The essence of a brand lies in the stories it can tell and the emotional connections they make but can you maintain the integrity and relevance of your stories, your brand over time?
What’s your story?
There are organisations who have a great story to tell that just isn’t out there, and there are organisations that tell a great story and just can’t quite deliver against it. The larger the organisation the more profound these distinctions become. Brands are predicated on stories, perhaps the oldest and one of the most potent ways to convey meaning, empathy, value and connectedness that we know. Well written, articulated, engaging, relevant and compelling stories are hard to construct and deliver consistently. It’s an art and a science integral to branding and marketing. Effective stories are ‘mental tags’, connectors, one of the ways in which, from an early age we learn and remember. But having a great story today is only half the battle. Those you want to hear it need to hear it, they need to believe it and remember it while being bombarded with other information. It would be wrong to think of your story as piece of marketing communication. It is or maybe that, but should be more too: an unfolding narrative, a truth and an emotional ‘trail of crumbs’ spread across all your channels, throughout your organisation and deeply embedded in customer communities you want to work with. This is more of a challenge, more than just branding and communications.
We think in patterns not words and its not just about media and images
Most people by now know that the story, or at least the story at this time and place needs to be simple and compelling, have a clear linear narrative and use the right media and imagery to amplify impact. It should allow the recipient to transpose the story, make it their own, build affinity with the storyteller (the brand, the organisation) and other people they relate to, but above all it should engage emotionally and rationally. If is does all this then it’s an effective story, a memorable story, a connection. The Child Health Foundation seem to have captured all of this.
To communicate a story we need to use multi-sensory communication, images and sound are one of the most potent, especially combined. But the idea of thinking in patterns is about more than communications media or immediate sensory impact. It’s about longer term patterns, experiences which are just as, if not more memorable than any single campaign output. The challenge is to maintain the integrity, relevance and connectivity of a succession of stories over time. This is more than effective content or communications strategy. It’s about management of longer term patterns. These patterns are about experience, connections between the ‘good and bad’ interactions, they are about perceptions customer build in their minds about whether or not brands or organisations deliver against the stories they tell and crucially today, the stories that others tell about them. Brands evolve, customers change and so do the stories, media and networks that connect them.This transition is a longer term pattern, a journey that needs to be managed where discipline failure or disruptive market effects can reduce, even negate the impact of your story.
Your story can become lost, outdated, compromised or simply ignored. That’s why effective marketing discipline is critical. Without building strategic capability in key marketing disciplines your stories and brand may become weaker over time. Failure to deliver against promises in your stories, loss of ‘voice’, lack of relevance are all consequences of poor marketing not poor storytelling. And there are real costs to consider: brand damage, compliance penalties, campaign rework to name a few. Having a great story to tell is one thing, telling it to the right people at the right time is another and having the marketing discipline and capability to deliver consistently, compelling stories you can live up to is quite another.