August 23, 2013
There should be a place where only the things you want to happen, happen.
Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are
In elementary school, professional storytellers would sometimes come to our class. It was always the same two people, but they’d come dressed up as the characters they’d describe. Each visit brought new stories, new costumes and the anticipation of where the storytellers would take us. I can still remember their faces, their costumes and even where I sat in the classroom. Their stories transported all of us to a new time and place.
Similarly, the value of brand storytelling in today’s hyper-connected world isn’t in the technologies we’ve created (though they are amplified because of them). Storytelling has been around for thousands of years, effectively transferring knowledge and emotion from one person to another – and in that classroom there was one audience, one storyteller and one channel. None of us were tweeting 140-character quotes, nor was the story being live-streamed. That’s not to say that in the 21st century elementary school students are tweeting during class (they’re not, right??). But the notion of brands telling stories through a single medium is long over.
Today, audiences have much of the power, choosing where and when to engage with branded content (if at all). So brands must not only have a good grasp of how to unearth a brand story, but how to tell that story across a variety of channels. Both are tasks that don’t come naturally to many brands, so here are a few rules in multi-channel brand storytelling.
Rule #1: Don’t embrace a new channel without getting your story straight first. One of the most common mistakes brands make in the age of content marketing and social media is treating the launch of a new channel like a Black Friday sale at Best Buy. Everyone is running to be first, but nobody really knows what to say. There’s nothing wrong with early adoption, but only if you understand your story platform—the core narrative of every story that’s told about your brand, on every channel. Simply put, it’s the emotional heart of your brand. The platform is built around your brand’s ABCs (audience, brand and category or competition): Who and where is your audience? How do they perceive your brand? How do you perceive your brand? How do you want your brand to be perceived? Who is your competition? Where does your brand fit in? What’s your brand’s unique differentiator?