Brand Strategy

More than playing with semantics: Don’t tell a story, communicate a narrative.


To build a successful brand, we’re being urged to become story-tellers.

I disagree – we need to be narrators instead.

People like stories.  That’s why authors exist.

We like being taken on a journey, having the world unravelled to us, of discovering new places, people and ideas.

We tell each other stories, recounting our days or significant events.

And we remember the stories told to us by our families – in some cases oral traditions which keep memories and customs alive.

But this is the wrong approach for brands.

The problem with stories is that they have defined beginnings, middles and ends.

The Princess is plunged into a deep coma by her wicked step mother.  She’s awakened with a kiss.  Evil stepmother is over thrown and they live happily ever after.  The End.

Brands, meanwhile, are living and organic.  Unless you build a brand with the sole purpose of getting bought out by someone else, your story can’t have The End after it.

Stories are for campaigns.

Let’s take the wonderful Compare The Meerkat as our example here.

Meerkovo and all of its inhabitants are story book creations.

We’ve seen their beginnings, and one day, when the campaign has run its course, we’ll see their end.

The brand narrative, however, won’t cease.  That will continue to evolve, to sell and market itself.  Meerkovo will become a part of the brand narrative’s past – a segment of the overall story still being told – and not the be-all and end-all of the brand.

Narratives, therefore, are for brands.

You’ll argue that I’m playing with semantics.

But I’m not.

Narratives evolve and change.

They communicate the present, reference the past and look to the future.

There’s always a distinction between the viewpoint of the narrator and the viewpoints of the characters within the story.

In fact, the narrator is omnipotent over the transmission of that tale.  They are a god within a universe of their own making.  And the narrative is all encompassing – so for the brand, it’s your DNA/core essence, your ideals and drives, visual and written identities, the way you answer the phone and craft your image in the minds of your consumers.

Your brand must a narrator, not a story teller.

Don’t restrict yourself with a brand story – unlimit yourself with a brand narrative.

Tell the tale by all means.  Tell several if you need to over time.  But ensure that they are contained within the framework of your narration.

This is not just playing with semantics.  This is fundamental to how we are going to run our branding practice in the future.

Neil Hopkins is a Marketing and Branding Theorist at heart, and a Marketing Communications Manager by day. His blog – interacter – is the primary location he shares insight and information relating to marketing, branding and advertising strategy.
You can follow Neil on Twitter, circle him (like an escaped bull) on Google+ or track him down in any number of other ways.

Featured image on this post is used under Creative Commons from Davidyuweb’s Flickr Photostream.

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One thought on “More than playing with semantics: Don’t tell a story, communicate a narrative.

  1. Pingback: Tell a story. Not about a story. | interacter

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