Friday, March 09, 2007

Telling Brand Stories

One of the big marketing ideas of the last several years is to begin generating stories about your brands and for your business. Mark Thompson wrote a compelling piece a few years back about the concept of having a story in BrandChannel, complete with some very good advice.

I see today, as well that Ira Glass has a series of videos up on YouTube about how to tell stories. Glass hosts This American Life, and I believe he knows more about telling stories than anyone since maybe Mark Twain.

Here at Ammo, we've been up to our neck in stories for a while now. I don't promote my own company here on the blog, and that's not my intention. But we've been doing some deep thinking about stories: why they get told and (more importantly) why they get listened to.

One of the main insights that we've hit on is that, simply, a brand is not a story. They are two distinctly different things. The chart to the left represents the primary differences between a brand and a story, and it is a basis for a process that transforms/evolves brands into stories.

I think that's the most important step: going from a strong brand to a compelling story. It's not always easy, of course, as some brands don't really appear to have anything to say. But there certainly is a process that you can use, where you unpack the brand into a series of parts, and begin to assemble those parts into a tale that unfolds.

That's why the first difference up there is that, while a brand is "Statement of belief", a story is a "chain of events". The brand comes whole: it is everything you need to know in one simple sentence. The story is told in pieces, where each piece sets up the next, and they all lead to one overall truth which tells you something not only about the characters in the story (which could be the product, or its founders, or any other aspect of the business), but about the world as a whole.

When people ask you to think about stories, don't just make them up. Watch Ira Glass and see what he has to say about stories. There's a lot marketers can learn, just by thinking about those who make a living telling stories.
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