Wednesday, 19 August 2015

How to ensure that your brand story shines across all media?

What is the role of storytelling in Branding?

Consumer perception and interpretation of brand experience has a lot to do with storytelling. Consumers use personal and shared stories to interpret their experiences in virtually any context. Brand related storytelling attempts to use the same hunger for narratives that people use to convey meaning to other areas of their lives. It is this very human inclination for storytelling that has made of the brand story a major marketing product.

The role of the brand story as a marketing product is well known and supported by numerous empirical studies, which have shown how stories can be powerful tools of persuasion. *

Stories’ success in the marketing context is due to the fact that they build consumer awareness, enable product comprehension, awaken empathy in consumers, help them recall a message and give meaning to consumer experiences (Singh and Sonnenburg, 2012). My intention is therefore not simply to preach to the coir, by reminding you of how important storytelling can be for brands, but rather my interest is to enable a rediscovery and extension of their use, in accordance with the growing demands of our digital landscape.

Storytelling as the core of your network of marketing channels will enable you to integrate and systematize your content, in turn, improving its effectiveness and making it stand out from the crowd. 

Stories are great, so where do we go from here? 

The emergence of a variety of communication channels, of different platforms across media, has revitalized the brand story. The online landscape, represented by a variety of delivery channels through which people connect with brands and with each other, has however changed the relatively simple role of storytelling: it is no longer enough to come up with the right brew of creative value and narrative flair, in order to successfully position your brand.

The reason for the shift in storytelling is due to the fact that stories have gone from being context specific to becoming part of the way people bring together different experiences across media: there are many labels that have are being used today to describe this new landscape, from transmedia (in Consumer Cultural Theory) to multimedia (in Media Studies) and even Inter-mediality (in the humanities). Beyond the theoretical nuances, what a variety of communications across media entail can be summed up as follows:

What appeared, at first glance, as separate and individual channels are actually integrated knots, all of which contribute to the particular interpretation that consumers make of a brand story and of their brand experience. Integrated marketing does not mean, therefore, that a same story is repeated across channels, but rather that different elements are dispersed across channels and that the consumer plays an active role in bringing them together—hopefully interpreting them as part of a coherent whole, which is the story. In doing so, consumers don’t just receive a message but become an active part of the story: the brand story can be said for this reason to have become truly experiential.

The logic or intention of the savvy marketing strategists is precisely to succeed in delivering dispersed content in a manner that, remains structured and integrated, from a managerial point of view—if the process of delivery appears disconnected or does not allow for performance evaluation to take place, then it is unlikely to become a fruitful part of the ongoing marketing activities of a company.

The strategic goal is to influence consumer perception of dispersed content, so that it is interpreted as being part of a unique brand story, from which it gains meaning. To do this each piece of content must become linked and part of a network of channels; this is in fact the very same way in which individuals transform their memories into stories, as cognitive psychologists sum up when saying that ‘in cognitive terms, a brand story creates new nodes and links in memory, inducing greater processing, which may lead to stronger self-brand connections’ (Anderson, 1983; Escalas, 2004).

Yet the metaphor of the network goes way beyond cognitive processes—it is not about what is going on inside a person’s head, as more about what happens on the outside, where experiences are shared and stories are told. The Network is actually not so much a metaphor as an actual heuristics, a mental model that can help marketing professionals understand the role that different actors play in the construction of brand stories.

The entertainment industry has been exemplar in leading the way, telling unique stories that develop, however, across different media: from Glee to The Matrix, Dr Who, Star Wars and Twilight, all have transcended their original medium and instead created new knots in a network that lives through a variety of Social Media, video sharing platforms, as much as offline in clothing stores, Lego sets, and the list could go on and on. Their success lies precisely in being able to keep the story going. The best way to do so is no doubt to allow consumers to become active participants in the process of storytelling, becoming active sponsors of a brand and influencers in their own communities.

Network Analysis provides brand strategists with the analytic toolset needed to manage and to become visionaries of their brand’s story, awakening consumer enthusiasm for their brand and naturally their offerings (products or services alike).

The objectives for the brand strategist who wants to take a brand story to the next level can be summed up, as mainly 3:

1. Identifying the types of brand stories their consumers know—what are the stories that already inspire them in their lives?

2. Identifying the types of brand stories that consumers want to hear—what are the elements that make the stories they know unique and how can they be mobilized to create similarly inspirational stories?

3. Understand the consumers’ desire to hear certain brand stories through different media vehicles.

Would you like to transform these insights into actionable points? No problem, I can help. Just drop a few lines on LinkedIn.

Do you want to know more about how you Network Analysis can boost your company’s marketing strategy? Check out more articles at the factish.

* Granitz, N., & Forman, H. (2015). Building self-brand connections: Exploring brand stories through a transmedia perspective. Journal of Brand Management, 22(1), 38-59).

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