Why Brands Should Be Making Stories, Not Telling Them
Editor’s Note: This is the second in a three-part series describing how to replace faltering traditional advertising with marketing that works in the post-advertising age of the 21st century. Here are the other parts:
By Kirk Cheyfitz, Story Co-founder
In the revolutionizing age of digital media dominance, marketing has hit big obstacles. Ad-avoidance and industry-wide scandals over digital scams have been the biggest. But the under-performance of storytelling approaches also has been frustrating.
A right way to produce results, however, does exist in this new era: a disciplined, tested, repeatable way to create and deliver digital stories that are unique to a brand, will be welcomed by and connect intimately with the targeted audiences and, most importantly, will drive purchases. We call the heart of this approach “storymaking” — the art and science of crafting and delivering stories that are uniquely ownable by your brand as well as welcomed and valued by your audiences.
Story’s Chief Marketing Officer Nicole Ogoff says, “The biggest thing for us is that storymaking’s not a one-way street, whereas advertising and storytelling can be.” This is critical in an age when brand creation has gone from monolog to dialog.
Simon Kelly, Story’s CEO, adds, “Storytelling implies that somebody’s doing the talking and someone’s doing the listening. It’s not a collaborative process. Storymaking implies it’s collaborative.”
The three laws of storymaking
Law #1: The audience is first.
This is the organizing principle for making an effective story. Storymaking ensures the audience, not the brand, is at the center of all a brand’s stories.
The collaboration that Story’s approach forges between brand and consumer is not simple; it’s not as easy as asking the audience to send in their stories and comments. Storymaking demands that we understand what’s important to people.
Law #2: Tell the Truth
A brand’s story must be rooted in both the truth of the brand and the audience’s real experience of the brand, and it must satisfy a viscerally felt need of the audience’s.
Understanding how your brand fits into the reality of people’s lives is critical. So is understanding how people’s lives are defined, stressed and sometimes distorted by shifting cultural values and tensions.
Brands that have failed to move the needle with storytelling need to understand why just telling a good story and “moving on” doesn’t work, “ says Jacqueline Lieberman, Story’s Chief Strategy Officer Storymaking. “The notion of making things — there’s grittiness to it, a pride to it and it’s constantly iterative. The only way you can make a valid experience for an audience is to be part of their experience. We want brands that have just told stories to understand that they’ve never done storymaking before.”
Brands too often act as if they can tell any interesting story, anyway they wish. They can’t. No storyteller can. Storymaking throughout the ages has been a social exercise because stories are given their meanings by carefully reflecting or intentionally breaking social norms, rules and challenges.
Your brand story has to be welcomed and emotionally involving, because everything is now avoidable and no one ever bought anything for a rational reason.
Nicole points to work Story has done for Unilever’s Country Crock margarine that exemplifies storymaking. The work rested on observing that mothers feel their most important job is passing along good values to their kids, but also feel torn and guilty about not devoting enough time to that job.
Story made a mini-documentary about a real Ohio mom and her family and how she and her husband use Country Crock and baking together at home to pass along patience, sharing and other values to their children.
“We went to a family that uses Country Crock regularly and uses baking to instill their family’s values,” Nicole says. “We captured their moments. And we turned their moments into a story that moms embraced. A story that also drove brand sales. That, to me, is storymaking at the heart of one of our purest deliverables.”
The film and associated content have garnered tens of millions of views for Country Crock while increasing market share and revenue, according to Unilever research.
In an age when the media landscape has swept away what was effective in the past, the only alternative now is to pivot to a new approach that works in the altered world of the present and future, reducing marketers’ costs and delivering increasing results.