Seems like everyone has a narrative: political parties, religions, leaders, followers, the minority, the majority, the left, the right, the middle (if it exists at all), the top, the bottom, the east, the west, our friends, bands, artists, the local (pricey) artisan coffee shop round the corner, and of course brands…

Narratives and storytelling have become accepted and used by all. We’re all wondering about story arcs.

Everyone wants to control their version of the truth.

Everyone knows the game

'Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That's how it goes
Everybody knows

(L. Cohen)


But though everyone wants to be a storyteller - but not everyone is a good storyteller.

It’s like the joke that everyone has a book in them, but in most cases, that’s where it should stay.

It’s the holy mantra in brand marketing – and we do it well here -but has this construct become meaningless because many brand literate and consumer savvy consumers, millennials onwards, are highly aware of how these are arrived at and why they exist.

The day of an innocent Shake'n'Vac jingle are long gone. For those with long memories see the original here.

Is there a different way of telling brand stories which is not linear, not cause and effect?

The opportunity with digital

In theory digital should make for imaginative, innovative story, telling. But curiously though different visual techniques, levels and perspectives are available, we crave simplicity and straightforwardness. Who wants more complexity in life?

Digital should be a massive opportunity. Today, brand narratives are multiple, diverse and many may no longer speak with one voice. Many brands have multiple target audiences needing several layers of messaging.

The marketers’ test is to ensure the core of a brand proposition means as much to micro niche audiences as a larger community.

Let’s consider some ways that brands are telling their narratives imaginatively:

  • Brand narratives as stories that do not end

One way to approach this is to expand over time, continuously unfolding, and being filled in by both the audience and the company.

So, you get narratives belonging to the audience not just the brand. This creates community, belonging and consumer identification.

For instance, Nike’s “Just do it” does not tell one story. It supports performance many ways: embracing challenges, questioning stereotypes, achieving the wondrous “it” and so on.
Apple's “Think different” is as much about us as it is the product.

  • Publishing narratives

Increasingly, brands are becoming platforms for stories. Brands are no longer the author of their story but rather a publisher. It is no longer just a question of storytelling. The brand is story-sharing the content of its audience. What stories are important to tell? And what stories are important to listen to?

WeTransfer launched WePresent, a digital platform and Podcasts that promotes creative work and thoughts from all over the world.

And that comes with responsibility. Look at the Spotify/Joe Rogan/Neil Young story.

  • Purpose narratives

The brand focuses on context and presents itself through a series of actions, relevant to the context. Patagonia doesn’t tell a story. Marketing is focused on “building a movement”. The brand believes in a larger mission and is aligned with its community around what needs to happen. They are not focused on content but are providing context to their community to make meaning and take action around something larger than themselves.

  • Data driven narratives

Data-driven narratives gives people context through terms and user search keywords. They work well for companies that already collect information through their business models because they can frame their comms with the type of data they collect. For example, Spotify scans user search keywords to determine which songs should go on its playlists or to determine which tracks you are most likely to enjoy. From there, they can do targeted communication to a specific profile of users: e.g. Music for every mood

Or ‘Recommended’ based on your listening choices

  • Immersive narratives

Immersive narratives are rarely considered for branding. National Geographic uses immersive narrative by putting the user at the centre of a report by using technologies like virtual reality and 360-degree videos. The visitors of the website can experience what it’s like to see a lion up close. It also allows the visitor to participate in an adventure from the comfort of their home.

  • Cultural branding narratives

A brand sets itself apart by promoting a new ideology. Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” tapped into this emerging crowd-culture by celebrating real women’s physiques in all their normal diversity — old, young, curvy, skinny, short, tall, wrinkled, smooth. Women all over the world pitched in to produce, circulate, and cheer for images of bodies that didn’t conform to the beauty myth.

Womanhood  - a new lingerie site "championing real, unedited bodies" from female-only designers - takes a similar narrative one large step further

Brands are no longer only storytellers.

They are publishers, cultural agents of change, pioneers, social activists, environmentalists… and must adapt to different fast-moving audiences.
If they want to remain relevant and accessible some may need multiple and targeted narratives that work powerfully in all platforms.

Who understands how to make brand narratives work excitingly on and offline?

We do

Anew are brand development and marketing specialists for ambitious businesses of excellence. Whether it’s insight from research, strategic brand thinking, a new brand name and logo design, messaging, online and offline content or website development, we help companies increase brand profitability through sharper insights, distinctive propositions, creative ideas and faultless execution.

We are particularly adept at working directly with luxury brands, business owners, start-ups and entrepreneurs who are committed to sustainability, outstanding quality and craft.

Based in the heart of London, we'd be delighted to meet for a coffee, either face-to-face or virtually, to discuss any new projects you might be considering.

Get in touch here.

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