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Best Seller – Brand Storytelling

We all live for a great story. A story that we can retell that has suspense, adversity and a great ending. Humanity has been built on stories. Since the beginning of time, storytelling was the only way to transfer knowledge and inspire people to move forward. The first written story was the The Epic of Gilgamesh an epic poem dating back to 2100 BC written on 12 clay tablets. Today, there are over 129,864,880 books in the entire world according to Google’s advanced algorithm – unfortunately I can’t say I’ve read them all – yet.

Storytelling is the hottest and newest branding tool on the market. But in reality it is the oldest and most enduring element of human civilization. Except, we no longer sit around a smoky fire pit wearing stinky and somewhat revealing leather gear, while the storyteller points at the holographic on the cave wall. Today, we have progressed to boring PowerPoints and uncomfortable three piece suits.

Joh Hamm’s article Why Agencies and Brands Need to Embrace True Storytelling says “Stories are how we pass on our accumulated wisdom, beliefs and values. They are the process through which we describe and explain the world around us, and our role and purpose in it. Audiences have always known this and asked for stories—they’ve never asked for content.”

Storytelling is Best Seller on Social

It seems that social media has given new life to storytelling. For brands, attracting consumers with captivating, engaging stories that are significant and meaningful is a new competitive edge.  If all employees could tell the company’s brand story (promise) with passion and emotionally-charged, descriptive language using no facts and figures you wouldn’t need advertising.  Susan Gunelius’s article How to write brand stories that builds emotional connections on Forbes website states “Stories are the perfect catalyst to building brand loyalty and brand value. When you can develop an emotional connection between consumers and your brand, your brand’s power will grow exponentially.”

Close to seven million people have viewed the of Coco Chanel’s story on YouTube. A story about transforming women’s fashions, and the transformation of a woman who build the CHANEL empire.

We all know it’s much easier said than done.  Recently, Colleen HendersonPresident of Perfect Pitch Consulting coached forty of my team members in how to write a good story. Everyone struggled to write one emotional sentence of what we do for our customers. It isn’t easy writing compelling and inspiring brand stories. If it was easy everyone would be doing it.

Start the Story with Why

The best brand stories are aimed to get the audience to care by answering their question “why?” Many successful brands only talk about the “why” and less about the facts.  Neil Patel writer for Forbes says when someone is “interested in your brand’s story, they feel connected in a powerful way. This feeling of connection then turns them into customers.”

Toms shoes uses storytelling to convince thousands of people and customers to go a day without shoes with their annual “One Day without Shoes” campaign to raise awareness of the millions of children around the world who have no shoes.

The campaign is actually on right now until May 21. If you Instagram your bare feet with the hashtag #withoutshoes they will give a new pair of shoes to a child in need. Check out my lovely toes at #withoutshoes.

Jonah Sachs author of Winning the Story Wars: Why Those Who Tell (and Live) the Best Stories Will Rule the Future says “It’s critical for brands to shift from messaging to storytelling. After all, a brand is nothing more than an ongoing story – a set of meaningful emotional experiences – unfolding between itself and its audiences.”

So what makes a good story or story-selling? A brand DNA is all about where it came from and how it got to where it is today. But a great story needs conflict. Dove’s Real Beauty “You’re more beautiful than you think” campaign is a great example.

All good stories has the following elements: introduction to set the stage, a protagonist (the hero) an antagonist (the villain), a conflict, a climax, a resolution, and a reason why the audience should care. Better yet, you can follow Aristotle’sSeven Golden Rules of Storytelling: plot, character, theme, speech (or dialog), chorus (or music), decor and spectacle. Ideally you want to make the customer the hero but in some circumstance you want to make your brand the hero.

Don’t Mix Facts with a Good Story

Facts actually make people more sceptical on what they are seeing and hearing.  Researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not correcting misinformation, but doing the complete opposite, make misinformation even stronger. We often base our opinions on our beliefs, which don’t always mesh with facts, so we chose the facts that best fit our beliefs.

Do you remember the Oscar winning movie Sidways? It was a movie set in California’s of two men on a week-long road trip in the wine region of Santa Barbara. Throughout the movie the lead actor Paul Giamatti, a wine aficionada, declared his love for Pinot Noir and his distaste for Merlot. The movie led to a strong upswing in the sales of Pinot Noir and a drop in Merlot.  Facts can be questioned and rationalized, but when a beloved character that people can empathize with endorses a product or brand, follower goes along with no questions asked. Just ask Playboy model and actress, Jenny McCarthy about her crusade against vaccinations.

