I Say! I Say Pay Attention!
The past several years have produced a proliferation of articles, blogs, emails, ads, and videos from advertising agencies promoting themselves as “brand storytellers”. These agencies, who have always been most interested in selling messages, are apparently interested in now telling stories, demanding to a point of cliché that they’ve found the definitive method of communication, the magic approach that will capture audiences no matter the situation. The fact of the matter is most of these advertisers are suddenly inflating brand story telling’s place in strategy, seemingly in order promote their own agencies more than any of their actual clients.
It reminds us of Foghorn Leghorn, with his bombastic rhetoric, as he pompously walks around the barnyard offering self-serving advice to Henery Hawk or whoever is in earshot, is always void of substance. His impulse to constantly blather on and on about things people could frankly care less about reminds us a lot of the current overuse of the buzzword brand storytelling by advertisers.
In this industry, as in life and barnyards, sweeping proclamations aren’t always relevant or even honest. That’s not to say brand storytelling can’t be a valuable component of a campaign. Brand storytelling can be incredibly effective when there’s a meaningful story to tell. Take Warby Parker’s rebellion against the monopolized eyewear market, or TOMS creating a business model where you could shop for yourself and give back in a single transaction. These are companies that have relevant stories built into them from their inception, which is why they can so successfully use brand storytelling in their marketing. It works for them. But if your company wasn’t founded on a unique and relevant story, then trying to force a story onto your audiences just to be on trend is simply not a smart plan of action.
When trying to communicate by writing a brand story that just fills in the blanks with your organization’s information you’ll end up with a gimmicky story that, like Foghorn Leghorn, has no substance to speak of. Where is the investigation? The listening? The understanding? What these ad agencies lose when they bombard the world with vapid trends is their organization’s, and subsequently their client’s, ability to connect brands to the people who interact with them.
It’s always best to start out by examining foundational truths, understanding the organization and what exactly it is that makes it special. Sometimes that something special doesn’t need to be wrapped up in a comprehensive story, and can be conveyed through user experience or relevant design. No story works like a template, and form always follows function. So, when someone starts going off without doing their homework about how all your brand needs is a little storytelling, remember Foghorn Legorn, remember the self-serving nature of most quick talking individuals, and the rolling eyes you’ll incur from chicken coop and audiences alike.