We are exposed to brand narratives every day.  From L’Oreal cosmetics and shampoo commercials that tell us “we’re worth it,” to TOMS Shoes which donates a pair of shoes to someone in need for each pair you buy – we are bombarded by brand narratives.  A successful brand narrative tells a story about a product or service, but more than that, it engages consumers on an emotional level that traditional advertising is no longer effective at reaching.

A brand narrative differs from a traditional elevator pitch.  The elevator pitch is what you would say to a potential customer in order to entice them to consume your product or service.  While similar to a brand narrative, the elevator pitch is directed by the company.  The brand narrative is a partnership, started by the company but ultimately steered by the consumers.  Your brand narrative is what people say about you, and how they connect emotionally with your product or service.

This emotional connection is critical for a brand narrative to thrive.  People want to be involved and interact with a product or service.  Social media platforms provide a nearly perfect arena for this sort of interactive storytelling.  These platforms allow people to connect with products that reinforce their values or identity.  This is great for business, because these days consumers are more likely to trust their peers than regular advertisers.

Creating a powerful brand narrative is simply good storytelling.  Every story has some major components, like an overall message and a relatable protagonist.  Take Coca-Cola, for example.  Much of Coca-Cola’s advertising has been designed to promote an overall brand narrative that emphasizes the tradition and history of Coca-Cola, as well as the desire to relax and have fun.  Both of these connect with people on an emotional level, tapping into their nostalgia as well as the very primal urge to seek pleasure and gratification.

In a good example of using social media to further evolve its brand narrative, Coca-Cola’s Facebook page is a hub for consumer interaction.  Coca-Cola has recently partnered with the World Wildlife Fund to raise money for polar bear habitats.  Consumers who donate money can track actual polar bears in an interactive platform on Facebook.  This paints Coca-Cola as a hero in its brand narrative, but it is especially brilliant because it also allows consumers to feel heroic because they are helping polar bears.

Humans have long relied on stories to communicate our hopes, dreams, fears, and desires.  Brand narratives use this natural tendency to create an environment where consumers interact with a brand in order to tell a compelling story about the brand and how it fits into their lives.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2011
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