Final Chapter

Today, we are inundated with information loaded with facts and figures. Benefit statements, promises, testimonials, demonstrations, research and new scientific evidence. A story well told that is authentic, relevant, engaging and human can cut through the clutter and noise.

One of the great storytellers was the late Steve Jobs because he informed, inspired and entertained. He always stuck to the rule of three. He understood the power of “3”. Not exceed the list of 3 nor going below 3 things.  He also made sure his stories always had a hero and a villain; most times it was the competition. He also made sure he was prepared. His delivered flawlessly but to do so he practices until it looked effortless.  And finally, he always left the audience with something inspiring like he did with the introduction of the iPhone where he said, “I didn’t sleep a wink last night. I’ve been so excited about today…There’s an old Wayne Gretzky quote that I love. ‘I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.’ We’ve always tried to do that at Apple since the very, very beginning. And we always will.”

Successful brands tell the story of who they are, not only the people behind the brand, but also how their customers connect to their products in ways that give them the ability to do more with their life. Stories that inspire passion in life and illustrate the why and how behind the what and where.

Seth Godin reminds us, “Great stories agree with our worldview. The best stories don’t teach people anything new. Instead the best stories agree with what the audience already believes and makes [them] feel smart and secure when reminded how right they were in the first place.”

Henderson suggests that everyone should have three stories ready to be given at any moment. 1. What brand do I represent? 2. Who am I? 3. Who have I helped? Each story should be engaging and well-crafted. No longer than 90 seconds and well-rehearsed.

I leave you with Steve Jobs commencement address to the 2005 graduation class at Stanford University where he tells three touching stories. “Stay hungry. Stay Foolish.”

 

 

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The Sound of a Brand

Audio branding is like the icing on the cake. It provides a rich and memorable tone to your brand identity. Sound has the ability to stop you in your tracks and quickly engage you like no other sense can.  Sound can trigger memories and emotions. We are literally wired to sound thanks to Apple’s iPod invention.  Sound and music are visceral. To test your audio branding knowledge we have created a quiz. Listen to 7 different unique sounds and see if you can identify the brands.

Most retailers already leverage music as a selling tool in stores. But, generally sound is under-utilized in building a brand identity. Few brands are strategically using music, sound and voice to create a brand connection.

 

The Beginning of Sound Branding

Before television, radio was the darling for reaching consumers. I have been told by those who still remember that radio was the entertainment center in households. The entire family would huddle around the radio to listen to broadcasts sponsored by a brand, well before, the trend of radio advertising spots. It is believed that Generals Mills aired the first singing commercial back in 1926 entitled “Have you tried Wheaties?” and was an instant success and made Wheaties a national brand.

The art of building brands through jingles reached a peak during the economic boom of the 1950s. Jingles were used in brand advertising for such products as breakfast cereals, candy, snacks, pop, tobacco, beer, automobiles, personal hygiene products, household products and especially detergent. Like the epic musical films, branding jingles lost their appeal by the 1960s. Any Boomer can recite a number of advertising jingles as they sit dormant in their brains like “Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Mayer Wiener”, “Ai, Yi, Yi, Yi, I am the Frito Bandito”,and “I’d like to but the world a Coke.”

To be a memorable and enduring jingle Linda Kaplan Thaler, creative legend and Chairman of Publicis Kaplan Thaler advertising agency says “it has to have huge sticking power. A jingle is not successful if you listen to it once and like it. You have to listen to it and want to sing it. Essentially, you become the advertiser for the brand.” She also thinks today is a better time than ever to build a brand through a jingle due to the many social channels to share it on. While Martin Puris, another ad legend and past Chairman and CEO of Ammirati & Puris, thinks jingles are passé. “In a marketing wary world a jingle seems oddly out of place. Too slick, too contrived.”

If you find yourself singing along, then you are hooked – marketing or not. “I wish I was a CEO of a famous advertising agency, la, la, la,….”

 

Big Bold Sounds

Filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock also known as ‘Master of Suspense’ understood the importance of sound to telling a story. He said “When we tell a story in cinema, we should resort to dialogue only when it’s impossible to do otherwise.” He was brilliant at manipulating his audience’s emotions by using sound design to enhance the situation. Remember his movie, The Birds (1963). He used a combination of real bird sounds and electronically synthesised noises, creating an auditory assault that brought the vicious bird attacks to life.

