Quick, quick, quick… what is the first thing that comes to your mind when I take the names below:
• Sherlock Holmes
• Harry Potter
If you are anything like me, you lose yourself into a dreamy experience alongside Aladdin and his Magic Lamp, the Genie, and the Magic Carpet….
…Find yourself jumping from one tree to another “socializing” with the animal kingdom while hiding from Shere Khan, the Bengal Tiger…
…Walking the streets of old London pursuing one mentally stimulating mystery after another…
…Find yourself alongside a gifted boy wizard in a magical world running into one thrilling adventure after another…
One simple name… an entire world hidden in it!
These are the stories I grew up with and shaped my generation in so many ways… and created untold fortunes for those who wrote the stories (or brought them to life on the big screen), in one case, richer and more powerful than the Queen of England herself!
In my last article, (the 7 key factors for crowdfunding success – https://www.morphomfg.com/7-key-factors-for-crowdfunding-success/), I talked about the incredible importance of creating a great personal brand story and how it can single-handedly power your crowdfunding efforts.
An article on the power of story-telling and how to do it right was due. So, without further ado, here it is, in two parts.
THE POWER OF A BRAND STORY
Did you know Sherlock Holmes’ creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle got so sick of writing Sherlock Holmes novels, he killed Holmes in “The Final Problem,” published in 1893, where Holmes falls off a cliff battling the evil Professor Moriarty.
Except, it was not meant to be the end, at least not for the public and Doyle’s publishers.
Doyle was pressured so much he had to bring Holmes back to life again with the The Return of Sherlock Holmes.
All of this, for a “fictional” character.
That my friend is the power of good story-telling.
Here are some more examples of powerful story-telling that brought in massive business –
1) Movies like Titanic, Avatar, Harry Potter franchise, The Avengers franchise have earned billions of dollars,
2) Games like Grand Theft Auto franchise, Call of Duty franchise continue to be cash cows for their creators earning millions of dollars;
3) Nike’s (Just Do It campaign), Coke (Share a Coke campaign), Absolut Vodka (The Absolut Bottle Ads), Anheuser-Busch (Whassup campaign), Dos Equis (The Most Interesting Man in the World Ad), Airbnb (Stories from the Airbnb community), massively increased market share for the respective brands, etc.
BRAND STORIES TO DRIVE YOUR OBJECTIVES
Our story instinct is deeply tied into our survival skills.
When you try and lecture someone on the importance of say, good habits, or doing the right thing, or buying your great product versus the fake replica, you could talk and talk, quote all kinds of statistics, experiences, and logic, argue and impose your morals till you turn blue in the face, but it won’t make a damn difference!
This individual simply cannot relate to your logic and arguments.
With a story, you can link an idea with the “identity” of your listener.
During a movie, every time you cheer the protagonist of the movie, you are in fact putting yourself in his or her shoes and cheering yourself. You are living, experiencing, and enjoying the ride alongside the protagonist.
Everyone likes winning, and our egos are so strongly driven to identify with something that it is easy to start identifying with the story you hear or see. This is why we give a sense of veracity to any stories we deeply identify with.
This is also why, when a movie ends on a negative note, you leave the movie feeling a little sick inside.
Hey, we all are driven to, and crave winning. Ultimately, everyone’s a hero of their own story and stories they most identify with.
This is why, if you want to deliver a message or a teaching, use a story!
If you can deliver your story in a way where your audiences feel moved, connect, empathize, laugh, swear, cry. . . .
Then you’ll not only have delivered your message loudly and clearly, you will have made a point and your audiences will be moved to take the action you intend for them to take.
The movie Avatar is one of the highest grossing films of all time.
The series Game of Thrones has a massive fan following.
Game franchises like Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty have fans lining up on the streets on the night before a new version launches!
Airbnb has practically outsourced its marketing to its customers who share their own stories with the world (https://www.airbnb.com/community-stories).
Absolut Vodka ran print ads showing “in the wild” bottles. This campaign ran non-stop for 25 years with more 1500 separate ads created for one bottle. In that time span, Absolut’s vodka market share went from 2.5% to 50% of all imported vodka in the U.S.
All of them used the power of stories delivered in just the right way to make massive impact on their intended audiences and achieve their objectives.
So, how do you really write a story that not only makes a point, but connects your intended audience with you and get them passionately supportive of your brand?
