“The world that can not be seen or heard must be narrated.”
Dr Oliver Sacks speaking in a TV documentary about people living with sight and hearing deprivation.
What these words have to do with brand and marketing is something deep, something fundamental – and something I want to debate with you…
Let me begin by saying that I’m not trying to draw a parallel between those living with significant sensory disability and the world of brand and marketing. That would be disrespectful. But the phrase itself really started to trigger something in my head…
Can a brand be a narrator?
We’re used to brands as story-tellers. Some of the best brands have fabricated a story around themselves in order to give the consumer something tangible to understand and access.
The story might be one of joy, of reliability, of heritage or of innovation. And that story is part of the brand DNA, created and maintained by the army of employees, marketers, brand managers and consumer advocates that the brand draws near.
However, a narrator is both part of, and simultaneously outside of, the story. It is the narrator which helps us to make sense of the great novels of literature, lending form to the proceedings, filling in gaps in understanding and providing linkages between the scenes.
The narrator is neutral, often factual, all-seeing and omnipotent within the confines of the story.
But to me, a narrator is more than the teller of the story. Without the narrator, the story would still happen, but we wouldn’t be given the tools to be a part of it. We would have no connection.
It is the narrator that helps us to make sense of the world in which the story is set.
Could – should – a brand act as narrator between itself and its consumers?
Could a brand position itself to be so all-encompassing as to be a narrator to people’s lives?
Certainly Facebook (and to an extent Twitter) allow people to curate their own lives. Some would argue that the users also narrate their existences as well. But, in these cases, the brand is the platform, not the actual narrator.
So can a brand ever be a narrator? What would that look like? How would that connection work, given that the narrator draws together disparate strands to form a coherent whole?
And could we, as marketers, make this happen?
Could we be the instrument of that narration and, if so, how would this change the way we work and/or view our profession?
Is this brand journalism, the sharing of stories designed to connect consumers to brand in an engaging and relevant way?
Or is this something else – a different outlook entirely?
Being honest – I don’t have the answer. But it’s something that I’m thinking about at the moment and I would love to hear your views on the subject.
So please, comment below or get hold of me in any way that you see fit. I would love to explore this and see where it takes us…