Great sound design can only be fully appreciated through good quality sound systems and speakers. Since the 1960s, we saw great innovations concerning sound systems from the bulky multiunit stereo systems and the iconic boombox to putting our entire music library into our pocket with the iPod. Add a set of good quality headphones and you are in another world.

 

Audio Branding – Music

Eric Sheinkop, co-author of Hit Brands: How Music Builds Value for the World’s Smartest Brands says “Music brings value to a brand in three ways: identity, engagement, currency. Specifically, using music to establish an emotional connection with a brand, increases brand recognition, creates excitement and buzz beyond the brand’s core products or services, and can empower consumers, giving them valuable content to discover and share. Music creates the value that brands need to win the war for attention and develop a genuine connection with their consumers. When used correctly, music not only creates loyalty, but true advocacy.”

Music has plays an important role in brand building for automotive and aviation brands where it is all about the emotional state. Music is a universal language that crosses all borders of culture, nationality and languages. It is the emotional connection to the brand. Yet, most brands tend to use sound and music to be campaign-oriented, not brand-oriented. Here is an example of a campaign-oriented advertisement by Honda featuring a 60-person choir who were the sole audio track. There isn’t any car sound that they can’t sing.

United Airlines took the brand-oriented approach using music as a key brand element. Since 1976, United has used the familiar George Gershwin’s tune Rhapsody in Blue as a foundation to their brand. The music is used in its television advertisements, its airport terminals, and even its pre-flight announcements. United Airlines uses this piece of music to strategically create a distinct audio identity that expresses its vales at all necessary customer touch points. Have you ever watched someone bring on a musical instrument onto a plane? How about the entire London Symphony Orchestra.

Their onboard safety video creatively incorporates the distinctive rhapsody in blue music in various interpretations to emphasis each cultural destinations – very clever.

 

Audio Branding – Sonic Logo

Sonic logo is linking your brand logo with a distinct and unique sound that becomes synonymous with the brand identity. The key is using it everywhere the brand is communicated.  It takes years of reach and frequency to link a sound firmly to the brand. But, once it occurs it becomes timeless like NBC’s three-tone chimes, Intel’s five-note bong, and THX Sound System’s deep note. Kevin Perlmutter brand strategist and blogger explains that because sound bypass the rational part of the brain and reaches the most instinctive level, sound can be the fastest way to heighten brand engagement. Therefore, a brand identity is incomplete without utilizing a sound or music to help develop an emotional connection even if your brand is an unemotional computer chip. You have a better chance to position a brand into the customer’s mind if you use a multisensory approach.

 

Audio Branding – Product Sound

Some product brands have their very own sounds that can different themselves from the competition. Kellogg’s Rice Krispies “Snap, Crackle, Pop”, Alka-Seltzer’s “Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz”, Snapple’s “Pop” when the top is unscrewed, Dyson’s unique vacuum sound, Infiniti’s engine sound (check out the ten most distinctive sounding cars) and the “scritch-scratch” sound of a Sharpie marker on paper. The sound of your product can be as distinctive as its look, feel and smell. Rachael Pink, an acoustic engineer at Dyson says “People now expect products to sound good—not just sound quiet, but have a nice quality.”

Frit-Lay, part of PespiCo Inc. introduced a compostable chip bag for its SunChips brand to become more environmentally friendly. The noisy bag changed the customer experience so drastically sales fell and consumers complained about the sound. Frito-Lay went back to the old bag. Don’t underestimate the customer’s relationship with your brand sound.

 

Final Sound Track

Today, visual branding remains the focus for many marketers, but with the increased number of touch points (like TV, radio, website, mobile apps, social channels, in-store displays, voice messages, events and in-store), you can’t rely solely on visuals. Digital is also becoming the main channel for brands to communicate. Well, digital has many channels to reach the consumer; it can lack personality and emotional attachment. It can also come across as seemingly uncaring. Kevin Perlmutter says “The strategic use of music and sound can dramatically improve a digital interaction by placing a brand’s unique identity and personality front and center to provide clear navigation with proprietary sounds that are simultaneously functional and emotional.”

In our cluttered and over stimulated communications world, brands need to engage all senses to create powerful emotional impact that transforms brand experiences. Audio branding can play a part. Start turning up the volume.