Better Brands Tell Better Stories

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.

Grab a S'more and Lemme Tell You About My Brand...
Grab a S'more and Lemme Tell You About My Brand...

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?

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

One thought on “Better Brands Tell Better Stories

  1. Jerry Solomon says:

    hi dennis

    i just found your blog tonight via Charles Day. I recenlty joined the blogosphere myself to address many of the issues you raise but from the perspective of a conent provide i.e. vendor, partner or whatever the future will define my business as.

    When I came across this particular post it I realized I have not reached out to you since Epoch acquired Kirt Gunn and Associates to start Dandelion. The business model the company was formed under is based on a philosophy very similar to the one you discuss in this post. To much to go into in a comment section but in brief it is about bringing brand narratives to life in a way that provides value to the consumer and in the form they now prefer to send and receive media.

    I’m on vacation this week but strangely enough right before I left i was talking to Cheryl Lindquist about a project she thought Dandelion might be right for. Check out the website – – in particular the case studies. Also if you get a chance check out my blog. The URL is noted in my reply.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts and talk about all this when i get back in the office the week of the 6th.

    Hope your well.


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