Conversation Agent - Valeria Maltoni - The Brand is in Your Head


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No, stories won't help one bit. People distrust stories at this point.

What is needed is someone actually telling the truth about the whole mess. Which will be difficult to do, because no one actually can pinpoint what the truth is! Someone described the meltdown as "the perfect [financial] storm" - it is. Except George Clooney isn't available to pull on heart-strings.

There's a strong sentiment around the world that Capitalism - specifically the type being labeled "Reagan's Capitalism" - is to blame. These past 30 years, deregulation has passed from a mantra, a political slogan, to being an ideology all of its own. Nations rushed to open their markets, and everyone benefited.

Now we're seeing one of the downsides to such unfettered deregulation. This doesn't mean capitalism is wrong, dead, or whatever. It just means that "we" need to rethink what deregulation means. That's not a story, but a process. Capitalism will survive; it's very nature ensures it will. (As bad as capitalism is, it's far better than anything else out there! To paraphrase Winston Churchill...)

On the other hand, Obama is doing well because he is telling a story about the meltdown; McCain isn't so much telling a story as simply shooting scattershot about Obama's acquaintances. (Isn't there some parable about glass houses, those without sin, etc? :-) ) Barack Obama is responding to the crisis with stories, and as such he's building credibility - people believe he understands the problem, and how it might/will affect them. McCain did some flamboyant routine that pretty much backfired, and has had to resort to his vitriolic and tinted exhortations.

Sorry, I didn't mean to "take over" your post. :-)

Carolyn Ann

@Carolyn Ann - I'm glad I got it almost wrong. We are emotional, the market is more automated than we think/or know. Going back to the consumers, their (our) emotional state does drive many of the occurrences that affect the automated system. Do we need brand stories that reassure us now? I saw somewhere that the whole "bailout" conversation was a branding fiasco, thus leading to decreased confidence, etc.

@Michael - of course we buy according to the brand story we believe. However, in hard times like this one, we spend more energy rationalizing that purchase (especially when it requires an investment greater than the price of a can of soda) with facts and figures. This means almost marketing after the fact. Have you ever gone around asking your friends about a major purchase *also* after you had made it? Alas I have not created a category for storytelling, but if you search this blog you will find many posts about story and brands. My point was about reinforcing a decision already made or an event that has already taken place. Your points are well taken. Thank you!

You suggest that "Providing the facts, the needed checks on a list of reasons that will satisfy the need to know why the purchase was made," will help persuade people to buy our brand, even in this economic climate. I would refer you back to your own statement about stories, and suggest that facts and reasons aren't enough but that those need to be embedded within a new compelling story.

For an example, look at how the conservatives have been able to frame political debate in the US for at least the last 10 years. Progressives answer with facts, and facts just don't have the same ability to connect with people as stories.

I don't believe that Obama's current lead in the polls has as much to do with his political philosophy as that McCain's story has been that of the war hero. And Americans' internalized stories cannot reconcile war heroes with strong economic leaders.

It's the story, or as cognitive scientists call it, the frame that compels. Good branding appeals to internalized stories, not reason or facts.

There is no good reason to drink Coke. It's unhealthy and expensive. It's just sugar water with a tiny bit of flavoring added that could be sold at a profit at half its current price. It adds to endemic obesity and other health problems. But drinking Coke (or Pepsi) has been internalized into our stories of what we need to do to enjoy ourselves. Facts only count when they reinforce an internalized story. In and of themselves they persuade very few people.

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