The Big Difference Apostrophe Makes in the Stories of a Brand

What are the stories of your brand? #ApostrophesMatter

Let's get into the world of brand stories. It can be a confusing place, with lots of buzzwords and confusing metaphors. Honestly, this is a place where many of us, the content marketers, feel a little stuck.

You see, when people get together to talk about "brand history," we often discuss the story and the overall value of the brand itself. It's hard to avoid and we're quickly stuck. But the story of the brand is different from that of the brand (#ApostrophesMatter). Let's explore.

Enough about me – tell me a story about me

The first reason that content marketers struggle with the brand's stories is that brand values ​​are not usually what we can use as the foundation of the story. Apart from the brand's logo / logo, slogans and the main visuals, we are left with only statements of brand value that the company believes are true about itself.

For example, examine the statement of value of a Nike brand:

"(Nike) brings inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world – if you have a body, you are an athlete."

It's really, really good and useful if you try to understand the Nike brand. But for a content marketing specialist looking to create a new story within the brand, as the old English proverb says, "Beautiful words do not butter parsnip." In summary, the storyteller will not find these words very useful, because it is the ideal.

Brand values ​​are what society claims to be the truth about itself and assumes that people value (or believe) in these values. But – and that's the key – the storyteller needs a point of view that sets the tension. The storyteller needs pre-value existence to create tension and get the public to care about its values. In the example of Nike, the storyteller must understand the views on the world that make the acquisition of inspiration and innovation a precious thing for all.

The storyteller needs a point of view that establishes tension, says @robert_rose. #CMWorld Click to tweet

Aside from politics, Nike does this in his Dream Crazy commercial, giving the public a satisfying story.

Nike celebrates the athlete and supports him from a distinct standpoint. (Whether you agree or not, storytellers support their brand with a story full of tension.) When Nike failed to create a compelling story to support a shoe with the Betsy Ross version of the flag American, his efforts failed.

In CMI's storytelling workshops, this is identified as the "fundamental truth" – what we believe in the world and that we are here to help change by telling this story to people.

Tamsen Webster, the coach of superb narrators and courier strategist, calls this concept the "red thread" (which I adore). When I asked her the question, she explained that "the red thread is the reason behind your why".

In the end, it's a subtle but important difference. The history of our brand tells us what we want people to believe in us, and the history of our brand must demonstrate why this belief is a universal truth that the public should believe .

The brand's stories demonstrate the universal truth of the brand's history, says @robert_rose. #CMWorld Click to tweet

In simple terms, Nike wants you to believe that every athlete is inspired and innovative and that everyone is an athlete. The story of his brand must then demonstrate, in one way or another, that everyone is an athlete and that athletes attach extraordinary value to both inspiration and innovation.

And this brings us to the second challenge of talking about the history of the brand.


Content is stories – not the mark

In almost all cases, we have little or no control over what the major brand represents. Changing the history of the brand is well above our level of compensation or it has been established for decades, or (probably the most important) it's different in the consumer's mind that on our mission statement page.

Take Facebook. I do not want to throw them under the bus because every company has to deal with this from time to time. Society struggles to match its vision to that of most people. This is where content and narration can help to remedy the disconnect. But the stories must, once again, come from this distinct perspective that helps the brand recover what it may have lost. Facebook could take a page from the Nike playbook. In the late '90s, when Nike was criticized for its abusive work practices, it not only changed the way it did business, but it also created the Fair Labor Association, a non-profit association dedicated to storytelling and awareness of the problem.

And it is there that control returns to the top. In both cases (and again, most of the time), the storytellers will not change the brand (but we do not have challenges the size of Nike or Facebook either). Our goal is to support the brand in its mission to establish, strengthen or repair its current claim on itself.

Storytellers support a brand's mission of establishing, reinforcing or repairing personal claims. @robert_rose Click to Tweet

For example, until 2012, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jonathan Mildenhall, then vice president of advertising strategy and creative excellence at Coca-Cola. Even someone in his high position has realized the limits of change in the brand's history in terms of content.

While we were talking about creative excellence in content marketing, he said the challenge was that he absolutely could not change the brand's history. The iconic shape of the bottle will certainly not change, the contents of the bottle will not change, and the logo and other creative elements will never change. But as Jonathan said:

We fully understand that we will always have to make promotions, price messages, bundles for buyers, traditional ads, etc. … that will not go away. But our brand stories are the way consumers understand the role and relevance of The Coca-Cola Company. We must make sure that these "immediate stories" are part of the history of the brand at large.

This is the most important part and why a brand's stories are our core business. Our role is to understand how to create many original stories within the brand – which demonstrates our ability to explain why people should care (the why behind the why) and value the promise of the global story of the brand.

For example, imagination is essential for the LEGO brand. He says:

(C) uriosity asks why and imagines explanations or possibilities. Playfulness asks if and imagine how ordinary becomes extraordinary, fantastic or fictional. Dreaming is a first step in this direction.

When storytellers create the stories of a LEGO brand (such as The LEGO Movie), they can use this base and offer new fundamental and universal truths (or points of view) that demonstrate the value of the global brand.

