by Melinda Scruggs Gales, Gales Network
Here in Nashville, they say, “It all starts with a song.” For brands, we say, “It all starts with a story.”
This weekend I was traveling and stopped to eat at Chick-fil-A. While in line to order, I noticed a simple story on the wall about Gustavo, a second-generation coffee farmer who has worked with coffee all his life. Suddenly, my taste buds began to crave a good cup a joe. Way too late in the afternoon, but the story stimulated my desire for a rich blend. You can even read more about Gustavo and his family online and discover your coffee personality (note how a gamification move gets you involved in the story). Nice branding tactic that I would have expected more from Starbucks than chicken sandwich guys.
Funny, not many brands know how to tell their own story.
Stories have been potent communication vessels for all time. Ancient cave walls show us that, even before man could speak in a common language, he was telling his story with pictures. Parables have passed along wisdom (and folly) for centuries. Today, even Tweets can tell a story in 140 characters or less.
There are numerous articles on storytelling theory and the psychology behind it. We especially like the research found in Psychology and Marketing that states simply “stories move people to action.” Isn’t that what brands want people to do? The research goes on to say that human memory is story based. So if we want people to remember us, or a point we’re making, a story helps. Last, a story creates emotion and brands are all about emotion.
Fact is you can make the simplest story memorable and an old story breathe new life when told properly. One simple method is to borrow a middle-schooler’s literature book for the basic framework (characters/setting/plot/conflict/theme). You can also learn by reading top brand stories from sources like Advertising Age. Forbes gives you 5 “secrets” for telling your story in this social world.
Our advice is to start telling your brand’s own “Once upon a time…”. Tell it to your partner, your staff, to strangers. See what resonates. Listen to the questions that come back at you. Watch for emotion. Take notes. Then, write it down.
Tell the same story using the same words over and over. Teach your staff to tell the story. Suddenly, out of a sea of cacophony, you will overhear others share your story. “Oh, they are the company that….”
There are few brand tools in a strategist’s toolbox more powerful than your own story. Start telling yours today.
Melinda Scruggs Gales is Chief Strategist for Nashville-based brand consultancy GALES NETWORK, a proven catalyst for brand clarity, strategy and effective action for clients in entertainment, healthcare and technology. Join the Gales Network newsletter, here.