Brand Storytelling
eBook - ePub

Brand Storytelling

Put Customers at the Heart of Your Brand Story

Miri Rodriguez

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eBook - ePub

Brand Storytelling

Put Customers at the Heart of Your Brand Story

Miri Rodriguez

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About This Book

WINNER: Independent Press Award 2021 - Marketing & Public Relations category
WINNER: NYC Big Book Award 2020 - Sales and Marketing category
WINNER: The Stevie Awards 2020 - 'Book of the Year' Silver award, Women in Business category Written by the award-winning storyteller Miri Rodriguez at Microsoft, this actionable guide goes beyond content strategy and, instead, demonstrates how to leverage brand storytelling in the marketing mix to strengthen brand engagement and achieve long-term growth, with advice from brands like Expedia, Coca Cola, McDonalds, Adobe and Google. Despite understanding essential storytelling techniques, brands continue to explain how their product or service can help the customer, rather than showcasing how the customer's life has changed as a result of them. Brand Storytelling gets back to the heart of brand loyalty, consumer behaviour and engagement as a business strategy: using storytelling to trigger the emotions that humans are driven by. It provides a step by step guide to assess, dismantle, and rebuild a brand story, shifting the brand from a 'hero' to 'sidekick' mentality, and positioning the customer as a key influencer to motivate the audience.Simplifying where to begin, how to benchmark success and ensure a consistent brand voice throughout every department, this book clearly shows how readers can align an emotive connection with the customer's personal values, experiences and aspirations, and how that will enable brand leaders, employees and influencers to celebrate and strengthen brand engagement for the long-term, rather than simply trying to win it.Clarifying why machine-learning, AI and automation only tell one side of the story, this book will inspire you with cutting edge interviews and case studies from leading brands like Expedia, Coca Cola, McDonalds, Adobe and Google, to tap into authentic brand loyalty and human connection.

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Brand storytelling

What is it?
  • What is storytelling and what is not
  • The power of storytelling
  • Your brand mission and the story arc
Google ‘Storytelling’ and you’ll find a plethora of definitions, videos, guides and how-to’s on what has become the hottest marketing sensation since influencer marketing. I don’t know about you, but the more hype the use of story for brand marketing seems to get lately, the more confusion it appears to create for industry leaders seeking to truly understand what it is. In the span of two years working directly in this field, I’ve seen it all: someone creating a PowerPoint presentation and calling it a story, someone else posting ‘stories’ on social media channels and calling it storytelling, and many others adding ‘storyteller’ to their business profile on LinkedIn but never having designed or told a business story before. I see brands scrambling to figure out how to effectively implement this messaging alchemy as part of their business forward strategy. And I see a lot of miscommunication happening across business disciplines, organizations and industries, all in the sacred name of story. But… why?
Simple: because the machines are here. And they’re here to disrupt everything we’ve ever known about effective marketing and communication in business.
I’m an 80s kid. I know. Lucky.
I walked around with a Cabbage Patch Kid doll (official certificate included) in one hand and My First Barbie in the other. It would take a supernatural event for me to let go of these prized treasures. Toys of this kind only came by once in a rare moon for our humble family of five. Plus, as the middle child, I learned very early in life to take all I could and never take anything for granted.
As you’re probably already foreseeing, that fateful, extraordinary event did come to pass one day. I’m not sure how or when exactly it appeared on our tiny apartment balcony (often used as an extension of our modest living area), but when I think back to this instant, I distinctively see me standing next to my father and in front of this clunky, shiny intruder, inspecting every ounce of its peculiar metallic parts.
‘What is it?’ I casually asked my dad, making a superheroic effort to contain my excitement and underplay my freak curiosity. ‘It’s a computer,’ he casually responded. Recognizing that his short answer would inevitably provoke a hundred more questions, he went on without hesitation: ‘I’m talking to it.’
My eyes widened as far as they were physically allowed. I was instantly filled with wonder and my brain went into overdrive to try to make sense of this hard-to-believe piece of information. I quickly became keenly aware that I was exhausting (or had probably already exhausted) my child–parent pertinent questions quota for the day, and though I did have another hundred questions, I resorted to asking one last, very important one: ‘Does it talk back?’
Three decades later and an MS-DOS 2.0 command has turned to voice recognition. We have smart buildings, smart homes, smart cars and smart customers. Customers who know what they want and how they want it. Customers who search for online reviews and request peer input before even considering a product. And customers who continue adopting new technologies without hesitation and expecting brands to do the same so they can have a seamless buying experience.
A rambunctious era of connectivity with customers has been born, and brands all over the world are not only having to take notice but put in double time to stay afloat and meet the savvy customer demands. Whether an organization is currently leading the digital transformation or just getting started, this technological journey for companies has not only forced a shift in core business operations such as moving data from on-premises to the cloud, but compelled a realization that, fundamentally, there is a need to begin deconstructing and unlearning the way we have previously communicated with stakeholders and start to ‘talk back’ to our customers the way they faithfully expect us to.
Digital transformation undoubtedly made every brand reassess business operational values, but most importantly, cultural and communication ones. The birth of social media alone brought on the perennial headache for traditional marketing strategies as companies struggled and continue to struggle with the who, what, when and where of effective marketing over these nuanced, ever-changing channels.
With social media also came the deformalization of content. A gross disintegration, if you will, of what we once knew as ‘business talk’, which became profusely altered by new visual expressions such as emojis and memes. Enter live streaming, photography, video-type forms and, more recently, robots, and the world of communication from a business perspect­ive was inherently revolutionized, never to be what it once was: a way for brands to share whatever information they wanted, however they wanted, whenever they wanted, with a little – OK, a lot of – help from PR and the media.
And millions of marketers and communicators around the world began to get rightly nervous.
This is where I found myself back in 2014 when I embarked on a new adventure at Microsoft, moving from the operations discipline to the customer service one to lead social media support channels in global English, Spanish and Portuguese languages. This was also around the same time that Microsoft’s current chief executive officer, Satya Nadella, was appointed. Having joined Microsoft a couple of years before that, I was an alumna of the ‘Ballmer Days’ (when Steve Ballmer was CEO) and was able to detect a recognizable change in the atmosphere the day Nadella took charge, but at the time couldn’t tell you exactly what it was.
On this historic day, employees all over the world tuned in to the live webcast if they weren’t fortunate enough to be able to attend in person. On that fateful day, on the third floor of the Microsoft Latin America headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a small group of friends and I organically gathered around a colleague’s desk and, with much anticipation, we glued our eyes to the screen as Bill Gates, Microsoft’s founder and Member of the Board of Directors, standing next to Steve Ballmer and Satya Nadella, spoke and shared the reason Nadella had been selected: it was because of his ‘engineering skills, business vision, and the ability to bring people together’. Unstoppable cheering and luminous smiles often interrupted the ceremony as Softies (the nickname given to Microsoft employees) around the world, new and old, cheerfully celebrated what seemed to constitute a cathartic milestone for the company. Thinking back now, and with a few years spent in the craft of storytelling, I can pinpoint the distinctive smell that saturated the air that day. It was the sweet smell of empathy.
It wasn’t much longer after taking charge before Nadella set out to rewrite the company mission. ‘To empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more’ became the new Microsoft mantra and for every employee in the company, this became an immediate mandate to rethink how the evolution of the brand’s mission would catapult across every single geographical sector, business discipline, partner, customer and employee of the brand. Although, at its core, the Microsoft brand story theme had always been the same (empowerment), their savvy, connected customers wanted more than to see themselves as the enabler of the brand’s success story. They wanted to become a central part of it. Nadella knew this. And he also knew that evolving the mission unquestionably meant an evolution for the entire company. It is story, after all, that conjures emotion. And emotion induces action.