For example, after reading the above, imagine that the LEGO movie was the story of a young LEGO hero who gets lost from his parents after letting his imagination run away with him . With the help of his friends, he makes his way and realizes that he should be more practical and not dream of fantasies. This plot seems odd, is not it? It may be a good story (although it sounds like an episode of Leave It To Beaver for me), but it certainly does not make a good story in the LEGO brand story universe.

Now that we understand the differences and why #ApostrophesMatter, how should we consider structuring the stories of a brand?

Pressure Test for Brand Stories

We all know that creative ideas come from random places. I like the quote from Nicholas Negroponte, who asked, "Where do new ideas come from?" The answer is simple: the differences. Creativity comes from improbable juxtapositions. "

# Creativity comes from improbable juxtapositions via @nnegroponte. Click to tweet

When you work with your team to build, strengthen, or repair your overall brand story, you can get the idea of ​​a story of content marketing from many places. Lightning of an idea can strike in the shower or while walking the dog. Or you could be inspired by an idea from the last stand-up brainstorming of your team. Or you inherit a story because your company has just acquired a brand with a digital magazine.

Whatever your initial idea, know that each great story has four distinct parts:

Every big story has 4 parts: the man, the goal, the resistance, the truth, says @robert_rose. Click to tweet
A Human – Every great story has a human soul in its core, even though this human is a LEGO speaking character. Nobody wants to hear the history of business software. They want to hear the story of Jane, the enigmatic hero who faces the challenge of leading a new digital transformation.
The Lens – The objective (s) are a conscious or subconscious desire of the human in the story. The desire to achieve the goal pushes the human hero through the course of history.

When the goal is conscious, it can be linked to the greater "truth" (as I describe it below). The conscious goal of the superhero, for example, could be to defeat the evil monster. But when the goal is subconscious, events occur in the story that give rise to the need for enlightened truth in the human hero. The superhero also wants to be normal and find love. The best stories have both conscious and unconscious goals.

The Resistance – Any great story needs a seemingly insurmountable hurdle. Sometimes it comes in the form of a big, nasty human stroking a white cat in a secret den. Other times, the resistance is simply a "mountain" that must be climbed or a giant shark that must be killed. The greater the resistance and the more the hero can be told, the better the story.
The Truth – The truth is your argument, what you believe in and the point of view you want the public to believe or that matters. Some might call this the theme or message of history, but the truth lies essentially in the belief that you are trying to inspire the public of your story.


Pressure test in action

Recently, I had the privilege of working with an institutional financial services company on a new content mission for its digital magazine. The publication did not work because the articles – from all over the company – did not have a coherent value, theme or point of view. The team wanted a clearly defined – and differentiating – story for the magazine and could communicate. And of course, the story had to match the new brand that the company was deploying.

The publication did not work because it had no value, theme, or consistent point of view, says @Robert_Rose. Click to tweet

We worked on the answers to the seven components – heroes, constriction, desire, relationships, resistance, adventures, truth. Then we combined them into four parts of his new story. As you will see, the components are well detailed but not perfect. The team is using it to refine the mission with an internal and external audience.

The human being (combines the hero and the constriction) – The hero is the financial advisor who is under increasing pressure to perform on behalf of his clients and to prove that his expertise and ability to manage money are better than an algorithm. We use the image of the classic, experienced detective, repulsed by the skilled and technology-laden young graduate.
Desire (combines desire and relationships) – These counselors need and want continuing education. They do not need more noise; they need a unique perspective and advice from expert portfolio managers, trusted colleagues and true industry opinion leaders to stay relevant to their clients.
Resistance (combines resistance and adventures) – The counselor's world is likely to become automated by technology, algorithms, and artificial intelligence. It is an atmosphere that devalues ​​more and more the human investor and makes trading closer to the game.
The Truth . Human investment is the only investment. It's a superior call. The new technology should be used, but it should be informed by wisdom. And only human counselors have this ability.

Do not you see better stories, better messages and, in general, a differentiated value from this framework?

To be clear, this frame is not a model. I see this in the way that The Writer's Journey writer Christopher Vogler describes Joseph Campbell's journey in Hero's Journey. As he writes, the hero's journey "is not an invention, but an observation … a set of principles that govern the conduct of life and the world of narration, the way physics and chemistry govern the world. physical".

In other words, not all great stories have a staggering and differentiating answer to every question. But the better the answers, the better your chances of exploration. The framework can be an experiential tool to improve the story faster. Or, in the long run, the framework could help develop a bigger and better brand story where none existed.

Not all the great stories answer each question in a striking and differentiating way, says @robert_rose. Click to tweet

Overall, I hope this framework will become another tool in your toolbox, allowing you to become an incredible brand storyteller in a world that will increasingly value this talent.


Catch Robert Rose and his new and insightful perspectives in content marketing on the main Stage of Content Marketing World from September 3rd to 6th. Register today using the code CMIBLOG100 to save $ 100.

Cover image of Joseph Kalinowski / Content Marketing Institute

Related posts

Leave a Comment