Who doesn’t love a good story? Something that makes you laugh, that surprises you or fascinates you. In very real ways, good stories change the way you perceive the world around you. They always have. Our ancestors shared their stories, huddled in small groups around their long-lost antediluvian firepits. And so it continues today, as we gather virtually around the flickering light of cathode ray, CRT or LCD screens, still swapping tales and thoughts and anecdotes. Stories distinguish the human race from all other life on Earth. They humanize us.
In a socially-networked world, stories humanize brands as well. Today’s advertising agencies must recognize this truth and fashion brand communications in ways that make them easy to share and extend. Because what are planning insights but a means to create powerful context for brand stories? What is creative but a means to insure your brand story sticks in listeners’ minds and encourages repetition and pass along? Intuitively, we’ve been telling brand stories for years, but today when so many buying decisions are influenced by the stories and endorsements of our friends and neighbors—those we choose to bring into our circle—honing those stories to increase the likelihood of passing them along powers real brand success.
All of which means that in this two-way world of recommendation and consumer participation, simply telling those stories does not go far enough. Today, whether or not we actively propagate narratives about our brands, brand stories develop and expand on their own, and not always in ways we like. When that happens, when brand stories wander too far away from the core brand truth we hope to seed, agencies must intervene and redirect them. This intervention and redirection requires fast-acting and influential word-of-mouth outreach. By directly engaging in consumer conversations, savvy agencies can correct or at least improve brand perceptions far more quickly and effectively.
At Element 79, we have been very fortunate to partner on some of our brands with Paul Rand’s band of WOM experts at Zocalo Group. And our client stories are far better for it; more actively tended, more actively encouraged, more personally engaged. While many tools exist to measure brand conversations online, we need to go further and try to influence and encourage them. To reconfigure an analogy Seth Godin made in his book Tribes, this is the difference between a thermometer and a thermostat: one measures, but the other actually creates change.
So…heard any good brand stories lately?