Jordan Kelley, Content Director, BrandStorytelling.tv
Authentic brand storytelling is really hard. The best stories are often deep, nuanced, emotional journeys that can’t be told in a 30-second ad. So how can your complex story compete in a world of TikTok, influencers, and short attention spans? How can you break through the wall of noise and captivate an audience in a meaningful way?
Intel and Intuitive are two brands that have cracked the code. Intel’s Brett Lyons, and Intuitive’s Sharon Patin and Ben Hess discussed their experiences in finding and telling remarkable stories in high-tech industries at Brand Storytelling’s Elevate Summer Session. They were joined by Freethink directors Mike Wood and Taylor Hamilton to discuss the challenges that come with crafting an emotional story around a complex topic.
Their resulting conversation pinpointed four key ways in which brands can go about telling the kind of stories that most resonate with audiences – stories that capture attention, foster emotion, and create a natural through-line between those feelings and the brand behind them.
Find the Right Story to Tell, and the Right People to Tell It
The team at Intuitive knew that they wanted to branch out and tell stories about their work and products. Ted Rogers, Vice President of Imaging Advanced Development at Intuitive shared with them his very personal story about what it meant to go from designing lifesaving robots to suddenly becoming a cancer patient and needing to utilize that very technology to save his own life. Intuitive knew it was a powerful story to tell, but also recognized that in order to do it justice and honor Ted’s experience they would need the input of some great storytellers. They worked with Freethink, the digital publisher, to figure out how to translate the power of that story that had been shared internally and find a way to communicate it externally. Intuitive found an opportunity to share a bit of their company’s story and to elevate the brand by taking the time to find the correct story to tell and partnering with a distributor whose focus aligned with theirs, making for a great storytelling fit.
Delegate, Focus, Do the Hard Work
Intuitive had to work very hard to get their story told. Because they are a heavily regulated medical company, there were many hurdles to jump over to get the appropriate approvals to tell Ted’s story. The endeavor of telling this particular story meant constantly checking in with the powers that be to make sure everything would be above board and within regulatory parameters. This required bringing a journalistic level of clarity and specificity to the film. Fortunately, Freethink is rooted in documentary storytelling with a journalistic focus. By tapping Freethink in step one, the Intuitive team was allowed to focus on adhering to oversight and protocol while the Freethink team was able to put their full focus on production, budgets, scheduling, and shooting.
Connect with the Right Audience
Freethink has cultivated an audience that’s interested in new innovations and technologies advancing human health, biology, and technology. Freethink developed a style that focuses on how this tech impacts people and relates to the individual. This niche enables them to make content with appropriate brand partners like Intel and Intuitive. They partnered with Intel to tell Intel’s health driven stories. Their partnership with Intuitive centered around content about their medical technology. Both Intel and Intuitive found a publishing partner with a built-in audience interested in the kinds of stories they sought to tell. Considering where your audience lives and what publishers might already be tapped into that audience is paramount for success.
Pursue Telling the Best Story You Can
For Freethink, telling the best brand story means finding a way to tell someone’s personal story in a way that aligns directly with the brand and focus. Freethink’s model is half branded/half editorial; at its core Freethink is tapped into the incredible stories circulating around the world. Because of their editorial and journalistic foundation, their stories shine. Often times, brands get preoccupied with the frequency with which their logo appears, whether or not the brand is the central focus of the piece, or how prominent and obvious it will be to the viewer that the brand is behind the story. These are all story killers – foci that put too much emphasis on the brand’s needs and not the audience’s need to engage, feel, and be entertained. A takeaway for any brand should be that there is a minimum requisite of passion, courage, journalistic interest, and opportunity required to tell a story that speaks to your brand’s truth.
Authentic storytelling is really hard. But the payoff has the potential to be positively immeasurable. When brands operate like Intuitive and Intel in sourcing their stories and partnering to tell them, they reap the rewards of increased brand affinity and inbound marketing. Taking after the example set by these two brands is sure to result in a brand telling its best brand story.
About Jordan Kelley
Jordan Kelley is a versatile creative intent on mapping new media trends and disseminating the most relevant information in the world of branded content. He is a lover of stories and an avid consumer of visual media.