What is the most important factor in creating a brand image or creating a brand image, one that remains popular and in the public consciousness for years to come? Some marketing experts would argue that it’s all about story-telling, about creating a narrative for or around the brand that customers can remember and relate to. Rather than simply telling customers that your company has this ethos or that culture, providing them with a backstory, a reason and a ‘why’ can make your brand image so much more believable.
To illustrate how effective a narrative can be in branding and profitable marketing, we can look to multi-national corporations like Disney. Will Burns, writing in Forbes.com, explains how Disney puts its stories first, then develops, markets and sells its products second. While it may be a marketing model that only works for media and entertainment businesses like Disney, it illustrates how brand stories can be the most powerful driver for marketing and sales.
While other brands work the other way around, building stories around products, Disney’s reverse content marketing strategy enables it to extend the original story into everything from products to experiences. As for whether it’s working – the latest figures according to Forbes.com show that Disney’s profits were up a massive 22% in 2014, whilst revenue increased by 8%.
At the other end of the scale, the U.S retail brand Gap, which used to be one of the most successful brands of its kind, has recently announced that it is closing 175 of its North American stores due to poor sales.
The reason for this, according to experts speaking in an Adweek article, is a loss of a formerly strong brand identity. Gap’s story used to be one of celebrity-endorsed, effortless cool, while its latest creative campaign, headed with the tagline ‘Dress Normal’, seems to have floundered in its attempt to appeal to a mass market. Speaking of the brand’s now ‘murky’ identity, the Dentsu Aegis Network’s managing director Michelle Lynn explains:
“You want to play to the mass market, but what we’ve seen [with millennials] is that this population of people is much more nuanced [than Generation X]. You have to go beyond those stereotypes to figure out what the insights are, what’s important to these people that you can win with, and it’s hard to win with 85 million people.”
If your brand is considering a reinvention, its crucial to include this vital element of story-telling to engage customers with the ‘evolution’ of your brand. Many people fear change, but they also love a good story. Come up with a narrative that explains the need for a re-brand, to describe the positive changes in the business, and highlight why things will be better for both the brand and customers in years to come.
How important do you think narrative is in creating a strong brand identity? What’s your ‘brand story’ and how did you come up with it? We’d love to hear your take on this interesting topic.