The power of storytelling

Before storytelling became an actual profession for me, I too was puzzled about the use of narrative as a tool for business impact. As a mother of teenagers and public speaker, I habitually used stories to capture and keep my very particular audience’s attention. What’s more, I had known of its magical elements way before I could even articulate why story worked so well with stakeholders. Its sorcery had infiltrated my fledgling brain long before I could consciously recall specific moments of it. My mother was – and to this day remains – one of the best storytellers in the Chronicle realm and her enchanting oratories transcended time and space so swiftly that the ones I can still recollect to this day vividly make me cry or laugh with the same force they had on me over 35 years ago.
I was fascinated with my mother’s stories. Her imaginary accounts were invisible time machines that unsuspectedly transported me to fantastical and forbidden lands of giant creatures and warriors. A devout religious woman, my mother ensured my sisters and I memorized an astronomical amount of biblical scripture on a weekly basis. And so, we did. Because of story.
Research confirms that stories can be up to 22 times more memorable than other types of information. And this is but one of the many infallible benefits of narrative. Neurological studies have also shown that when we’re exposed to stories the brain produces the following transmitters or hormones:
  • dopamine, which contributes to feelings of pleasure and satisfaction as part of the reward system;
  • cortisol, also known as the ‘stress hormone’, which creates an effect that predisposes the person to act (fight or flight);
  • endorphins, which are responsible for our feelings of pleasure;
  • oxytocin, known as the ‘love hormone’, a hormone and a neurotransmitter that is associated with empathy, trust, sexual activity and relationship-building.
Not only that, but our auditory, olfactory, visual, sensory and motor cortices are also activated the minute we evoke a once upon a time. This means that, if told well, a story can make the whole human brain wake up and immerse the audience in it, making them feel as if they were the actual protagonist or any other active character in the story.
As marketers, we know that consumers do not make rational decisions when they buy. They make emotional decisions and then rationalize them with logic. Storytelling allows us to digest and remember content more easily because it helps connect information with emotions in a way no other form of communication can.
Another alluring power of story is attention-keeping. Stories unleash neurochemicals, such as oxytocin and cortisol, which create physical tension, and help in keeping the audience’s attention. Even when presenting dry or boring content such as numbers and data, if you strategically introduce a character, plot and conclusion to the content, you have a much better chance to entice your audience.
Stories are also great at influencing and transfe...

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