Brand narrative is the art of telling the story of your business. This concept is not just a set of marketing buzz words; it is a tool that’s particularly important in the digital marketplace today. From social media to internal conversations, to messaging and corporate identity — a single narrative is essential to the enterprise that wants to succeed and must become an inherent part of brand strategy.
“If you can’t explain succinctly what it is that you do, then the chances of your stakeholders understanding and knowing what you do will be very unlikely, and you will miss out on opportunities to engage with them,” says Regine le Roux, managing director at Reputation Matters. “This vision needs to be translated into all messages, internally and externally, so that all the stakeholders know where they are heading, especially employees.”
The goal of a rich brand narrative is to offer the consumer and other stakeholders an answer to the most important question: “Why do I need this company?”
Why should the consumer choose your product or service or solution over any other? And why should your employee be committed to your business? The development of a rich brand narrative that epitomises the business and that is upheld in all its communications, actions and deliverables is a step in the right direction.
In July 2014, Aesop, an agency that specialises in brand stories, and market research company OnePoll spoke to over 2000 people in the United Kingdom to find out which brands told the best stories using specific criteria. The results from best to tenth were: Apple, Cadbury, McDonalds, IKEA, Walkers, Coca-Cola, Virgin Media, YouTube, Macmillan and the Red Cross. Aesop director Ed Woodcock said that 2013 saw brand storytelling hit the mainstream as more brands woke up to its value in building corporate reputation and bolstering the bottom line.
“The brand experience has to be lived by everyone in the company, so instil the brand reality, integrity and narrative in the staff, then let sales and marketing take it out to customer communities,” says Nicholas Barenblatt, group marketing manager for Protea Hotels. “By empowering your staff to be brand ambassadors who truly understand and buy into the core brand values, you will allow the business to achieve differentiation through service, not just a product offering.”
However, integrity is key, as Ruth Golembo, managing director of Lange Strategic Communications, points out: “Today it is more important than ever that the message, values and vision of a company are based on its real offering and position and this cannot be achieved through any means other than integrity of message.”
The world has changed and the customer is spoiled for choice. Consumers don’t need to be loyal to a brand and will move on if they don’t like the service or the product. A well-structured and managed brand narrative has the potential to engage, to deliver an experience and to inspire emotion, and consumers will buy into it if it is based on real values.
“If there is a significant difference between a brand’s true personality and its public persona, its reputation is likely to crash when this is exposed,” says Sean Fandam, creative director at Fandam Studio. “In building a brand story, the desired brand personality and the internal values of the organisation must first be aligned and then the story can be told through the marketing mix. For a brand’s reputation to grow effectively and constructively, consistency must exist, not only between internal and external behaviour, but between different marketing disciplines. Agencies must play nicely together and all sing off the same hymn sheet in the form of a brand strategy that underlies every piece of communication.”