“...narrative might well be considered a solution to a problem of general human concern, namely, the problem of how to translate knowing into telling...” - Haydn White
This week, the only subject of importance has been Star Wars. We’ve been living in the midst of George Lucas’ vision, plagued by light sabre apps, articles about old toys from the 1980’s, interviews with Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, shots of fans queuing, promotions relating to nights out to watch the new film.
Why the obsession? Because everybody loves a good story. A narrative which is well-crafted, contains sympathetic heroes for whom we can root, an obstacle to overcome, an enemy to defeat, it captures the imagination. A well-told story can hook us in and make us empathise with the protagonist, feel his (or her) trials and tribulations as our own and keep us captivated. We all rooted for R2D2 and C3P0 in the desert. We felt Luke’s desperate desire for adventure and his shock at discovering his parentage. We rooted for Han Solo to come good as the loveable rogue and then to get the girl. We felt terror at the sight of Darth Vader and joy when he swung towards the light at the end. It’s the biggest movie phenomenon of all time - and if you grew up in the ‘80’s like I did, it defined your childhood games.
When we finish watching a really great film, or reading a great book, we are gripped with a tiny sense of loss - so we go back and we watch the film, or the series again, we read and reread the book. Only rarely do we get the opportunity to see the author’s vision of how our favourite characters turn out after the ‘happily ever after,’ so it’s no surprise that the whole planet is excited to find out what happened next for Luke, Leia and Han. Their story has had us gripped since 1977 because at the heart of all the special effects and the costumes lies a really great narrative.
Narrative, is one of the most fundamental methods of communicating concepts and delivering knowledge to others. Because narrative, by definition, has a start, middle and end, narrative makes it possible to find the words (or pictures) to present not necessarily a full picture, but the picture that we want to share - the story we want people to know about an idea, an event, a person - or even a business in a way that our brains can easily comprehend. Narrative has the power to draw us in and make us see things from another’s perspective and to help us understand the teller’s story.
When marketers talk about having a ‘brand story’ what they are suggesting is that you create the narrative that explains the reason for your brand’s existence in a way that will captivate and engage your target audience and in a way in which they can feel empathy towards your brand and want to participate in that story.
Every business has its own origin story - much like every superhero (or Jedi Knight) - whether it’s an action adventure (was it a race to succeed against the odds, overcoming real obstacles and coming good in the end?), a superhero film (is your founder someone with special skills, skills nobody else in the world can boast who through vision, determination and superhuman powers has solved a problem plaguing many people?), a love story (is your business a labour of love, ignoring or overcoming adversity to share that love with your customers?), or perhaps a comedy (the idea came to your founder in a quirky way, and he went through a series of entertaining adventures before bringing his vision to frutition?).
You need to answer a series of questions about the how your brand’s story began, how the company developed and where your brand is going in order to ensure you have a clear beginning, middle and end to your story:
Who founded the company and why?
At what point did the idea strike him or her that they could market the product or service you sell?
What problem within the marketplace did they think your brand could solve?
Who were they trying to help?
What trials and tribulations did they overcome to bring the business idea to fruition and how have they developed and grown that business to what it is today?
Off the back of that what does the business stand for today and how is it putting the weight of that history and the original mission to work for its current customers and what it wants to do in the future?
If you can get that origin story right, delivered using the right tone, the right words and images, and you can build that story into every communication, every social media posting, every blog you write, the text and imagery on your website in a way that captures the hearts and mind of your target audience, then as a business you’ll acquire something more powerful than a group of people who buy from you. You’ll have brand advocates who identify directly with your brand, who offer you loyalty and who provide great word of mouth, helping deliver new customers to your doorstep.
Getting the story right, and getting that level of buy-in, however, isn’t necessarily that straightforward.
Over the next month, we’re going to provide a series of posts on how to develop your brand story and how to tell that story effectively through your marketing in order to drive real engagement with your customers. Stay tuned...