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Storytelling: Branding in Practice

Here are some very interesting ideas on branding by Klaus Frog extracted from his book Storytelling: Branding in Practice:

“In days of old when we were still hunters and gatherers, and our social lives took place around the glow of a campfire, women prepared the evening meal while their men folk swapped stories of the day’s hunt. It was here too, that the tribe’s elders handed down the myths and legends surrounding their gods and ancestors and where knowledge and experience was exchanged and passed along the generations.

These stories helped shape the identity of the tribe, gave it values and boundaries and helped establish its reputation among rivalling tribes. It was storytelling in its purest form.

The stories that circulate in and around the organisation paint a picture of the company’s culture and values, heroes and enemies, good points and bad, both towards employees and customers. By sharing our stories, we define “who we are” and “what we stand for“. And just like the elders of the tribes of old, the strong leaders of today’s companies distinguish themselves by being good storytellers; voices that employees listen to, are inspired by and respect.

… [we surround] ourselves with symbols that signal our values and lifestyle, including products and brands, the way we live, spend our spare time or travel. It is not random that we prefer the bohemian apartment in a trendy city neighborhood say, to a house in the suburbs. Or, that we prefer a bucket and spade package holiday to trekking in the Himalayas. It’s a choice that makes a statement about who we are.

We navigate our world using symbols and visual expressions that signal our personality and our values. And strong brands are one of the means by which we do this. A pair of hiking boots from Timberland and a Kevlar jacket from the North Face for example, signal an outdoorsy, active type.

But this also works the other way around, such as when we boycott companies that fail to live up to our moral expectations. Increasingly we are using the shopping-cart to “vote”, expressing ourselves through our purchases. And strong brands are becoming an important tool for communicating these beliefs.

What we wear, eat and surround ourselves with increasingly signals how we see ourselves. And it is also a way in which we seek social acceptance.

We are becoming increasingly immaterial and are more strongly influenced by our emotions. […] demand is shifting toward products that provide us with unique experiences: products that appeal to our dreams and emotions, and add meaning to our pursuit of “the good life”.

The challenge facing companies today is to build solid values into their brand. This is where storytelling fits in. When companies and brands communicate through stories they help us to find our way in today’s world. They address our emotions and give us the means to express our values. In other words the brand story gradually becomes synonymous with how we define ourselves as individuals, and products become the symbols that we use to tell the story of ourselves. They help us communicate who we are. And this is where branding and storytelling form a perfect partnership.

A brand is the perceived added value that a company or product represents, making us loyal in our preferences both to the company and to its products. A strong brand is a combination of facts and emotions.

In order to retain the loyalty of your customers in today’s competitive environment, you have to create an experience that is relevant and differentiates your brand from others. The physical product no longer makes a difference. The difference lies in the story, because the story is what drives the bond between the company and the consumer.

[…] storytelling and branding come out of the same starting point: emotions and values. A strong brand builds on clearly defined values, while a good story communicates those values in a language easily understood by all of us.”

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