Techniques For More Effective Brand Storytelling
Poor Johnny Smartphone started off his day with only a 50% charge. He had a long journey ahead of him, all alone, down the misty Path of Bad Reception to the Cell Tower of Terror. He didn’t have time to plug in, and he was determined to make his coveted appointment with the Telecomm Tyrant to discuss the battery life crisis that was killing off his fellow smartphones. He would just have to turn off his Wi-Fi, take his chances, and hope for the best. 45% ... 39% ... 24% … 19%, Poor Johnny watched the percentage go down as he felt himself grow weaker. He pressed on, continuing to take his chances and risk his life for the good of all smartphones in the land. Adversity was nothing new to him, for he had grown up the son of two flip-phones. The mist on the Path of Bad Reception hung heavily around him, enveloping him into its clutches of condensation until he had no bars left. With zero reception and nearly the equivalent in battery life, Poor Johnny began to feel his first tiny twinge of doubt. Could this be the end of Poor Johnny Smartphone?
Although “The Adventures of Poor Johnny Smartphone” is not a brand story, it’s one with key elements you should weave into your own brand storytelling - we’ll get to these in just a second. In the meantime, it’s important to remember that emotion - not data - fuels persuasion, Roger Dooley, author of Brainfluence says, “We make our decisions emotionally (and, to varying degrees, unconsciously), and then let our rational processes justify those decisions with facts” (Sparring Mind).
To illustrate several brand storytelling techniques, we’d like to share a fun little story of our own, The Adventures of Poor Johnny Smartphone and the Cell Tower of Terror.
There are numerous techniques you can employ in your brand storytelling to make them more effective.
Here are four of the best ones: 1. The cliffhanger
The cliffhanger is one of the oldest tricks in the book, and yet it lives on. When using this technique, it is best if suspense is built fairly early on. For instance, by creating dire stakes with Poor Johnny’s battery life and the smartphones across the land that were depending on him, we built momentum from the start. To use this technique in your brand storytelling, focus on the problem your business or product solves. Use storytelling to describe the problem, and create suspense around how it will be solved. When done well, you will have captured your audience’s attention. 2. Imagery
Imagery is essentially using words to paint a picture. It’s the idea of showing, not telling. It is powerful because it stimulates the reader's (or listener's) imagination. Go into detail and insert them into a fantasy-like setting, so the audience can better identify with your brand story.
Description evokes emotion. For example, the sentence, “The mist on the Path of Bad Reception hung heavily around him, enveloping him into its clutches of condensation until he had no bars left” taps into common feelings like fear, weariness, and defeat. Emotion helps the audience experience your story, in addition to reading/hearing it. 3. The metaphor
A metaphor is a figure of speech that makes an implicit, implied, or hidden comparison between two things or objects that are poles apart but have a common characteristic (Literary Devices). The overarching metaphor of the Poor Johnny story is centered on the theme of human struggle, specifically, the struggle to survive and protect those we love. Johnny is the ‘every man’ setting out on his day, facing obstacles, braving the “tyrant,” all in the interest of solving a problem. Not unlike a typical Monday for the rest of us perhaps. Within this extended metaphor, we can find bite-size metaphors that help to move the story along descriptively. “The Path of Bad Reception” and “he had grown up the son of two flip-phones” are examples. Furthermore, metaphors make stories memorable. Take Burger King’s Subservient Chicken. This is a metaphor for how the fast-food company prepares things they way we want it, and it's memorable. 4. The underdog
Everyone loves an underdog. Research has shown that the triumph of an underdog overcoming all odds actually hits us harder emotionally than when an average or above-average persona succeeds. By using the archetype in your brand storytelling, you can impact the audience more intensely in the end.
In the Poor Johnny story, his name alone sets him up as an underdog. In addition, the fact that he starts off his day only 50% charged, drives home the reality that he is disadvantaged. His drive and determination to succeed against all odds are also classic elements of an underdog. Derrick Daye, managing partner of The Blake Project, points out, “What underdog brands share is a biography with two important narrative components: a disadvantaged position (one that typically highlights a company’s humble beginnings and portrays it as being “outgunned” by bigger, better resourced competitors) and a passion and determination to triumph against the odds.” (Branding Strategy Insider)
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Techniques for better brand storytelling