Text: Petr Ungerman, Innovations Manager in Cocoon Prague 

Illustration: Marcin Szewczyk, Senior Designer 

When the powerful stories of bold brands come to mind, you might think of incredibly famous global stories like SpaceX and Tesla, and their founder Elon Musk. Zappos and Tony Hsieh might also come up, or Google and Apple with their founders, or dozens of others. They’re all excellent stories. The stories of these brands have been turned into books that have sold millions of copies. It’s because people love stories. However it happens, whether you listen to it or read it, once the story gets inside you, something changes. The human brain loves stories, and “consuming” them creates significant transformations there. Changes in the production of cortisol and oxytocin can influence whether your customer likes your brand, whether they remember it, what you tell them and whether they do so in the end. If you want to know more, I’d recommend this article by Giovanni Rodriguez. 

How do you use this for your brand online?

Online communication is increasing in importance, and the share of investment into online communication is growing as well. This isn’t just due to the current crisis. It’s a long-term trend.  But not every investment into on-line communication is a step in the right direction.  It could go the other way. Take Adidas for example. In this article, they speak openly about their mistakes in overinvesting in performance marketing at the expense of online brand building. I’d like to show you a way to maintain the benefits of communication in online channels while maintaining the ability to build a brand (even online).

To do this, you need a brand with a story. Consider whether you can present your brand in the form of an attractive story. Sound trivial? Let’s try it out with a real-world example. Write out four sentences about your brand in the form of a story. To maintain the narrative in a story, we need a hero. In our story, the hero is your brand. Heroes have to come from somewhere. They have to go somewhere. They have their mission and they act in certain ways.

So here’s your hero’s story: 

Brand “Z” was created in (year, place, moment) …

It was created to bring people … (it’s got to be something useful!)

It does this in a way that is … and … (your adjectives go here)

It succeeded in … (every hero has to have some successes under their belt)

You don’t have to worry about whether your brand has roots that go back 200 years. That’s not important. What’s important is that beginning – that moment in time when something was created, especially with a clear intention or goal… that’s the beginning of your story.

So how did your exercise end up? Does your brand have a story? Is it something you like? Is it something you’d want to tell a friend in a pub or cafe? Do you think they’ll be drawn in enough to ask for more information? 

Let’s try to fill out the sentences for a specific brand you might know: Becherovka. 

Becherovka started in 1807 in the spa town of Carlsbad. It was created to give people relief from the digestive problems they were being treated for at the spa. It does this in a way that ingeniously combines the power of herbs and liqueur (alcohol). It’s popular far beyond this country’s borders, and I’ll bet even you’ve tried it at some point.

Nice story, right? It doesn’t matter if you’re in a spa or not, or whether you believe in the healing power of herbs or not. It’s an excellent hero’s story. Becherovka’s marketing works with stories successfully on all communication channels, including online. I’ll come back to that.

How can this be used in practice?

We don’t create a brand story just so we can tell it in a cafe. If so, our customers would have started avoiding us a long time ago :).  We need to tell brand stories to the masses – so we communicate these stories through the usual channels (in media), be it legacy or social or simply across all that are available (to your budget and ambition). But what else is essential in communicating a story? You’ve got to tell your story concisely. Why is that important?

Because media is 1) expensive, and 2) it’s full of communication from all the other brands competing with you. Plus there are those who aren’t your direct competitors but who compete for viewers’ attention. Remember that most people see thousands of advertising messages per day. How many get remembered? Only a few.

This is why you have to make use of shortcuts (and not just for budget reasons). The most effective shortcuts are visual (images, video, animation). The human brain processes visual information 60 thousand times faster than text (source), and it only takes a few milliseconds (source). So what can you take away in conclusion?

Visual brand storytelling works offline and online

Use stories and tell them in a visually attractive way, with shortcuts, on all communication channels. Keeping offline and online communication consistent is essential. I firmly believe it pays to put energy into one consistently interconnected message across all communication channels. When it succeeds, the effect is that much stronger.

It only takes a fraction of a second for a customer to flag your (visual) communication as uninteresting and move on, or among those they’ll spend a fraction of a second more on. And if you succeed – you’ve got them!  They spend time on stories that, as we know, leave a mark in their brains. And that’s the way your message makes an impression on customers.

The story about Becherovka, which I used as an example of this approach, used visual brand storytelling for the innovative brand Unfiltered in a way that I consider a good connection of online and offline communication. I think it works. See for yourself: 

tags: communication brand building storytelling Becherovka digital media
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