The Real Life of Brand Stories
By Kirk Cheyfitz, Story Co-founder
Marketers are deluged daily by faux “engagement metrics” — Facebook likes and shares, Snapchat views and so on. Marketers constantly look to create “viral videos,” even though they know that’s like asking their agency to make lightening strike.
Beyond these non-measurements and impossible assignments, however, there’s the mission-critical question of whether and how your brand story plays out in the real daily lives of your audiences (consumers and potential customers). Because being part of the audience’s own stories is the only reliable path to true social virality and improved sales.
This is a digital age, but brands (even digital ones) still live or die in the real world by succeeding or failing to become part of people’s everyday routines and daily stories. “Storyliving” is about succeeding by being part of the real lives of real people. It’s about seeing people live their own stories about life with your brand, stories that both the brand and the audience can re-share in a viral expansion loop that leads to more sales, new uses for existing products and even new products.
Law #1: Whether the story is fact or fantasy, keep it emotionally real.
Many, if not most, brand stories told in advertising and content marketing have zero to do with the audiences’ reality. Only in ads, for example, do women sit together talking about the product attributes of laundry detergent or the taste of margarine. It doesn’t happen in real life and it doesn’t feel real.
“Every brand should then be thinking about how to be in the living aspect of the stories the brand makes — being part of the routines of the customer’s life,” says Story’s Executive Creative Director Oliver Dudley.
Law #2: Every brand, like every decent human being, has to be about more than itself.
Oliver points to the singular success of Dove’s “real beauty” campaign as an example of how powerfully storyliving can work. Instead of just talking about soap treats and mistreats women’s skin, Dove started talking about how society treats and mistreats women. Dove took ownership of the idea that every woman is beautiful. By doing so, Dove assumed an important place in the daily stories of women all over the world.
It’s about thinking beyond advertising to be a part of people’s lives in important ways. “What are the points in a woman’s day when Dove could be useful?” Oliver continues. “Is it a how-to video that points the way? Is it about asking women to stop weighing themselves so frequently and use that time or energy to do something else? Or invent a scale that measures something else?”
Law #3: To reliably spread brand stories virally, be part of the audiences’ everyday lives.
Simon Kelly, Story’s CEO, explains that storyliving happens when brands do storymaking right. “It creates a symbiotic relationship between storymaking and storyliving,” he says. Speaking of Story’s work for Country Crock as an example, he says, “People are watching that first video we made — a real family finding a way of passing along their values through the simple, fun process of baking cookies, despite how busy everyone is — and it inspires other families to emulate that and create their own stories and share those lived stories in their channels.
“So the brand becomes part of the life of the family,” Simon concludes. “And the stories that each family lives then inspire more stories that the brand makes. And so on and so on....”
This kind of viral expansion mechanism, of course, is both the point and the dream of digital and it’s the heart of social media’s massive success. The three-part approach of storyfinding, storymaking and storyliving is the disciplined, repeatable way to achieve such a true viral feedback system. It’s a self-reinforcing loop that a brand can sustain over long periods of time, constantly using the brand’s relevancy in real lives to expand the brand’s base and sales.
In an age when the media landscape has swept away what was effective in the past, the only alternative 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.