Today I wanted to take you down memory lane and think with you about brand stories that work. It has been now over a year since I published a two-part interview with Stories that Work founder and principal Gerry Lantz. Gerry just wrapped up a very large project with me. During our collaboration, I had the opportunity to think more about story and its connective properties.
- In part one we discuss how an amazing thing happens with brands over time, the product values transform into brand values—what is delivered goes from being pure features and benefits to emotional satisfaction. Real alliances, friendships get built. It’s MY brand consumers begin to feel. If you are more the auditory type, listen to the podcast Gerry did with the ever gracious Anna Farmery of The Engaging Brand on the power of storytelling here.
- In part two we talk about authentic conversations between brands and consumers. The consumer knows when the message and the action of the brand are authentic. Their crap detectors are very sensitive. For the story to be authentic, it needs to be pushed all the way down to the operational level. This week we've been talking about change. In this second podcast with Anna Farmery, Gerry discusses how companies can use storytelling to implement culture changes.
In the discussion that ensued, Gerry shared more insight into the disconnect we often have between story and marketing communications:
"I think stories are more like qualitative research, not quantitative. I recently helped a non-profit in New York re-brand itself by going through a Stories that Work Brand Story process. I interviewed or did focus groups with administrators, the board, clinicians, patients, donors, anyone with a stake in the success of the place. The result was universal agreement: the current brand name and tagline had nothing to do with the real stories all of the stakeholders were telling about the place. I can't take you into all the details due to confidentiality issues, but the point is all stakeholders agreed that the NFP was a second home, a place they felt safe, allowed to grow, cared for etc. Worse, they all agreed its current name gave the wrong impression. No numbers were necessary. The board agreed to the name change.
The proper use of qualitative research is to develop hypotheses for further testing. So in a large org., if there is a budget, you could survey these impressions and get a quantitative answers. So to date over several clients, I have not had to do this.
Now in the commercial world, it's a little tougher. Don't sell stories but solutions to problems. Of course you know this already. Stories are just a means to get you to solutions to larger organization development issues. If the vehicle of stories reveal consistent themes, values, successes, obstacles, then there is probably something there to examine further. But don't get hung up on counting, because some of the best ideas come from a single mention of a concept that catches fire. That's how new ideas happen.
Sometimes senior management can be convinced (we used to do this in advertising) by playing videos or audio tapes of actual comments so clients could hear perceptions directly from consumers (or employees). Seeing and hearing is more persuasive than telling or selling."
Ah, the magic of third party validation. Sometimes it's also a matter of relaxing into the story, letting go of fears, and liberating your passion.
Now sit back and enjoy Isabel Allende's short story of her presentation of the flag at the winter Olympic Games in Torino, Italy. Remember that? Sofia Loren, Isabel Allende, Susan Sarandon, and others. Then listen to the rest of the story. Allende talks about women (and men) with passion - and love. Women linked together. As we think and talk about sustainability, let's consider this part of the story.
[TED Talks. 18:02 minutes. It's worth it. She's a great storyteller]