Marketers have an easy time finding examples of high-quality brand storytelling. For instance, consider the best and most memorable Superbowl ads. Newsweek reported that 30-second advertising spots during the big game cost $6.5 million just for the airtime.
Despite the price, those ad slots sell out fast. Besides costing sponsors an incredible amount of money, the most successful and memorable Superbowl ads share the common tactics of using engaging, relatable stories to market brands, connect with a vast audience and tell people what they stand for.
What makes brand storytelling successful?
Why do the biggest businesses spend so much money airing their stories during popular programs, like the Superbowl? Brand storytelling can connect with and entertain viewers and evoke empathy. Most importantly, they encourage people to discuss both the advertisements and the brand the next day at work and sometimes, long after the audience forgets the details of the game. This word-of-mouth buzz makes successful stories priceless, even if they’re expensive.
Harvard Business Review observed that stories attract and engage people because of humanity’s social nature and desire to connect. Stories that connect emotionally actually impact our brains neurologically by releasing feel-good hormones that can help dull other concerns and help us remember these stories positively.
Of course, not everybody connects with every story, and no organization wants to invest in a good story only to have it fail to promote the brand. Thus, the best DTC brand story should support the values and interests of its audience. The story should also integrate the brand identity in fundamental ways and not just as an afterthought.
For instance, almost everybody has grandparents. Sadly, most people have lost loved ones during their lives. Google’s “Loretta” advertisement told the story of an older man who wanted to remember his deceased wife. He turned to Google Search and Google Assistant to help. This 90-second advertisement manages to conjure tears, mention Google brands, and demonstrate ways to use some of the company’s core products.
How does your brand sound?
Most discussion around branding centers around visuals. At the same time, Harvard Business Review asked an important question: What does your brand sound like? HBR referred to audio branding as a potential competitive differentiator for many businesses because it’s frequently overlooked and undervalued by their competitors.
Sometimes referred to as sonic or sound branding, audio branding can influence consumers on several levels. Think of the sound that a Harley makes when it revs, a champagne cork makes when it pops, or a Mac computer’s chime as it boots. These sounds conjure up visual images and in some cases, memories.
Research also supports the idea that some sounds can improve the listener’s satisfaction with an experience. People respond to sounds faster than visuals, so branding audio works well for sending a quick, evocative message. This nonverbal form of communication resonates deeply. Also, businesses can spread it across many platforms, like their apps, advertisements, and in some cases, products. Audio branding can grow as pervasive and work as quickly and effectively as a well-considered graphic logo.
As part of a DTC strategy for brand recognition, audio branding can offer direct sellers a competitive advantage because even in a crowded marketplace, most competitors don’t employ it. In particular, for audio-only formats, audio branding can make up for the lack of logos and other brand images.
For instance, the French railroad line SNCF faced competition from other railroads and airlines. SNCF developed a distinctive, upbeat tune to associate with the brand in response. The railroad enjoyed positive results when it used this music to begin TV ads. SNCF also started prefacing in-station announcements with the tune because passengers found it soothing.
Who’s doing brand storytelling well?
These examples of some of the brightest brand storytelling successes can help provide some inspiration.
Last year, Reddit didn’t cough up enough money for a 90-, 60-, or even 30-second Superbowl ad. Instead, they grabbed just five seconds. What appeared like random images of an auto race, then a Reddit post, and finally, a horse race turned into a bonanza.
Undoubtedly, Reddit’s brand story agency took a gamble with the advertisement. The ad felt jarring. Still, the social site knows its audience, and it worked. Hundreds of thousands of people turned to another screen, besides the one on their TV, for help interpreting what flashed across their TV screen so quickly. View the advertisement and conversation on Twitter.
Consumer product brands like Dove soap face stiff competition and need to earn their standing as recognizable brand names. Dove’s “Reverse Selfie” ad only displayed the brand’s name and logo at the beginning. The rest of the story showed a girl glamming up to post a selfie on social media. At first, the audience only saw the enhanced images of the girl, making her appear like a sophisticated young adult.
Finally, the camera closes in on an adorable young girl without any artificial enhancements and a message that pressure from social media harms self-esteem. The story resonated with plenty of social media users and their parents. It gave Dove a chance to connect with its audience by demonstrating that the brand represents authenticity and natural beauty. View the advertisement on YouTube.
The future of storytelling for marketing
According to a Think With Google discussion, the future will include brands increasingly using storytelling to communicate their values and purpose. Businesses will strive to connect with customers by understanding them and even incorporating customers’ stories to demonstrate authenticity. In the past, businesses sought to tell customers what they should want, but in the future, companies need to tell their audience who they are and what they can offer.
Even businesses that can’t yet afford a Superbowl spot can benefit from storytelling ads on multiple platforms. These companies can use storytelling on podcasts, Youtube, blogs, social networks, and TV and radio. The media can include text, sounds, images, and videos.
As a brand story agency, we’re excited to help tell your story. Find out more about brand storytelling in this interview with Miri Rodreguez, the author of “Brand Storytelling.”