#brandbitestuesday! Real brands don’t brag…they tell stories! By Adedapo Adebajo


At this age and time, story telling has become the quintessence of brand marketing. It is no longer just about devising communication campaigns that only brag about aesthetic packaging of a product or the excellent services a brand offers. As a matter of fact, rhapsodizing about product attributes or usage benefits no longer guarantees patronage. It’s not just about putting Lady Gaga in an advert to adulate the brand for two minutes or that elaborate print campaign with the faces of Photoshopped-models. Yes! that TV advert might be intriguing, that radio jingle might be the sing-along type, that magazine advert might be pleasing to the eye, but if these campaigns are only inundated with boring messages rather than enthralling stories behind the brand, you are giving your customers a reason not to care, thereby making it easier for them to look elsewhere…and they will gladly do so! There are myriad options in the market for customers and the span of their attention is getting shorter by the minute. So unless that brand says something worth listening to and that message is imbued with enthrallment, such a brand is likely to be overlooked. Even though attentiveness does not necessarily induce purchase or instantly translate to loyalty, it is a starting point to get the customer to notice your brand. Once the attention is gained, the next step is to court the buyer with the experience the brand delivers.

Let us bear in mind that brands are attention seekers and stories are attention-grabbing mechanisms, especially when told in the most exciting way. The best brands are those that have realized the value that is attached to story telling. So rather than just flood the media with unimaginative ad messages like most brands do, they have mastered the art of story-telling and drew customers closer by narrating the legend of the brand. These brands make the customers feel like they contributed to the brand’s myth and as a result, customers feel like they are part of something special. Their attention to the brand becomes undivided and brand loyalty matures into brand affinity. A classic example is Harley-Davidson, a motorcycle brand that now resides in the hearts of not only its customers but also its staff. If the staff could love the brand so much that they tattooed the brand name on the their body parts, then you can imagine what the consumers will do to express the magnitude of their loyalty and affection for the brand. A typical Harley-Davidson advert is a story that stretches the imagination of the consumer to the limit. The content of the brand’s marketing campaigns is never devoid of a riveting tale that leaves the audience with an overdose of suspense and a demand for an encore. There is a 1991 movie entitled- Harley-Davidson and the Marlboro Man by Simon Wincer- oh yes! The movie was named after the brand and marketing doesn’t get any better than that!

apple top stoytelling brand

Telling a story is not an act; it is an art. It requires mastery, creativity, sensationalism and precision. Let the story be told in the most unusual, ye fascinating way. This story could be told in the form of a TV commercial or through the copy of a print advert. Writing a short story book about the brand is not a bad idea and devising a viral You Tube video that demonstrates the qualities and essence of the brand could also be one of the ways in which stories of a brand can be told. However, apart from the content of your story, another important thing is the audience. These are people you aim to please, captivate, persuade, relate and bond with through your story. They are central to the success of that story, therefore, ascertaining their interests, beliefs and knowing who they really are is paramount. Adopt precision in the narratives and avoid loose-fitting plots because a story that does not hit the target is a complete waste of marketing space. For instance, if the audience of a brand consists mainly of women who don’t believe in marriage, then your communication should not be infused with romantic stories of happily ever after. That’s like trying to sell meat to a vegetarian or persuading a Muslim to buy pork. In other words, ensure that your story mirrors the views and interests of your audience if it must resonate.

Nowadays, paying attention to hogwash is too costly for most people; it’s a luxury consumers can’t afford to squander; therefore, only a catchy story can arrest their heed. In order for a brand to be reckoned with, authenticity must be a virtue that must be exhibited by that brand. Since story-telling is one of the elements of brand authenticity, it is imperative to figure out what the story of your brand is (it could be about the brand’s selling point, purpose or heritage), perfect the art of narrating it in an out-of-the-box manner and most importantly, make sure it’s a true story. And like Vera Nazarian (author of Dreams of the Compass Rose) said, “two things change the world- the stories we tell and the memories they leave behind”.


Adedapo Adebajo (MSc Brand Leadership)
Norwich Business School UEA

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