Villing & Company

Brand Storytelling. Duh!

"Brand storytelling" is all the rage these days. While the concept is one to which we have always subscribed, it seems strange that marketers are embracing this as something new. Storytelling has been with us since the dawn of civilization and effective marketing has always been about telling the story of one's products or services in compelling ways.

Maybe what makes brand storytelling so much in vogue is that some marketers are finally coming to the realization that "boring" sales pitches simply do not sell. How many times have we heard or read about products or services being "best in class," "highest quality", "state-of-the-art," yada, yada, yada? As a result, most marketing communications could just as easily be those of one's competitor. Change the name or logo, and the stories are indistinguishable.


Oh, we're all guilty. We either don't take the time to identify clear points of differentiation, what used to be called the USP (Unique Selling Proposition), or there really isn't much to differentiate our offerings from the other guys. In that case, we at least need to find a compelling story through which to communicate what makes us better.

Think about what makes for a good story. I recently read a great article by agency consultant, Tim Williams, in which he noted the following. Throughout the history of storytelling, seven basic plots have emerged that are "used repeatedly, even by the great authors. Rags to riches. The quest. Journey and return. Overcoming the monster. Comedy. Tragedy. Rebirth. These themes are almost hard-wired in the human psyche, which is why even Hollywood screenwriters follow these structures to tell their tales."

Maybe these would be an appropriate starting point for our own brand stories. In Simon Sinek's Ted Talk, he refers to the Golden Circle which addresses the WHAT, HOW and WHY of an organization's purpose. Instead of focusing on the WHY of what we do, which is inherently the most interesting part of the story, marketers tend to talk about WHAT they do and maybe a bit of HOW they do it.

I believe we would all be advised to look for insights behind the WHY of what we do and how that has benefitted our customers or clients. Putting those insights into the context of one of the seven basic plots could be the basis of a bestseller.

Filed Under: branding

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