones” and John Grisham, he has been a Manchester United supporter since he was 10. If it’s your thing, you can follow him on Twitter as well.