THE KEY ELEMENTS OF A POWERFUL BRAND STORY
To figure out EXACTLY why and how some stories altered the course of history and many others went bust, I have completely reverse engineered some of the great story-telling campaigns, studied what makes them great, how they connect, how they impact, and how they drive their audiences to act as intended… so you can use their tactics to take your brand to the next level of growth and impact!
[Tip #1] Authenticity is Key
Whether you are writing the next great novel or selling a product, there has to be authenticity at every level of your story.
For example, I was watching this rather famous series where the detective solves a murder mystery by magically coming up with clues near the end of the episode just like that making these ridiculously perfect assumptions and putting together every detail of the murder with absolute precision.
It was apparently because he had perfected himself to see every detail and clue, which other veteran detectives simply could not.
Believable to a certain extent, but after a while, it just gets ridiculous when the protagonist starts turning into some kind of an omniscient being.
Ughh… pretty lazy way to sell a mystery to me, isn’t it? As expected, the series was heavily criticized by its fans and just one more season later, it went off air.
Remember in 2015, when quite a few big automakers were discovered cheating on emission tests and pretending to be environmentally-friendly?
Or when these famous smart-phone brands were caught lying about photos taken with an actual DSLR camera to be taken with their respective phone cameras?
Authenticity is indeed hard to achieve, but simply cannot be replaced. Your story can make a world of difference if you keep it authentic and don’t play with or misplace facts.
I don’t know about your reality shows, but from where I come from, nowadays, when participants cry on those, nobody even lifts an eyebrow.
We know, much of it is scripted, unauthentic, or some eager participant following the beaten path to get our attention.
When some hefty corporate comes with a goody-goody charitable campaign, you just roll your eyes and know it’s another advertising trick.
However, every once in a while, someone brings a certain amount of depth and authenticity to the table and even make it seem like a spur of the moment thing. That is when it’s refreshing, almost memorable to experience it.
Authenticity is rare, and thus highly valuable. Get truth on your side and your story is primed for a happy ending!
Once you have truth on your side, it’s time to….
…[Tip #2] Bring your brand story to life…
It’s almost funny how so many book fans for just about any famous franchise read the book, go watch the film based on that book, and then endlessly criticize how the movie skipped a few parts or even modified the story.
The movie is intended to make, first and foremost, a visual impact. The book, on the other hand, expects you to do that by putting your imagination to work.
That’s why, not everyone has the time, patience, or inclination to read a book, but they are all for watching the movie based on that same book.
This is because images are so much easier to process.
As a matter of fact, the human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text. To add to that, almost 90 percent of information transmitted to the brain is visual, meaning, the brain reads information visually!
Now that you know this, make sure you make your story is easily understandable. You can do it using Video, Images, Live Demonstrations, whatever works with you.
It goes without saying, the better the imagery you offer, the more the impact.
Think of the movie Avatar.
The reason behind its immense success is partly due to a unique story complemented by stunning imagery.
Despite the movie categorizing itself as Sci-Fi, James Cameron went to enormous lengths to make everything appear as genuine as possible, be it the language spoken by the Na’vi tribe, the scenery, the animals, the culture, and so on.
Here’s a fun fact. Many Avatar’s fans have found it “too real” and have been hit hard by the realization that the planet and it’s tribes aren’t real and are reportedly feeling suicidal because of that.
According to this post on CNN (http://edition.cnn.com/2010/SHOWBIZ/Movies/01/11/avatar.movie.blues/index.html), on the fan forum site “Avatar Forums,” a topic thread entitled “Ways to cope with the depression of the dream of Pandora being intangible,” has received more than 1,000 posts from people experiencing depression and fans trying to help them cope.
The topic became so popular last month that forum administrator had to create a second thread so people could continue to post.
Financially speaking, as of 2019, Avatar has grossed $3.2 Billion world-wide.
That’s enough to drive home the power of imagery and the impact bringing your story to life can have on your audiences.
[Tip #3] Make your brand story about them…
Ever talked with or heard someone who went on and on about their good qualities, how strong they are, and how incredible their achievements?
Almost makes you pity the individual, doesn’t it?
Inside, we all know, when someone tries showing off their accomplishments, they are feeling a little insecure inside and hurting for attention.
Likewise, with your story, for every individual you want to connect with, seek to make it real and relatable for them.
It’s not about you.
Every time you share a story, each and every member of your audience will see themselves as, and feel for the protagonist of your story. It doesn’t really matter who wrote the story, whom did it happen to, and who is the actual protagonist. Everyone wants to fill the protagonist’s shoes!
