How to Find (and Stick to) Your Brand's Internal Story
Jordan Kelley, Content Director, BrandStorytelling.tv
Story finding helps brands determine who they are. The term is one coined by Story Worldwide, a company whose focus is getting to the heart of a brand’s true, internal story – not, perhaps, the story they’d like to tell. Story Worldwide digs deep into a brand’s existing narrative to develop their story platform: a description of the "ownable" and authentic truth of their brand. This system is based on and employs many practices of investigative journalism to determine the truth of a brand.
What is the truth of your brand? What is a story that you can best own? In the given moment, there are lots of brands engaging in performative storytelling when it’s not actually core to their values and ethos. Brands need to understand their authority with their audiences and where they should speak up and where they shouldn’t. Whatever the case, things you speak on need to point back to why the brand exists, not just using messaging to appear politically correct.
Friend of Brand Storytelling Fara Warner recently sat down with Simon Kelly, Josh Von Scheiner, and Craig Teper, the brains behind the Story Worldwide operation, to have a conversation about brand narrative and storytelling in our collective new reality. Here are two major tips from Story Worldwide on how your brand can best tell its own story:
What is your holistic narrative?
In order to react to the myriad of events happening in 2020, a brand must understand its holistic narrative. In other words, what is your relationship to current events when considering your brand position prior to those events? To know this is to consider it before responding directly to societal events. When you don’t, statements are bound to ring hollow - a mistake in a moment where the stakes couldn’t be higher. Brands can’t skip the step of identifying why they’re using particular messaging as they may have been able to in less tumultuous times. When a brand understands its purpose, it means its messaging doesn’t happen as a reaction to the outside world, but rather as messaging it would have already signaled despite the goings on in the outside world. It’s not the messaging that should change to reflect the times – it’s the “how”. When a narrative is in place, brands can focus on the “how” of responding to these moments, rather than the “what”.
What is your brand archetype?
If your brand were a character archetype, which would it be? Archetypal brand identity is a concept introduced in the book The Hero and the Outlaw, authored 20 years ago by Margaret Mark and Carol S. Pearson. The Hero and the Outlaw is a sacred text over at Story Worldwide – its teachings are used to examine a brand and use a Brand Archetype exercise to determine how audiences truly perceive a brand, not how a brand wants to be perceived. The Brand archetype exercise helps brands understand the role their brand plays in the eyes of the consumer. For example, when Story Worldwide was approached by Green Giant, the brand saw themselves and their mascot as a benign, benevolent character. The consumer audience, however, when asked to determine the archetype they most closely aligned the brand with, saw the Green Giant as a hero. Together with the brand, Story Worldwide helped them see their brand as “The Protector” - a benevolent but strong force. It's through these types of exercises that Story Worldwide helps brands realize how they’re seen in order to take control of their storytelling narrative. Your brand can implement the same tools to determine your own archetype.
2021 is sure to be a highly unpredictable year, full of geopolitical and socioeconomic tumult. Last year, many brands were caught off-guard and deeply unprepared for the unexpected, and as such, many brands put their foot in it when they decided to engage in consumer messaging. Next year, we can expect the unexpected and avoid shallow and off-brand messaging by identifying your brand’s archetype and its holistic narrative. In doing so, your brand can operate with “guardrails” that will keep messaging on-brand and valuable to consumers, ensuring that the continuation of your brand’s story is not motivated by external calamity but by its own internal story.
About Jordan Kelley
Jordan Kelley is the Content Director at BrandStorytelling.tv. He's an essayist, editor, and observer intent on mapping new media trends and disseminating the most relevant information in the world of branded content. Jordan is a lover of stories and an avid consumer of new media.