In Branding, Storytelling

Four examples of powerful brand storytelling to inspire your marketing.

How many advertisements do we watch each day? How many of them do we remember? Most of us encounter dozens of advertisements each day. They’re in our inbox, on our social media, in the magazines we read, on the billboards we drive by, interrupting the shows we watch and the music we listen to. They’re everywhere. But with so many, only a few seem to stick out.

If you start paying attention, you’ll probably notice that the advertisements we remember are the ones that tell a story. There’s a reason for that: humans are hardwired to pay attention to stories. It’s how we communicate, how we share lessons, how we connect with each other. And if your brand isn’t telling a good story, it’s unlikely anyone will remember you more than a second or two after your advertisement disappears.

So, what elements does a good brand story have? Here are a few examples to get you started.

1. Storytelling is memorable.

Let’s start with an example from one of advertising’s master storytellers—Nike.  Their ad, “The Chance,” tells the story of a young soccer player training to become a better athlete, with a voiceover from an interview with Spike Lee.

The message fits within Nike’s perfectly honed brand narrative about drive and perseverance being the keys to success—a message every athlete has learned through blood, sweat, and tears. But for the rest of us, the attraction of this story lies in the belief that we, too, can share in it, if only we buy our own pair of Nikes.

2. Storytelling is emotional.

In the past several years, Dove has mastered the art of telling brand stories that pack a strong emotional punch. Their original, “You are more beautiful than you think,” video aired nearly five years ago. In it, a forensic composite artist draws women as they describe themselves and as they are described by strangers.

The women, when they see these portraits side-by-side, feel overwhelmed by the difference between the way they perceive themselves and the way they are perceived by others. Dove’s message is strong: women need to be more accepting of their natural beauty.

It’s not just for women, either. Their #RealDads commercials celebrate fatherhood and caregiving as well, and hit home with a target audience often overlooked in the beauty industry. People like to see themselves represented, and Dove’s commitment to sharing the stories of a broad group of people gives everyone something to connect with.

3. Storytelling is authentic.

Google’s Reunion advertisement tells the story of two childhood friends who were separated during the partition of India and Pakistan. Years later, the granddaughter in Delhi uses details from her grandfather’s stories and, with the help of Google, is able to locate his old friend in Lahore.

The old friends meet again after decades of a lifetime apart, and a series of follow-up advertisements show their grandchildren using Google in various other ways to answer questions, look up recipes, and generally make life a bit easier for everyone.

It’s touching. It’s memorable. But it’s also authentic.

As a veteran Googler myself, I immediately relate to all the ways the characters within the story use Google to find information. I don’t roll my eyes and think “yeah right”; instead I’m nodding my head and thinking “yeah, right!”  I do use Google just like that. (Can you tell I’m a fan?)

4. Storytelling is unique.

A final brand storytelling example, this time from AirBnB. As a community-driven company, AirBnB brought their own hosts front and center with the community stories section of their website. Clicking through a few of them shows just how special the people who host AirBnB can be.

For instance, there’s the host who stepped up to help out New Yorkers after Hurricane Sandy. Or how about the Korean couple who met their first host family on their honeymoon, and have since learned to love meeting locals on all their trips.

For AirBnB, tapping in to the experiences of their own users connected them to a wealth of unique stories that showcase their strongest asset—the people who use their service.

Storytelling isn’t about you.

One thing you’ll notice about the examples we shared is that the stories aren’t about the brands, but about the consumers. A good brand tells their customer’s story. When we watch, we place ourselves in the customer’s shoes. And with that simple trick, we suddenly see ourselves engaging with the brand the way the people do in the advertisement.

We want to be the athlete whose drive opens the doorways to success.

We recognize the natural beauty within ourselves.

We think of all the ways we search and find information every day.

We imagine how we might travel and connect with other people.

That’s the kind of story a good brand tells. What story do you want to tell?

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