How do you do it? How do you make them the protagonist of your story?
The only way is by knowing your target audience – Their dreams, their aspirations, their motivations, their strengths, as well as their flaws.
Once you know them, and know them well, you can really make the story about them and make them feel as if the story is theirs to revel in.
Think about Airbnb’s business model. If we strip down their model to the essentials, what they are doing is bringing together property owners from all over the world and travelers looking to save money and live with local hosts.
However, and I am speaking for myself, their model comes across as a big win for me, whether I choose to be the host or choose to be a traveler.
Why is it so? Isn’t inviting total strangers from anywhere around the world to live with you a tad bit dangerous?
Well, Airbnb has you covered with a verification badge for travelers.
In addition, you get to meet someone from a totally different culture and make friends with them! How’s that for an experience and story worth sharing?
If you are the traveler, Airbnb again has you covered with a verification badge for hosts. So, if I am the traveller, I get to live with a local host, experience their culture and traditions up close and personal, something I will never get in a hotel.
Again, an experience and story worth sharing for me!
If Airbnb had positioned themselves as another property listing portal for rent, or local host services for travelers, (of which, there are many), they wouldn’t have made such a big impact.
They are all about you and me…
Their website reads:
“Book unique places to stay and things to do”
Essentially, they are gifting me an experience by positioning me as a protagonist who will end up with a great story to tell and earn/save money while doing so.
Ultimately, it’s they who are the real protagonists, what with a multi-billion dollar and growing company with presence in 190+ countries across the world!
Make your story about them. That’s when they start feeling that they get to win when you win.
[Tip #4] Look for imperfections turned into opportunities in your brand story
Yes, you read that right.
Have you ever owned a pet?
Or, maybe watched one of those America’s Funniest Home videos with pets, say a cat or a dog running in a circle chasing its own tail, or making weird noises, playing with a ball, or sleeping with its feet up in the air?
If so, then you have experienced what I am going to talk about.
What do you think makes the pet lovable – Is it its sharp claws and fangs, its speed and agility, its enhanced vision and sense of smell, and other such gifts…
Or, is it how it deals with its imperfections and limitations, say how it responds to you when you try talking with it, or its unique mannerisms despite being just a “cat” or a “dog”, it’s unique preferences in food (my cat loves chips, salted biscuits, and fried foods).
Of course the latter, isn’t it?
Nobody really goes looking in a forest for wild animals to keeps as pets. So no, we don’t go looking for a pet for any of its threatening qualities.
Your pet’s (if you have one) sharp fangs and claws, its tremendous agility and speed likely makes you uncomfortable. However, you adore its limitations – your pet will stay true to the qualities it was born with. Humans on the other, not so much.
Similarly, when creating your story, don’t talk about the gifts you already have and how you used them to accomplish your goals.
Talk about your shortcomings that others can relate to, how you fought with them, and turned them around into victories.
Your challenges are not all too unique to you. But, how you tackled those and your journey are most certainly unique to you. This is something you can share, which will make you stand out amongst all other wannabes.
At this point, I can’t help but remember Will Smith’s movie – “The Pursuit of Happyness”.
Even though I have watched movies and read books about successful entrepreneurs who started from scratch with nothing in hand and made it big, the movie really touched me.
How Chris, the protagonist, is homeless, broke, and extremely desperate but still carries himself with poise at critical junctures, boldly shows up at the interview in rags covered with paint (after a paint job to in return for skipping the rent) and still gets selected, never letting his struggles get the better of him even though every day is a vicious struggle to get by. It’s a beautiful movie you must take time off to watch.
Look for any endearing imperfections you turned into opportunities and victories, and you will make that much more pronounced impact with your story!
4 Key Takeaways for Building a Compelling Brand Story
Here are 4 key takeaways for creating a compelling brand story and make an instant, visceral impact on your audiences:
1. [Tip #1] Authenticity is Key – Authenticity is rare, put it to good use with your story.
2. [Tip #2] Bring your brand story to life – Use imagery to bring your story to life.
3. [Tip #3] Make your brand story about them – Every individual is the protagonist of their own story.
4. [Tip #4] Look for imperfections turned into opportunities in your brand story – Look for any relatable and endearing imperfections that you turned around into victories and opportunities for yourself and you will make that much more pronounced impact with your story.
In Part II of this article, we will talk about how to bring all of these elements together and create a story to remember…
That’s it for now!
Like this article? If you know someone who will benefit from it, pass it along right away!