Amplifying Brand Stories

Last week we delved into the elements to consider when creating transformational brands.

This week we are going to look at the ingredients a marketer needs to amplify it’s brand story.

What makes an effective brand story – one that connects, communicates and changes behavior in some way? We can look at some role models and observe their characteristics. We can examine research on stories. We can look at our own experience with stories. The results will be a long list of characteristic, some of which appear more often than others.

A story’s power depends instead on its context, objectives and audience, as well as the media involved. In each case, a different subset of the characteristics list will be employed. Instead of seeking as many desirable story characteristics as possible, aim for a few that ‘pop’ – that gain your attention and involvement.

Although the total impression is vital, it is still important to know the traits that are associated with successful brand stories and have been tested in research studies. These can help marketers evaluate and polish its stories. Several questions – all based on the definition of brand story – can start the evaluation:

It should have a narrative with a beginning that captures your interest, a middle that creates interest and a resolution. Even if it is not told in that order. If it is a stand alone set of facts or features, it will not qualify.

Does it grab your attention? Is it thought provoking, novel, informative, inspiring, exceptionally relevant, humorous and or awe-creating? If it does not score highly on one or more of these dimensions, it will not gain attention and is thus not a good candidate for a brand story.

Do the settings, characters and challenges feel real? Or is it the story likely to be perceived as phony, contrived or a transparent selling effort? Is there substance behind the story and its message?

Does it draw people in? Does it make you care? Does it stimulate a cognitive response, such as a belief change, or an emotional response, such as feelings of warmth or awe? Will it cause the viewer to take action – maybe by passing on the stories to others?

The story should have a message that is strategically important to the brand. Evaluate the message for its impact over time. How important is it? Is it central or just peripheral? Does it clarify or enhance a point of strength and / or neutralize a point of weakness? Will it endure or fade? Is it supported by visible and credible substance and honesty?

How do you create intriguing, authentic and involving stories? Read on with GE Case which offers some suggestions:

CMO Perspective – GE

General Electric is a role model for finding stories that resonate. The firm tries out ideas, usually led by stories, and runs with the best of them with a bit of refinement along the way. Although it has some ad campaigns, GE emphasizes content driven audiences rather than print readers or television audiences. It prefers to own rather than rent media.

One GE strategic message is its DNA. The message is linked to company founder Thomas Edison and his passion for science and technology, to its history as a 125-year-old startup and to its reputation for imagination and creativity in motion. Observations from the GE experience suggest several, very different routes to strong brand stories:

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