"A brand can be more than a snapshot, more than just a list of adjectives. If it is going to achieve depth, or that is to say realism (and all stories need a degree of that), then a brand needs to have come from somewhere and be going somewhere. It must have lived, and be living, in real time, like the rest of us. They need wrinkles and bumps and stretch marks." [Rob Lewis, Staff Writer, MyCustomer.com]
Take a look at the list of best seller books, say the New York Times Best Seller list, and what do you see in non fiction? Both hardcover and paperback lists are filled with books that tell a story -- memoirs, behind the scenes recounts, biographies. The advice book list? All stories about you -- staying young, the law of attraction, living with joy and peace. We respond to these books because we crave stories. Stories work even for brands, as Karen Hegmann outlines in the interview.
They work especially if you tell only part of the story and let your customers co-author the rest. When you can tell a story about customers that they can embrace and complete, when you share with them something they can celebrate, you have share of mind. And that today is extremely valuable. I told you about my experience at the Apple store, didn't I? In the commercial world you don't sell stories but solutions to problems. Of course you know this already. Stories are just a means to get you to solutions.
The Dove campaign cited in the article was created to be truly interactive -- on the web and on video. And the brand has stuck to what I believe is its core essence: authentic results authentically delivered. If the vehicle of stories reveal consistent themes, values, successes, obstacles, then there is probably something there to examine further. Some of the best ideas come from a single mention of a concept that catches fire. That's how new ideas happen.
If ideas happen in the course of narration, then why are we all sitting at headquarters meeting with each other? Why aren't we out in the stores or in the places where customers are to see our brands playing out? What we do to learn about our brand is we often listen to recordings of actual comments by customers so we can hear perceptions directly from them. Seeing and hearing is more persuasive than telling or selling.
One of the greatest story writers I know of, Bob McKee, wrote that (paraphrased) "good story" means something worth telling that the world wants to hear. That story also needs to be well told -- it needs to create a conspiracy between the writer and its audience, one that draws involvement, holds it, and rewards it with a meaningful experience. Leave room for the actors. Let your customers identify with your products, so they can find their story in yours and finish it for themselves.
[There's a great line in Disney Pixar Toy Story I, when Buzz Light leaps "to infinity and beyond" and by the grace of things finds his way around the room and back. As he lands back on his feet, Buzz Light says to the incredulous cowboy: "can"!]